The other day I read the phrase, "missiology precedes ecclesiology" at Sivin Kit's Garden, linking to a Next-Wave article, Incarnational Practices. My first response was, No. Then it got me thinking, maybe this is the case now. So, I'm pondering,
This side of heaven, ecclesiology looks a lot like missiology.
While I do not think that missiology precedes ecclesiology, I do think that here on earth--in time--the two are necessarily linked. This certainly gets added to my other ecclesiology ponderings.


“Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”


  1. Perhaps Lesslie Newbigin would be a good pondering partner.

  2. indeed. I found a good article right off--deep enough, yet short enough to finish pondering before the homework dump happens in a week. Good call.

  3. All right here's your comment: ecclesiology precedes missiology, not the other way around. It's kind like which came first, the chicken or the egg?
    God gathered a people before He sent them out.

  4. I agree that ecclesiology precedes missiology, but for a different reason. The ecclesia was created for God--that is our primary (and eternal) reason for being. Our timebound purpose is tied up in missiology.

  5. Anonymous1:47 PM

    Hello Laura,

    Blowing my mind reading your stuff! See

    The Wikipedia entry on ecclesiology has a notice on that it needs attention. Maybe you could fix it!


  6. Thanks Andrew. I must say, as I prepare to take a major plunge next Monday--when I officially begin my ThM--I'm continually blown away by the simplicity, complexity, and sheer beauty of theology--ecclesiology in particular. God's desire for us--both in time and beyond time--is truly greater than we can imagine (and we imagine pretty well).

    I'll think about the Wikipedia entry. Not sure I'm ready for that yet...though, could be a summer project...hmmmm

  7. Anonymous9:37 AM

    Worthy of notice, imo, is the plain fact that God has regularly employed those from various ecclesiastical backgrounds in his vineyard. Though we cannot always agree on structure, we can all lift up Jesus, the Lamb of God.

  8. Indeed. The focus on earthly structure rather than heavenly is one of the reasons I have decided to begin studying ecclesiology. The church is both earthly and heavenly and I think ecclesiology from the heavenly perspective should--no, must--precede an ecclesiology from the earthly perspective. Who we are here has much more to do with being the people of God than it has to do with being baptist, covenant, lutheran, catholic, or any other earthly denomination.

    God is forming us how he wishes and he uses who he wishes. Getting that thru our thick skulls is a prerequisite to our necessary missional identity here on earth. That's why I say ecclesiology preceded missiology: because ecclesiology must start at the end. Rev 21:9-14 is a good place to start (for example, both the 12 tribes and the 12 apostles are part of the structure of the New Jerusalem...what does this do to our ecclesiology?).

  9. HI Laura

    Perhaps to add to your question I would suggest that our Christology shapes our missiology which in turns shapes our ecclesiology.

    Classical missionary practice (for a non-Christian context) is to go (as Jesus did), live and learn the culture and then inculturate the gospel (missiology) and from there as people wish to be disciples of Jesus to develop an ecclesia.

    What do you think?!

  10. I agree that Christology has priority, but I still think that in the bigger, eternal picture, ecclesiology has priority over missiology. In fact, I would say that Theology Proper, Christology, and Pneumatology have priority over all other aspects of theology. What the church is and does has everything to do with who God is and what he does. Missiology follows ecclesiology because it is timebound. I contend that ecclesiology, at its core, is timeless.

  11. Hi Laura

    I am interested in what you mean by ecclesiology being timebound.

    I would argue that the Word was in the beginning with God , that mission began with the creation and that the church is very much a recent addition to the whole scene.

    I would also tend to believe that ecclesiology is our most flexible doctrine in that we are given a frame to operate in, but not a prescription.

    I'd suggest that focussing on ecclesia actually tends to retard mission whereas focussing on mission tends to ignite ecclesia.

    “The inverse of the thesis ‘the church is essentially missionary’ is ‘mission is essentially ecclesial’.” (1993) Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission.

    Maybe we need ecclesial missions rather than missional ecclesia?

  12. Hamo, actually, I meant just the opposite but my sentence is unclear. I meant that missiology is timebound. What I mean is that once time has ended and the people of God are in eternity there will be no need to spread the good news of the kingdom, because the kingdom will have come.

    I contend that ecclesiology has to do with the whole people of God, not just the church. I do realize this is quite different than the normal understanding and that I need to do much more investigation, but this is the beginning of a long journey for me.

    I guess I see that who we are as the people of God is the ground for our mission here on earth. Mission is why we are here, for we cannot do this mission in heaven. Our mission flows from our identity and our identity is in God.

    I guess I'm wondering whether the understanding of ecclesia taught in many systematic theologies is really biblical ecclesiology. It speaks so much of church structure and practice and speaks little about our identity as the people of God and our mission in the world. The line between missional ecclesiology and ecclesial missiology seems to be very difficult to nail down.

    Tomorrow I start the ThM program at Talbot, so we'll see how things shape up over the next few years. It's early in the process and I'll be pondering out loud lots more.