Rev. Dr. Rollin Grams
Professor of Biblical Theology and Mission, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Ridley Institute
Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! (Psalm 43.3, ESV)
...exploring the interface between Scripture and the Church's mission in our day
The subject of this essay is the need for, and the relationship between, the institutional Church and the missional movement. In light of recent turmoil in Protestant, mainline denominations and the emergence of independent, non-denominational, local churches and small fellowships of churches, the notion of an 'institutional Church' has been subjected--like all Western institutions--to deconstructive criticism. On the other hand, mission societies struggle to relate to church bodies, whether local or denominational, as is illustrated by the fact that many missionaries today find most of their funding from individuals. While we are about rebuilding ecclesiastical institutions in new, revitilized, orthodox denominations that provide doctrinal and ecclesial structure, we also need to rethink the relationship between these institutions to the mission of the Church.
The Early Church and Its Institutional Structure
Earlier New Testament scholarship—say, in the 1960s-1980s—was beh…