Leaving the Gathered Community Porous Borders and Dispersed Practices

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Mark Ord


A Baptist ecclesiology of the gathered community coupled with a characteristic concern for mission has led to a dynamic of gathering and sending within British Baptist worship. This engenders a demarcation between the church and the world, and a sense of a substantial boundary between the two. In this article I explore the metaphor of the boundary between the church and the world. In doing so, I examine recent theological proposals that present formation as taking place within the worship of the gathered community for the purpose of mission. I propose a picture of the boundary as porous and its formation necessarily occurring, both within the church and the world, through worship and witness. I argue that church–world relations are complex and cannot be described as ‘one way’ — from worship to witness. The article concludes by pointing to the need for sacramental practices for the church in dispersed mode, for example hospitality, as well as for the church gathered, for example baptism and communion. This implies recognising that there are graced practices of the church and indwelt sacramentality which find their rightful place in the context of witness in the world, by leaving the gathered community.

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Author Biography

Mark Ord

Mark Ord is a Baptist minister and a director with BMS World Mission. He is currently a PhD student with the Queens Foundation, Birmingham, UK and the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam.