Tag: ecclesiology

Introducing the Church

How we introduce the church to people has a lot to do with how they interpret church. We introduce the church poorly to people when we leave “church” out of our weekday conversations. We introduce the church poorly when we just tell people “how to get there” on a website. How we introduce people to the church, especially on Sundays, is important if we want to re-arrange their expectations around a gospel view of the church.

Here are a few ways we’ve done it. I’m not being dogmatic, just suggestive. I think this is important, but I also think you should introduce people both theologically and contextually. In other words, rearrange their view of the church around the gospel, but do it in language that is true to your vision and your context.

Introducing Church on Sundays

Over the past couple of years we’ve changed the way we introduce people to the church on a Sunday morning, but all in all we’ve had minor variations. We used to say stuff like:

If you’re visiting today, we’re so glad you came. We hope this is the last time you come to church, because this building isn’t the church. These people are.

Early on this certainly weeded out the consumer, but probably also ran off a few potential disciples. With time we softened our introduction to tell people that:

“The best way you can get to know the church is to visit a City Group, where the church is the church to one another and the city.”

This was more welcoming and still community affirming. It mixed more grace into the welcome. However, as we continued to reflect on this introduction, we still felt like it was, at times, intimidating for front door visitors. Why? Because we pushed City Groups so hard. You’re bound to feel out of place if you aren’t in one, especially since the majority of our church is. We wanted to relieve the person who unreligously visited out Sunday gatherings once every 4-5 weeks, while remaining true to our vision of the church.

So we went this this, roughly. People laugh every time they hear it (the bold part), but I can tell they love it. They tell me so.

Welcome to Austin City Life. My name is ____, and I am one of the Partners with our church. If you’re visiting, we�re really glad you found us. We would love to meet you, so hang around afterwards over coffee, join us for lunch, or fill out a visitor form on a lap top.

You should know up front that we are a very imperfect church. We will disappoint you, but we�ll do our best to point you to a perfect Savior. That�s the Gospel, and we believe it converts us to Christ, to Church and to Mission. It�s why we�re here, to be the church to one another and to the city. To be in the city and for the city, redemptively engaging peoples and cultures.

The best place to figure this all out is in our City Groups, gospel communities that serve one another and our city. You can check them out right here by hanging around afterward and chatting in the back, by our sign, or learn more online at austincitylife.org.

Introducing Church on Websites

Your introduction to the Church on Sundays should resonate with what you say on your website and, most importantly, your small group/missional community experience. We’ve changed our web wording to reflect our actual gathering, keeping the non-Christian in mind.

Sundays Gatherings are an important part of being the church at Austin City Life. Although we want to avoid the mistake of seeing Sunday as “the Church”, we believe it is important to gather every Sunday for worship, preaching, communion, and community.

On Sundays you’ll find an interesting juxtaposition of theological depth and cultural expression. We are in line with historic, orthodox Christianity, but express that Christian faith progressively, in a venue on Austin’s renown 6th Street.

What is Sunday Like?
We gather every Sunday at The Parish, one of the best music venues on 6th, where you’ll hear our musicians play rich, stirring, God-focused music, not as a performance but as an act of worship. You’ll also hear substantive gospel messages that regularly engage cultural issues. Best of all, you’ll get to meet a community gathered around Jesus that loves our city.

These people are like you in many ways. They are citizens, creatives, moms, dads, young marrieds, professionals, college students, and singles. They are Christian and not Christian. We are all imperfect people looking to a perfect Christ.

This certainly isn’t the last “word”, and introducing people to the church is so much more than what you say. But what you say also affects how you live.

Stop Going to Church

We spend just enough time “at church” to be religious, but nowhere near enough time to be family.

Read the rest of my new article here.

What is the Church?

Here’s some Q&A from the LEAD ’09 conference regarding the Church. All video and audio is now up!

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Here is helpful definition of the local church from Mark Driscoll from Vintage Church:

The local church is a community of regenerated believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord. In obedience to Scripture they organize under qualified leadership, gather regularly for preaching and worship, observe the biblical sacraments of baptism and communion, are unified by the Spirit, are disciplined for holiness, and scatter to fulfill the great commandment and the great commission as missionaries to the world for God’s glory and their joy.

Frank Viola: From Eternity to Here

Frank Viola writes with a passion for the Church. His recent book From Eternity to Here is no exception. In it you’ll find a mix of provocative ideas, biblical reflections, and a sincere voice. Some of Frank’s work doesn’t stand up to academic exegesis and theology, a strength and a weakness. He’s willing to be simple about church. I recently asked him a few questions about From Eternity to Here as a part of a blog circuit. Here they are. I think you will find his answers interesting:

1. In chapters three and four you repeatedly talk about the Church as God’s “frustrated passion”, “desperate love”, “most captivating thing”, “hidden masterpiece”, etc. Does your description of the Church border on idolatry of church? Isn’t God most captivated with Himself?

One of the most frequent comments by readers is how the book extols, magnifies, and exalts the Lord Jesus Christ beyond telling. Equally so, it presents how the New Testament portrays the ekklesia of God. According to the New Testaments, she is Gods masterpiece, the Bride of Christ, bone of His bone, flesh of His flesh, the mystery that has been hidden in God before time, and the Lords very inheritance. These are all Pauls words in Ephesians. My book explores those texts.

Consider this: If someone talked about the wonders and beauty of a mans wife and explained how the man cherished her and was out of his head in love with her, I dont think anyone would misconstrue that to mean that the man was somehow being slighted. Quite the contrary, it would bless his heart, for she is his passion.

It is the same way with Christ and the church. Thus, a person cannot properly love Jesus Christ and ignore or neglect His much-loved Bride, which is at the center of His purpose. Instead, they will eventually see her in the same way that He sees her and treasure her just as He does. To love Christ is to love what He loves, hence the reason why a revelation of Jesus Christ will always lead to loving His people and His church. Paul connects faith in Christ with love for the saints consistently in his epistles.

While the church doesnt replace Christ, and Christ is certainly distinct from the church, He is not separate from her. Shes the bottom half of our Lord His body. Shes His very Bride, the most beautiful girl in the world.

You cant cherish the Lord and not cherish His church. This is the teaching of Ephesians.

Seeing this has an incredibly liberating effect on Christians. When they see themselves, their brothers and sisters, and the church as God sees her, it changes everything. The church, according to the New Testament, isnt a technique, a form, a structure, an organization, a denomination, a service, or any of the things we think of when we hear the word church. She the community that God has had in mind from before time. The very expansion of the Godhead from eternity to eternity. The effects of receiving a revelation of the eternal purpose are amazing. Discipleship, mission, church practice, spiritual formation and devotion all take on a new meaning and experience as a result.

2. In your final chapter you advocate a “deep ecclesiology” centered on Jesus. Some would say this isn’t deep at all, that a “Jesus band aid” doesn’t make much difference. How do you recommend deep ecclesiology address the deep issues of sin and brokenness in the church?

Jesus Christ is not a band-aid. Hes the Sum of all spiritual things. And everything in this universe is moving toward Him being All and All. He is the issue, period. For a person to separate the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the visible image of the invisible God full of grace and truth from the healing of deep sin and brokenness is to betray the fact that such a person doesnt quite know who this glorious Person is.

Such a view of Jesus reflects an anemic, flannel board version of the Lord over against knowing Him as the FULLNESS of the Godhead bodily. For this reason, Pauls passion was to know Him to know this incredible Christ in a living way. Jesus Himself said eternal life is knowing God the Father and Himself, for He is LIFE and REALITY.

Jesus Christ is Gods answer to all human needs, and more.

Every time Ive seen the fullness of Christ revealed, displayed, magnified and ministered, peoples lives have been changed drastically.

The look that melted Peter, the face that Stephen saw, the heart that wept with Mary, can alone from idols draw.

Jesus is no band-aid.

Hes the heartthrob of God the Father and the center of His eternal plan.

3. How do you define the Gospel?

I dont define it. The Gospel is a Person. It is Christ. The early apostles preached a Person, not a theory, a theology, or a plan. As John said, That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you.

Preaching the gospel is to preach Christ. To give Christ. To reveal Christ. To declare Christ. Always has been; always will be.

4. What are your “marks of the church”? What is the bare minimum for the church to be the church?

I describe those specifically in my book REIMAGINING CHURCH. In short, its the same marks that we find in the fellowship of the Godhead. When a group of people have met the Lord Jesus Christ experientially and are learning to live by His indwelling life together, then you have the ekklesia expressed and experienced visibly.


Today (June 9th), the following blogs are discussing Frank Violas new bestselling book From Eternity to Here (David C. Cook, 2009). The book just hit the May CBA Bestseller List. Some are posting Q & A with Frank; others are posting full reviews of the book. To read more reviews and order a copy at a 33% discount, go to Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Eternity-Here-Rediscovering-Ageless-Purpose/dp/1434768708/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1233609867&sr=1-4

For more resources, such as downloadable audios, the free Discussion Guide, the Facebook Group page, etc. go to the official website: http://www.FromEternitytoHere.org

Enjoy the reviews and the Q and A: