That’s not quite how Hauerwas likes to say it. He says the church’s task is to be the church — which says the same thing but doesn’t bring the OT and Gospel teachings about the Kingdom in quite as directly. So I prefer “Kingdom.” It forces us to ask: “What is the Kingdom?”
In short, the church must be a place where the Sermon on the Mount is lived every day. And Rom 12. And 1 Cor 13 — which is not about marriage but living together in church. Which is harder than being married, I think. I mean, there are so many more people …
If we truly are the firstfruits of the new heavens and new earth, then church must be a preview of heaven. And the images of heaven John paints for us in Rev are very churchish. I mean, consider —
(Rev 22:3 ESV) No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.
(Rev 21:22-27 ESV) And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day — and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Church could be like that. Really. It could. Not perfectly, of course. Not in this age. But close enough to be a two-dimensional picture of the three-dimensional reality for which we pray.
I mean, it seems that church — done right — is practice for the afterlife. After all, the afterlife will be eternal worship (Rev 22:3). If we don’t enjoy worship now, what makes us think we’ll enjoy worshiping forever?
And we’re going to be with the same people — forever. God will give us new bodies, but will we be that much easier to get along with? I hope so. But only if we practice.
The church must become a place where people believe in the Kingdom teachings and follow them in order to better get along. After all, most of the NT’s ethical teachings are simply about how fellow believers should work to get along together as one. It must be really important to God. I mean, there about 200 times more verses on how to get along with fellow church members than whether to use an instrument.
And important as that is now, imagine how important that will be in a land where no one ever dies?
If we could just do this, that is, follow the NT’s teachings on how to live together as fellow believers, then evangelism would be easy. It’s not that we have no mission other than becoming truly the Kingdom. But if we do that, the rest would follow. And if we don’t, the rest will seem … impossible. Like pushing a rock uphill. Like, you know, church.