Apostolic Ecclesiology

St. Michael the Angle.jpg

One of the commonly overlooked aspects of ecclesiology (the study of the church) in standard seminary and graduate education is the structural component. Usually this deficiency is remedied by good missiological studies which consider the core task of the church in the world.

Unfortunately, most pastors and those preparing for vocational ministry study ecclesiology as part of systematic theology but rarely do they ever venture into the realm of missiology. That’s unfortunate because if ministry in the postmodern world is to have any hope of being effective, it must be missiologically informed.

A biblical and historical understanding of ecclesiology that is missiologically informed invariably embraces an understanding of apostolic structures.

Apostolic structures are those forms of the church—distinct from the church in its local, parish, or diocesan form—that God has always used throughout redemptive history to accomplish specific purposes across geographic, cultural, and socioeconomic barriers.

Such an understanding of the term “apostolic” goes beyond the macro usage of the term—meaning some elevated spiritual office where one has oversight or jurisdiction over some type of territory, religious structures or group of people. It is also distinct from concept of apostolic succession which means for something to considered apostolic, it must be related to one of the original 12 apostles or their successors.

Rather, the term apostolic in its broadest sense simply means sent one. It can be argued that such is the meaning of the term in Ephesians 4. Such a use of apostolic has been synonymous throughout history of the Christian movement with “missionary.”

*Photo, by CRM photographer Peter Schrock, is of a statue of “St. Matthew, the Evangelist” which sits atop St. Isaac’s cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia.

One Response to “Apostolic Ecclesiology”

  1. dan Says:

    Hi Sam,

    I agree with you about the need for developing apostloic ecclesiology.
    -for 21st century mission

    Your discussion/comments were very helpful.


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