Shopping Cart


The Loss of Hope in the Church and Its Mission

Thursday, 9 December 2010  | Brian Edgar

Advent is the season of hope because it looks forward to the coming of Christ which lies at the heart of all Christian expectation. And, traditionally, there is a connection between the coming of Christ in terms of the incarnation celebrated at Christmas, and the second coming of Christ to reign over all.  Consequently, the four Sundays of advent prior to Christmas have traditionally celebrated four great elements of Christian hope: heaven, hell, death and judgment. It was usual for the preacher to address them over the four weeks. But for many modern churches that is often a bit too much and so when it comes to the time to progressively light four candles made into an Advent wreath there is a tendency to focus on four different themes like love, joy, peace and hope!  It's certainly safer to do that! These themes appear to be much more acceptable to people and preachers, and while they are good themes the shift does have the effect of diminishing the hope-full dimension of the church’s mission. We have diminished our theology of hope out of fear of difficult yet important issues.

The problem of the loss of hope in the church is also seen if you ask people to define the church.  The answer will come in different ways but I would suggest that, typically, the popular mainline protestant perception of the church is far too limited, too small. The church is commonly seen as “the community of believers” or “a gathering of the people of God” or “a congregation of saints”. That is, the focus falls upon the gathered people of God which is, in itself, good and correct, but without an obvious reference to the ultimate Christian hope it becomes too present-orientated, lacking a genuinely eschatological dimension. The Biblical images used in such a definition such as “the people of God”, or “the body of Christ” do, in biblical usage, have an eschatological dimension, but this is usually neglected and thus one typically ends up with a view of the mission of the church which is very present-orientated and not hope-full enough. We have diminished our theology of hope because of a desire to be present orientated.

The problem is also accentuated by the very common tendency for Christians to think about the church sociologically rather than theologically.  In sociological terms the world or the culture is the broader concept and the church, a typical voluntary association, is one small component part of it. But theologically, the church as the body of Christ is the greater, broader concept, it is nothing less than the future and the destiny of all things! The world was created so that there might be a church, a community worshipping God, a body of Christ. The church, as the body of Christ, is the primary category and it is nothing less than the future of the world.  We have diminished out theology of hope because we have adopted a sociological mindset which views the church as a small minority within the culture instead of thinking theologically about the grandeur of the Body of Christ. 

The church needs an understanding of church and mission which is clearly expressed in terms of eschatological hope, to the effect that the church is the present, proleptic anticipation of what God is going to do for the whole of creation which is nothing less than the incorporation of all things in the Trinitarian life of God. And the church’s mission is to do nothing less than share in, and to help others to share in the life of God. 


Ken Stothard
December 15, 2010, 10:46AM
What does Brian mean by "what God is going to do for the whole creation which is nothing less than the incorporation of all things in the Trinitarian life of God"?
He gives the impression the he has read Chris Wright on "The Mission of God" a book that in my view is profoundly astray in its basic theology. See further my website: www.kenstothard.com /. and articles relating to the redemption of creation.

Got something to add?

  • Your Comment


Online Resources

subscribe to engage.mail

follow us

Latest Articles