Earlier this year I began presenting extracts from Lesslie Newbigin's book, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Amongst those extracts were the first two relating to Newbigin's view of what the church will be. [First extract - second extract]
Here is the third point.
Third, it will be a community that does not live for itself but is deeply involved in the concerns of its neighborhood. It will be the church for the specific place where it lives, not the church for those who wish to be members of it-or, rather, it will be for them insofar as they are willing to be for the wider community. It is, I think, very significant that in the consistent usage of the New Testament, the word ekklesia is qualified in only two ways; it is "the Church of God," or "of Christ," and it is the church of a place. A Christian congregation is defined by this twofold relation: it is God's embassy in a specific place. Either of these vital relationships may be neglected. The congregation may be so identified with the place that it ceases to be the vehicle of God's judgment and mercy for that place and becomes simply the focus of the self-image of the people of that place. Or it may be so concerned about the relation of its members to God that it turns its back on the neighborhood and is perceived as irrelevant to its concerns. With the development of powerful denominational structures, nationwide agencies for evangelism or social action, it can happen that these things are no longer seen as the direct responsibility of the local congregation except insofar as they are called upon to support them financially. But if the local congregation is not perceived in its own neighborhood as the place from which good news overflows in good action, the programs for social and political action launched by the national agencies are apt to lose their integral relation to the good news and come to be seen as part of a moral crusade rather than part of the gospel. The local congregation is the place where the proper relation is most easily and naturally kept.
Lesslie Newbigin, in The Gospel in a Pluralist Society.
Photo courtesy of Ron Smith's Sharpened Edges blog.