Agreed or not, I think this post by Ed Stetzer is well written as a follow up to his critical review of What is the Mission of the Church.
A couple questions/thoughts from me:
My two main questions surrounding this whole discussion would be mainly in reference to Michael Horton's post that I linked to yesterday. These are also related to the discussion raised by the book from Kevin and Greg:
1. When specifically does the church function as the institutional church? On Sunday morning? When two or three believers are gathered? Based on the content of the Sunday service? On the content of the preacher's preaching? Based on how the church spends it's money? Based on the church calendar? When does the institutional church begin and end? Based on what the church leaders emphasize from the front, in private conversations, or small groups?
I have yet to hear a concise, exegetical answer to this question. That may simply be because I am ignorant to the right resources. I am certainly open to that. But if we are going to draw strict lines then I think we should be able to give strict answers to the above questions.
If the definition of institutional church is strictly the content of Sunday morning then I completely agree. We are not going to be canceling Sunday services at The Vine so that we can collectively do acts of mercy on Sunday morning. On Sunday morning we are going to sing, hear the Gospel in preaching, and participate in the Lord's supper. But what about during the week? Do we do anything collectively during the week? If so, what are the boundary lines to keep the mission of the church pure?
What specifically marks the times when the church is functioning officially as the church as institution?
2. If all acts of service are relegated to individuals and not the church (as I believe Horton implies, correct me if I am wrong), does that imply the privatization of acts of mercy? Meaning, if bunch of believers from The Vine travel to Louisiana to help with hurricane relief, is that out of the bounds of appropriate Christian mission? Or is that seen as collective neighbor loving but wouldn't constitute the church? What if I as the pastor, announced this on Sunday morning? Would that cross the line? What if I, as an official pastor, went with them and we announced it on Sunday morning? The examples could be legion. Do we have an orphan care ministry that seeks to help families with interest free loans? What if each small group has an emphasis on reaching the poor, not individually, but together?
I believe that local churches should preach the Gospel. As Paul lays out in Eph. 2:8-10, the Gospel being heard and believed will lead to good works. Since we know that church is also family, it would follow that they would probably want to spend time together doing these good works together as the implications of the Gospel are carried out through their collective lives.
Doesn't that, at least in some measure, sound like how the church should function? What am I missing?