Wherever Two or Three Are Gathered: An Ecclesiology of Space
Scholarship of Discovery, Scholarship of Interdisciplinary Integration, Scholarship of Community Application, Scholarship of Faith Integration
We need to develop a theology of space for our time. The church both views and uses space differently than we did even a generation ago. The Church of the Nazarene, for example, recently changed its official definition of “a church” to be less bound to a particular physical time and place. At the same time, we should affirm Jesus’ assurance that “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matt 18:20 NRSV). Yet, as John Wesley observed in the sermon “Causes of the Inefficacy of Christianity” (1789): “Does it not seem (and yet this cannot be!) that Christianity, true scriptural Christianity, has a tendency in process of time to undermine and destroy itself? For wherever true Christianity spreads . . . [and] wherever it generally prevails, it saps its own foundation. But is there no way to prevent this?” (para. 17–18, emphasis added). Wesley reiterates his answer through the individual and corporate practices of ‘gaining, saving, and giving’ all one can (para. 19). For us today, however, we must not only assess the attitudes and motives behind these practices, but also the places and spaces where we actually—and more routinely—put them in to practice. Of particular and growing interest is the shifting urban environment. To be sure, cities have been home to diverse expressions of the church as long as Christians have inhabited them. Recent decades, however, have experienced an increased presence of new church plants as well as non-edifice-based worshiping communities, language groups, and outreach prototypes ranging from house congregations to multisite megachurches. This paper seeks to give special attention to such alternative, or third spaces, which have come to be associated with the so-called missional movement and organic church and the place that such communities and their peculiar postures toward space may hold in the development of a more coherent theology of the gathered church.
Lillie, Reuben L. “Wherever Two or Three Are Gathered: An Ecclesiology of Space.” 52nd annual meeting of the Wesleyan Theological Society, Asbury Theological Seminary, March 3, 2017.
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