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"Colony of Heaven in a Country of Death"–Eugene Peterson

Missional Reflection #6 in a series where I quote a theologian and reflect on how it might shape a missional imagination. This quote is from Eugene Peterson.

“So, why church? The short answer is because the Holy Spirit formed it to be a colony of heaven in the country of death. … Church is the core element in the strategy of the Holy Spirit for providing human witness and physical presence to the Jesus-inaugurated kingdom of God in this world. It is not that kingdom complete, but it is a witness to that kingdom.…
Church is an appointed gathering of named people in particular places who practice a life of resurrection in a world in which death gets the biggest headlines. … The practice of resurrection is an intentional, deliberate decision to believe and participate in resurrection life, life out of death, life that trumps death, life that is the last word, Jesus life.” (Peterson, Practice Resurrection, 12)

Why church indeed? If we are really honest, much of the time church seems to normal, so mundane, so unexciting. After all, if you know the facts about Jesus and salvation and you know you are in good standing with God, why do we need church? Should we look for something that will meet our needs a little better or stimulate our senses a bit more?

We often miss the point of church because we expect it to be exciting and stimulating. Of course, that is the pattern of our culture. We do very little that fails to meet our needs or entertain us. The story of America is the story of consumption. Day-by-day we consume, so much so that we don’t even realize that we consume. It is impossible not to carry this mentality into the church. We consume church. We consume small groups. There are even those who are consuming the house church experience.

Unless we confront this consumption life practice, we will never grow up to be those who practice resurrection. We will bounce around from place to place and fail to stay put long enough with a specific group of people in a specific place to be a specific colony of heaven. Life requires a mentality of investment, not one of consumption. As long as we consume church—in whatever our preferred form—we will miss out on the experience of being God’s colony in a country of death. This requires us to stay put, to contribute, to work through difficulties, and to love others when we want to find another easier place to “get fed.”