“I will build my church: The missio ecclesiae”

Review of Joseph Boot's "The Mission of God" (Chapter 15)

The following is just a collection of (not necessarily verbatim) quotes from the chapter with the above title from the book “The Mission of God” by Joseph Boot (see his Ezra Institute).

15.1 The Mission of the Church

Definition of the church . . . Greek ekklesia, simply meaning assembly. A compound of the preposition ek (out from ) and verb kaleo (to call).

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon: “a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place”.

So the church is a universal and organic (living and growing) body of regenerate believers (a new humanity or citizenry) who have been reconciled to God through the death and resurrection of Christ, called out to serve their king, finding regional expression in local assemblies (or embassies) of God’s kingdom people.

God’s people are sent out into all the earth to declare the good news of Christ’s reign and salvation and assert his crown rights in every area of life and thought.

This is a distinctly reformed and Puritan perspective, and a world-changing one.

This vision of the church’s mission in the Western European context took decisive shape during the Calvinistic movements of the Second Reformation in Holland and the Puritan era in England, Scotland and the American colonies.

Richard Marius writes: Luther never tried to make much of the present world, and a worldly age cannot make much of him. The Calvinists expected the world to endure, and they believed themselves to be instruments of God to convert it . . . Calvinism has implanted . . . a perpetual dissatisfaction with our successes and a restlessness with the way things are. [523]

In a truly Reformed theology of mission, the church as God’s kingdom people must not only be concerned with personal salvation, or institutional church affairs, but with the reign of Christ over all things.

Cromwell and many other Puritans were working toward a nation under God’s law and gospel in which there would be a harmony between church and state, both submitted in their spheres to God.

It was simply assumed that people would live a better life once God’s rule was established over thier respective societies.

Because of its theocratic features the Calvinist branch of the Reformation put a greater emphasis than Lutheranism on the rule of Christ in society at large; this distinction also manifested itself in Calvinist missionary practice. [524]

Bosch: “The Enlightenment would shatter the theocratic ideal. Religion would be banished into the private sphere, leaving the public sphere to reason.”

Enlightenment relativized the absolute and exclusive claims of Christianity, thereby steadily pushing it from the public to the private realm. Furthermore, in this rebirth of human autonomy the “self-sufficiency of the individual over social responsibilities was exalted to a sacred creed.”

In our present cultural moment, the Enlightenment, having run its course and exiled transcendence, has left us the meagre crumbs of relativism, subjectivism, political pluralism and a concomitant return to esoteric pagan spirituality that is successfully merging itself with humanistic ‘science’.

The main responses of the churches to this predicament vary from a kind of retrenchment in a ‘reason-based’ Christianity, to religious privatisation, and theological flight and retreat.

The first common response, mostly among Catholics and evangelical rationalists, essentially adopts the Enlightenment paradigm, wedding the ‘age of reason’ to Christianity, claiming that theology is a kind of natural science, the science of God, and that reason, through identifying natural law, can restore man to a truly moral and rational idea of himself, the world and God.

A second reaction . . . divorces faith and reason, seeking to locate the faith essentially in human feelings and experience alone . . . the goal of the Christian life and faith then becomes simply advancing one’s personal spiritual growth. . . . tied to an eschatology of escape and flight from the world as the ultimate hope of the church.

A third and most popular response amongst Protestants has been the radical privatisation of the faith. . . . like to think they can carve out a small domain in public affairs, having a ‘seat at the table,’ whilst leaving the rest of life to be considered a purely personal and individual realm, and allowing most of the public square to go its own way.

A more sophisticated variation on this response has been the development of a ‘Christian’ political pluralism, which essentially embraces the globalist multi-cultural project of the modern left, and baptizes it as the church’s mission in serving the common good – this presupposes the privatisation and relativisation of biblical truth.

The very idea that biblical faith creates Christian culture or civilisation is denied, and the Reformed view of biblical revelation effecting legislation is rejected as totalitarian.

There is no such thing as a neutral culture. ‘Multiculturalism’ is therefore just a contemporary term for polytheism (many gods). But no society can be governed by more than one ultimate source of authority without provoking civil conflict and social chaos.

The Roman world … sponsored cultural pluralism politically, but ensured that ultimate allegiance was to the emperor (the state). … This was true of all the polytheistic empires; ultimate power and authority lay with the king, emperor or ruler, i.e. the state. This pagan idea is the actual hegemonic reality that exists today in the West.

This ‘modified’ privatisation of biblical faith and truth, calling for active support and promotion of political pluralism (public idolatry) in the name of Christianity, is fast becoming the dominant ‘evangelical’ perspective. Its cousin is the right-leaning two-kingdoms theology … that supports the privatisation of the faith with the notion that the public or secular sphere outside the institutional church is a realm of ‘common grace’ where specifically Christian revelation is not necessary to define and shape the common good.

This is largely an attempt to both cope with the Enlightenment’s shattering of the theocratic ideal in Protestant mission theology, and to broker a deal with the crocodile of statism in the hope of being eaten last.

Turning this around is not done by revolution, but by regeneration, and multi-generational faithfulness to preach, teach, serve and obey in terms of the whole council of God. Faithful Christians are called to live godly, peaceable, honourable lives, seeking to live at peace with all as far as it depends upon them without compromising God’s word whilst dwelling in non-Christian social orders.

15.2 The New Puritanism and the Church

The answer to the shattering of the Protestant theocratic ideal by the Enlightenment lies not in the popular responses highlighted previously, but in a simple return to the whole council of God in Scripture and a revival of a Puritan theology of mission detailed throughout the book.

We must neither romanticise the past, nor accept the status quo as normative. “The Church must in every generation be ready to bring its tradition afresh under the light of the Word of God.”

A pocket of theocratic Christianity that survived the Enlightenment was Dutch Calvinism. This movement greatly influenced the new Puritanism (the theonomists)

Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), who served as Prime Minister in the Netherlands summarized his Reformed missiological thrust this way:

“One desire has been the ruling passion of my life. One high motive has acted like a spur upon my mind and soul . . . It is this: That in spite of all worldly opposition, God’s holy ordinances shall be established again in the home, in the school and in the state for the good of the people; to carve as it were, into the conscience of the nation, the ordinances of the Lord, to which the Bible and creation bear witness, until the nation pays homage again to God.”

The layman does not leave the church when he walks out of the building.

Although this is unlikely to happen overnight, I believe that a recovery of a missional theology of hope, dominion and victory, centred upon the kingdom of God and our priestly service to the king, would lead to a progressive renewal of the church’s mission.

[Rushdoony:] Today, as the world more openly embraces humanism, our religious institutions, schools, families, and callings must see themselves as outposts of Christ’s Kingdom, local gatherings of the citizens of the new creation. In the building for worship, the true church in a local community gathers to hear the word of God, whereby they are to go forth and exercise dominion.

15.3 No Compromise

John Stott: “I now see more clearly that not only the consequences of the commission but the actual commission itself must be understood to include social as well as evangelistic responsibility, unless we are to be guilty of distorting the words of Jesus.”

Why does this kingdom manifesto appear to be revolutionary or even threatening to many in today’s church?

Rejecting compromising the faith. The implications of the Puritan thesis have become clear – uncompromising biblical faithfulness to the Lord, whatever the cost.

The Bible was read, not as God’s law-word, but as a devotional book for pietists. The state (and most of life) was thus freed from God to follow a humanistic course.


“by forcing Christians to grapple with the Old Testament’s contribution to Christian ethics and a just society, and by offering insightful biblical solutions to the problems of the modern world, the Reconstructionists have enriched the church” (J. G. Child)

The quiet and progressive influence of Puritan missiology is also no doubt due to the weakness and evident inadequacy of current Reformed and evangelical missiological thought.

15.4 Idolatry – The Root of Resistance

The modern church is tempted to blame the humanists, pagans and Muslims, Marxists or other groups for the state of our culture and its idolatrous turn, but God calls his people to first take a long hard look at themselves in accounting for the decline of our social order. (See Jeremiah 3:1-23)

In the midst of the people’s rebellion, there is hope. This hope is found in the invitation to return to the Lord. God calls his people to repent and turn to him.

15.5 Divine Jealousy

The word jealous is related to zealous and denotes exclusivity – another word our age has a distaste for!

Love and jealousy are inseparably related and they are intimately involved in one another in the unchanging character of God.

Jealousy, like God, is personal (as is love). Electricity is not personal. The murderer and the saint alike will both get electric shocks if they touch an electric fence because current is impersonal or non-discriminating in action. Thus, when people fail to discriminate in life between good and evil character and actions, right and wrong, truth and falsehood, they are depersonalising and dehumanising persons and life itself.

C. S. Lewis points out that to deny jealousy and wrath to God is misleading and destructive: “All the liberalising and civilising analogies only lead us astray. Turn God’s wrath into mere enlightened disapproval and you also turn his love into mere humanitarianism. The consuming fire and the perfect beauty both vanish.” God’s love is exclusive which means his love for his covenant people demands the eschewing of all idolatry.

15.6 The nature of Idolatry

The essence of all sin is idolatry and it was so from the first.

Man’s favourite idol is himself and his own will.

The two key forms of idolatry found amongst God’s people in the time of Jeremiah were (and remain in today’s church) syncretism [the practice of combining different beliefs and various schools of thought] and false prophesy in the name of the God of Scripture – and they usually come together.

In the modern church, we have people and movements who claim to want and and worship a God of love; not a God whose nature includes law, jealousy, exacting justice, judgement and wrath. This pretence has always been the cry of those who would liberalize, sanitize, and domesticate the divine. But the love of which they speak is an abstraction, and their god an idol; an idea; a universalistic, and promiscuous god; an antinomian image without law, and therefore without grace: without justice and therefore without mercy. This ‘progressive’ god is evolving and changing as the spirit of the age appoints the creed of time. This is a god of man’s making whose being and ways must conform to the shifting sands of popular culture. This god speaks no infallible word, for that word is now spoken by man for the moment. This profane image is a useless idol. The actual god in this theosophy is man. However much cloaked in theological or missiological verbiage, this evolving god is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God and father of the Lord Jesus Christ.

15.7 Going the Way of Balaam

What leads God’s people into idolatry? According to Scripture, the main culprit is false preaching and teaching.

It is not usually the loud humanist and open spokesman for Baal (sexual perversion, homosexual marriage, abortion, abolition of the family, queer culture etc…) who is the greatest danger to the church, but the audacious churchmen, masking their idolatry as faithfulness. Often gifted, eloquent, full of plausible-sounding argument and popular appeal, with media reach and glossy books and even an ostensibly ‘evangelical’ pedigree, such people can spin a new faith with words from the old.

The triune God of Scripture is a faithful, exclusive, loving, inexorable and jealous husband, and it is these very qualities that make him a God of real love.

In recent decades, confidence and hope have been gradually sapped in the western church by a general failure to faithfully preach and apply the whole counsel of God in our churches.

15.8 The Hopeless World

Without the sovereign God in their world, and outside of the covenant, men desperately plan their utopias, dream of creating cybernetic life and downloading their consciousness into a machine to escape death, and wonder how man will avoid the consequences of the evil in his own heart.

It is harder to hope and believe that the mission God has given his church can be fulfilled. It is easier to dress up faithlessness as realism, disobedience as a higher spirituality, or to succumb to hopelessness.

15.9 The Covenant of Hope

We must again in the Western world recover the vital mission of the church that sees its calling as applying the reign of Jesus Christ in all creation. We must revive the spirit and vision of salvation victory that characterised the apostle John and inspired the great hymn writer who penned those potent words “All hail the power of Jesus name let angels prostrate fall, bring forth the royal diadem and crown him Lord of all . . . Let every kindred, every tribe on this terrestrial ball, to him all majesty ascribe and crown him Lord of all.”

It will require courage, fortitude and unwavering biblical faithfulness to rouse the church again to her mission in a generation that has lost its way in idolatry, and where many a prophet and and priest have said ‘peace, peace, when there is no peace”.(Jer. 6:14). Yet in spite of all opposition, wherever a faithful kingdom people are found; wherever the church of Jesus Christ gathers as his embassy to serve as his ambassadors; wherever a willing and humble church will hear and obey, the rule and kingdom of God is present.