Recently Gregg Allison was interviewed about his book, Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church, which I have previously mentioned. One of the questions addressed the importance of ecclesiology, i.e. the doctrine of the church, the question and answer I include below.
In what ways is it important for pastors to have a carefully developed biblical ecclesiology?
Much of what’s available to help pastors today—articles, blogs, videos, and the like—is pragmatically driven advice about how to do church. That being the case, pastors go from one new approach to preaching and worship, or discipleship and pastoral care, to another. In my view, before pastors should worry about how to do church they must grasp the identity of a church—its nature and characteristics. With that biblical and theological vision of the church’s identity firmly established, they can then engage their cities with the gospel, preach the whole counsel of God, foster missionality as a characteristic of the church and not just a program, disciple and discipline members, and all the rest. Sojourners and Strangers, therefore, begins with several chapters about what the church is and is to be, and it concludes with a conversation about the ministries of the church. That design was not accidental but intentional, as it fleshes out the answer to your question.
I appreciate greatly Allison’s response. Evangelicals have generally had a strong soteriology, i.e. a doctrine of salvation, but a weak ecclesiology, i.e. a doctrine of the church. And yet both are absolutely critical to the health and well-being of Christians, both individually and corporately.
It would be a wonderful thing if, in the providence of God, this book would be used to deepen our understanding of the biblical nature of the church and to strengthen our commitment to the life and ministry of the local church. Actually, the former is the foundation of the latter; the latter manifests one’s understanding of the former.