The Importance of the Doctrine of the Church

Greg Strand – July 29, 2013 7 Comments

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.

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

7 responses to The Importance of the Doctrine of the Church

  1. Indeed!
    Thanks,

    Kerry

  2. Any thoughts on the Mark Dever “IX Marks” movement and books (c.f., http://www.9marks.org)? Especially deep and gripping is Leeman’s book “The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love”. I think church membership is the place to start in addressing so many of the ills of the local church in America. And based on Jesus’s emphasis on the oneness of the church (John 17), it seems that the church’s number one ministry is simply to be the church, truly unified in life together, in an inexplicable and radical way that makes outsiders demand an explanation. I have not yet read the Allison book, but I will!

    • Tom, I commend strongly the materials done by IX Marks. I also agree with your assessment of the importance of membership. You will appreciate greatly Allison’s book on the church. Thank you for reading and interacting.

  3. Guys, thank you for addressing this issue; as you mentioned, all too often neglected in the protestant arena. My one bit of advice would be not to look just at the biblical guidance/evidence in regards to ecclesia but to history! As a Roman Catholic, I can trace “church/ecclesia” almost 300 years prior to the New Testament canon. I invite you to research, pray, and consider coming home to the one and only Church that was founded by Jesus and not a man. In love and hope – Dave

    • Thank you for reading and responding, Dave. We have carried on some of these discussions in the past.

      Though we can agree on the importance of tradition, we will not agree on the role of Tradition; though we agree that we ought to be committed to “the one and only Church that was founded by Jesus and not a man,” we will not agree that that is the Roman Catholic Church.

      If we focus on the Lord Jesus Christ and the necessity of belief in Him, that in Him we have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3), and that salvation is in Christ alone by grace alone through faith alone, and those so “born again” (Jn, 3:3, 5) become part of the church, we will have made huge biblical/theological progress.

  4. AutoFill Vincent Klug August 6, 2013 at 9:30 am

    I really appreciate your blog. Thank you for staying content focused and “filler free”.

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