"The heart of the question of mission has to do with coming to 'see the church in relationship to the world rather than defining ecclesial existence "by definition" or "as such"'. Whatever we thus mean by speaking of the church as an ecclesia, we can no longer simply mean by this a 'gathering' which occurs exclusively or even primarily in terms of 'centred' spaces of a formation that occurs prior to the movement into that which is 'outside' or 'beyond'. ... The immediate referent of the ecclesia is not then that church which would tarry along here below as a counter-polis to the cities of earth, but rather that eschatological city in the fullness of whose coming there will not longer be even a church, but rather the manifestation of that 'new humanity' from all the nations in and through whom God's own life will be all in all. ...Isn't that what we fear most? That ecclesia will be fleeting, and ultimately seen by the world as irrelevant, and ineffective? That ecclesia is not simply a being that "is" as an entity we can claim and control? Isn't everything we try to do be it through fantastically hip visual media, the aesthetic of high-church liturgies, political involvement and alignment with certain interest groups, or even action for and among the poor usually a desire to secure the Church's presence, relevance, and effectiveness in the world? Don't we usually live as though the very salvation of the world depends upon the Church as a mediation of divine revelation? I think Kerr's corrective words against such attempt to secure power and visibility over and against the world can not be ignored.
Constituted by mission, 'church' is entirely the operation of God's apocalyptic action in Christ, and its 'peoplehood' the diasporic work of the Spirit. As under exile, such a peoplehood is bound to appear as tenuously ad hoc, its fleeting presence being only 'for a time', and so at best politically irrelevant and at worst dangerously ineffective. And yet such might be the surest sign that one has, by God's grace, been delivered over to that mode of engaged and embodied action whereby alone we pass from ideology to doxology" (189, 196).
Disclaimer: When I ask rhetorical questions like those in this post, I'm not necessarily referencing any specific person or school of thought in general. My last aim is to be uncharitable and alienate. This blog is almost always a space to work out my own personal theological views rather than a violent exercise in polemics. I am working out my own resistances to a Barthian understanding of the Church as an event, which are directly manifested in the questions I listed themselves. Because ultimately, I (sinfully) want to secure my own power and my own relevance, and effectiveness in this world and have done so in the past through Church attendance, the liturgy, political involvement, and working with the poor. Kerr's words are those of judgment over and against attempts to do so and I thank him for it.