Feedback on Ecclesiology

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : September 15, 2005

Hey readers–I have a question that I’d like y’all to answer:

What books or people have really challenged your thinking the most about the nature and function of the Church?

I know that the majority of you who read my blog don’t regularly respond, but I’m hoping you’ll make an exception this time.  Almost everyone who has read this blog more than accidentally came here because they are thinking about what it means to be the Church.  That is pretty much all I ever really talk about. And since most of you are thinking about what it means to be the Church, I assume you’ve got an answer to my question

And I want you to answer honestly.  For example, it might not be popular to confess that the Purpose Driven Church really helped open my eyes to the possibilities, but it did.  These days, I find that the theological assumptions of that book are off-base, but when it came out it opened my mind to think in new ways about the Church.  Don’t give the "right" answer…tell me the books (or people) that caused you to rethink, no matter how silly or "conventional" they might seem.

So…what books (or people) have really challenged your thinking the most about the nature and function of the Church?

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17 Responses to “Feedback on Ecclesiology”

  1. graham on September 15th, 2005 3:18 am

    Hmmm… well, I think that most of the books that have shaped my ecclesiology haven’t all been explicitly about Church. But they would include:

    Transforming Mission - Bosch
    Church Planting - Murray
    Body Politics - Yoder
    Christianity Rediscovered - Donovan
    Paul’s idea of community - Banks

    and then a number of other anabaptist books that have shaped my view of discipleship, which invariably gives church a particular shape.

    Oh, no, wait… scrap all that. I got my ecclesiology straight from God (via the Bible)! ;-)

  2. Jamie on September 15th, 2005 10:00 am

    Politics of Jesus-John Howard Yoder

  3. Gary Hall on September 15th, 2005 6:12 pm

    For me, the preaching of Greg Boyd, Woddland Hills Church, that lead me to a life for Christ.

    I also find Pat Kahnke sermons, St. Paul Fellowship, helpful.

    A few books, other then the Bible, that have helped me in my walk are:

    Mere Christianity
    More than a Carpenter
    As a Driven Leaf, fiction
    Letters of a Skeptic
    The Screwtape Letters

    These are a few books that have helped me to understand being a Christian. I am a recovering Roman Catholic, so I had much to learn.



  4. Richard on September 15th, 2005 6:41 pm

    “The Church Beyond The Congregation” - James Thwaites.

    “Re-negotiating the Church Contract” - James Thwaites.

    And a couple of books to come out of Harvard Business School:
    “The Support Economy” and “The Future of Competition”. These show the changing face of business from the institutional model to a support network. The parrallels can be made with the organisation of the church.

  5. Michael Binder on September 15th, 2005 8:19 pm


    I’d say McManus’ book The Unstoppable Force impacted me a lot in thinking about the missional church.

    Incidentally, first time to your blog, great site!

    Michael Binder

  6. jim on September 15th, 2005 8:58 pm

    A Theology as big as the city- Bakke, It caused me to see the potential of churches as spiritual and social change agents. Both together; all that holistic stuff, but it is right on.

    Acts 2:42-47 it is all there
    Christian community
    Spiritual disciplines
    Love of neighbor evidenced not just spoken
    Continuity (this was not a weekend revival)
    Thankful hearts
    Praising God
    Good community relations
    Evangelism effective

    An article by John Piper years ago in which he writes about the mandate of the invisible church as bringing glory to God simply by existing but the local church bringing glory to God by doing good works–> Let your light so shine before men that may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven…
    Reformed or not that is how I remember it ;-)

  7. todd h on September 15th, 2005 11:57 pm

    I also had my purpose-driven phase, while at the same time trying to sort out how it fit in with Eugene Peterson’s work, like: Under the Unpredictable Plant.

    From there, I think it would have to be Missional Church, and then the big 3 (IMO) by Newbigin: The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, Foolishness to the Greeks, and The Open Secret. You gotta love Newbigin!

  8. D. Goodmanson on September 16th, 2005 1:56 am

    So…what books (or people) have really challenged your thinking the most about the nature and function of the Church?

    9 Marks of a Healthy Church is a great book…

  9. Bruce on September 16th, 2005 10:39 am

    I’m currently reading Erwin McManus’ book “The Barbarian Way.” Different way of looking at Christianity as a whole.

    Also, several books by C. S. Lewis.

    Any other recommendations?

  10. jeremy on September 16th, 2005 1:02 pm

    My answers will be boring since most are already in your sidebar.

    Darrell Guder: Continuing Conversion of the Church and Missional Church

    Wendell Berry: complete works of

    Randy Frazee: The Connecting Church (pastor of a missional mega-church, if that’s possible)

    Dan Kimball: Emerging Worship

    several blogs, including yours

  11. blorge on September 16th, 2005 1:12 pm

    This may seem like an odd list, but it’s probably because I’m more of a theologian (and because I haven’t taken any church leadership courses or workshops because I was in the Christian Thought program at Sem).

    The Faces of Forgiveness (F. LeRon Shults & Steven Sandage)

    Life Together, and Sanctorum Communio (Bonhoeffer)

    Resident Alians (Hauerwas)

    I second the Wendell Berry one, Jeremy ;)

  12. Chris B. on September 16th, 2005 7:19 pm

    The Communist Manifesto, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and The Community Rule from the Dead Sea Scrolls

  13. Paul Adams on September 17th, 2005 1:47 am

    “Kicking Habits: Welcome Relief for Addicted Churches” — Thomas Bandy

  14. Jeff on September 19th, 2005 11:07 am

    A Propber Confidence by Lesslie Newbigin & The Christian Agnostic by Leslie Weatherhead. I guess I have a thing for guys named Leslie.

  15. T.J. on September 20th, 2005 3:09 am

    Influences…Hmph. I don’t like to “taint the pool” (of my mind) with outside influence. I ask a lot of questions, why do we do things this way, why isn’t it working (if it’s not working), what would be revealed in us if we did things another way, what would God want the result to be, what will mobilize our faith, what are we willing to wager on what we know of God’s character, finally, what does the bible actually say about these things? The result is conversations and decisions take a lot longer with me, but I hate entering in with assumptions. I do; however, love the guiding principles of the Quakers… Quakers are Punk Rock!

    My post may be very unsatisfying, you can’t shackle my mind. :>)

    Mostly, I like bumping my way through “church”; if we value the right things, maybe church is what happens, it is the natural result.

  16. Van S on September 20th, 2005 10:28 am

    TJ…so in other words, you’re influenced by the Quakers :)

  17. Mike Schellman on September 23rd, 2005 11:35 am

    Influences - hmmm,
    Mostly its in bits and pieces. Passages like 1 Jn 1-4 show that the Word/Message/Jesus is the center of the church - this truth is affirmed by the reformation tradition - that the proclamation of the Word creates and sustains the church (Luther states “The Word of God goes forth conquering and wherever it conquers and gains true obedience to God - there is the Church”;and Karl Barth says, “the church comes into being in response to the proclamation of the Word of God”).
    I also like the imagery in the bible of a rock not cut by human hands, and of a city who’s builder and maker is God.
    As far as ecclesiological structure, my strongest inflences are Matthew 18:1-4 and 20:25-28.
    I feel the most affinity with the anabaptist tradition - especially the early Quakers who seemed to take the headship of Christ and the Guidance of the Holy Spirit the most litterally (perhaps to a fault - one drawback of the anabaptist tradition is how strongly it bought into the enlightenemnet - exalting reason above our other attributes).
    Finally my last and greatest ecclesiological influence would have to be my wife TJ, who refuses to taint the pool.

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