Pro me in the Age of Authenticity. Further Considerations on the Missiological Significance of ‘Christ in us’ and ‘We in Christ’.
International Research Consortium
St Paul Minnisota
Hans Raun Inversen
1. In all the (interdependent and overlapping) dimensions of the church, whatever they are (e.g. martyria, diakonia, koinonia, leiturgia, institution, sacrament, community of disciples, Avery Dulles: Models of the Church) there is a missional dimension, as the church is always attempting to share whatever it has and does with others, so that “the church may be yours as it is mine and mine as it is yours”. The church is only the church as communio in communicatione, an unbreakable community that lives by being broken.
2. As ‘mission’ is a comprehensive term including activities connected to all the above mentioned dimensions of the church, so is ‘missional church’. As it is for mission so it also is for a missional church: It has only one sine qva non, to make Christ known and believed, as far as this is possible for human beings.
3. Christian conversion is always conversion to identification with Christ. If you take Christ away from the Bible and the Church nothing important is left. Belonging to the Lord the church is the church (kyriakos) as far as and as long as it is facilitating faith in Christ.
4. The core task of the church is to lay out tracks that people may follow so that their lives may be oriented to Christ, so that Christ may come to live in them, dwelling in their hearts by faith (cf. Gal. 2:20; Eph. 3:17; Col. 1,27 and John 14,23). Paul is always “in travail until Christ be formed in you” as he writes to the Galatians (Gal. 4:19). Christians are eventually to “be changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another, .. this coming from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).
5. People who search for identification with Christ and long for having Christ living in them, often do not long for being a limb at the congregation as body of Christ. Koinonia, being the body of Christ, is a dimension and charisma of the church; it is not the overall defining definition or the end of the church.
6. The church may be understood as a fluctuating process containing the totally of Christ identification present in all sorts of people in and outside the church. This church is fully visible even though its borders are fully invisible.
7. People may often meet Christ in immediate and direct ways, e.g. in revelations, dreams and hearing Christ talking to ones heart. Christianity is, however, a human phenomenon in as far as Christianity also needs to be mediated by fellow human beings, who are send as Go-Betweens, as the Father send the Son (John 20,21, cf. the roles of Anania and Barnabas and Paul’s conversion story, Acts 9).
8. Living in ‘the time of authenticity’ (Charles Taylor: A Secular Age, 2008) people only experience something as true when they can identify with a first person (an author). Therefore Christ is what he is to the individual! People of today can not be Christians in the way of the church before they have become ’Christians in their own ways’. This may call for a reconsideration of the Lutheran concept of pro me.
9. To Luther faith is the personal trust that a person has received in Christ, whom he has met personally and experienced as loving and trustworthy, present in his word, blood and body. What matters is that Christ matters to the individual, pro me, not that Christ has this or that position in a certain religious philosophy. This sort of faith in Christ is a mighty thing that changes people and their criteria for acting in the world (Rom. 12:2).
10. In his Commentary to the letter to the Galatians Luther call faith a leaven that may penetrate all of the dough – in a process that will continue throughout our lives to the resurrection: “Christ and faith must be united. We must be in heaven, and Christ must live and work in us … closely, real and effectually” (WA 40 I:356-58). The goal of the service of the church is that people may conceive – and be pregnant with – Christ (Von Ordnung Gottesdienst 1523 and Deutsche Messe 1626).
11. As Christians are growing in Christ – as Christ is growing in Christian people – also the awareness of Christ as the King of the Kingdom of God and thus the universal and communal dimension of Christianity as it is shaped in congregational life may grow. The congregation is not only to proclaim but even more to perform, to live the gospel in ways where new people can be invited to practice and nurture faith in Christ and thus let Christ transform them by taking shape in them.
12. Faith is foremost a bodily practice – of feeling, seeing, listening, meditating, reading, praying, singing, experiencing, confessing, kneeling, walking, eating, drinking and caring for the neighbour. As Christians are being transformed in Christ their bodily practices and thus their bodies are being transformed. The body is the agent and at the same time the object being transformed as Christian faith is growing. The missional church is the community facilitating the transformation of people in the image of Christ. Christianity is not contained in the churches but in the bodies of the Christians, the living stones, who are the salt and light of Christianity in The world. We have as much Christianity as we have in our bodies.