Author Henry KuoADTeconomics, environment, GA221, Racial Justice,racism, scriptureThe Missional Church: The ChurchCatholicI was teaching youth and college Sundayschool a few years ago, and we werediscussing the Apostles’ Creed, particularlythe part where Christians confess belief inthe ‘holy and catholic church’. One studentspoke up and asked what the Creed meantby ‘catholic’. Without much thought, Irattled off the same answer I had receivedmy own Sunday school teachers severalyears before: ‘catholicity’ means universality– the church is spread throughout theworld; it is everywhere. But the questioncontinued to bug me. Is the church’scatholicity merely its geographic presence?During my time in seminary and now ingraduate school, I remain befuddled by how much attention has been focused on thechurch’s unity and holiness while relatively little has been given to catholicity.I believe that it’s time for Reformed Christians to reclaim catholicity as constitutive tohow we understand church. After all, Reformed churches (Presbyterian and otherwise)recite the Nicene Creed or Apostles’ Creed on various Sundays, meaning that everyweek, scores of us confess the church’s catholicity. But how many of us really know whatthat means?___________________________________________Following Jesus requires the church to continually reorient itself towardJesus Christ. This cannot be done individually; thus, the importance ofthe church catholic.The Missional Church: The Church Catholic | Unbound...1 of 79/3/19, 10:41 AM
___________________________________________As I will seek to explain, catholicity is more than simply a statement of the church’sworldwide presence. In fact, I believe that the church’s catholicity lies at the heart of whatit means to be a missional church. If we expect to live missionally, then we must alsostrive to live catholically.What does it mean for the church to be‘catholic’? The term is difficult to define; itwas meant to be evocative and signalopenness to a diversity of expressions. Itsfirst recorded use comes from around 110CE in St. Ignatius of Antioch’s letter to thechurch in Smyrna. He writes, “Where JesusChrist is, there the catholic Church is.” This simple formulation gives us animportant clue about how Christiansunderstand the church. Or rather, howChristians shouldunderstand church.We Christians do not come to understand the church’s mission by first looking inward –that is, by figuring out how we can ‘do church better’. Our first move must be to lookout of ourselves towards Jesus Christ, our model and teacher in our understanding of thechurch. As such, the church does not engage in ministries of healing, teaching, and evenresistance against injustice simply because those are good ideas things to do. The churchheals, teaches, and protests against injustice because Jesus healed, taught, and turned overthe tables of the traders in the Temple’s Outer Court.The richness of catholicity can be further appreciated if we attend to its Greek origins.