To summarize, in my book The Slavery of Death I talk a great deal about having an eccentric identity, an identity "hidden in Christ." I've not talked directly about the eccentric identity in this series as I've written about it extensively already. This series has been about other applications of eccentricity beyond the description of an eccentric identity.
And so far we've seen how eccentricity can be used to describe transcendence, the prophetic imagination, hospitality, enchantment, the positive facets of doubt, and the economy of love in the faith community.
In this post I want to describe how eccentricity can be a metaphor for missional ecclesiology.
We've already seen a hint of this in Part 2 when we noted how eccentricity can describe the outward-looking orientation of the hospitable community finding God in the stranger. That post in describing this eccentric orientation--facing outward rather than inward--could have served as the sole observation regarding ecclesiology, but I wanted to add one more insight.
Specifically, the idea I have here is the contrast Nathan Kerr makes in his book Christ, History and Apocalyptic: The Politics of Christian Mission. Specifically, we should think of the Kingdom less as a territory (e.g., as a city or polis) than as a mission.
As a sojourning, landless missionary community the Kingdom of God doesn't claim and then defend space over against others in the world. As the old hymn testifies, "this world is not my home, I'm just a passing through."
To be sure, the pilgrim nature of the Kingdom can tend toward the escapist. But the eccentric metaphor can help here by highlighting that the issue isn't escaping from the world but, rather, being radically in the world. The goal isn't to leave the world but to live in the world without boundaries.
The Kingdom doesn't withdraw and hunker down behind bunkers and high walls. Rather, the faith community is sent into the world as salt and light. Not of the world, but very much in the world. The separation between the Kingdom and the world isn't a boundary but one of vocation and calling.
As my ACU colleague Randy Harris has remarked, perhaps the only good thing that came out of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that the word "embedded," where journalists were described as being embedded among the combat troops, became a common word. Because the word embedded is a perfect word to describe the relationship between the church and the world.
The eccentric Kingdom doesn't claim territory over against the world. The eccentric Kingdom doesn't erect walls to create a gated community. Rather, the eccentric Kingdom, like salt and leaven, is embedded in the world.
The eccentric Kingdom is the embedded, pilgrim, landless, possessionless, homeless, sojourning, itinerant missionary community called and commissioned to live lives of radical service and availability to the world.