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Models of the Church

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

I think it’s in fourth grade that virtually every California student gets an assignment to construct a model of one of the California missions. These church models often display a wide range of skill — and interest — among the children. 

But when one speaks of Cardinal Avery Dulles’ famous Models of the Church, one is referring to his classic book of the same title describing different ways of envisioning and experiencing the Body of Christ, the Church. The impact of this book is enormous; probably everyone preparing for ordination as a priest or deacon reads it — or at least is assigned to read it.

Dulles outlines five models, or views, of the Church: Mystical Communion, Sacrament to the World, Herald of the Gospel, Servant and Institution. While any healthy concept of the Church includes aspects of each of these models, one model generally predominates in any given individual, depending on a variety of factors such as education, life experience, parental attitudes, etc.

The value in evaluating our own predominate view of the Church is in understanding why we hold that view, and what is of value in other views. To that end, I recently discovered an online quiz (by way of Deacon Greg Kandra) that helps the respondent understand what their predominate model of the Church is. For example, here are my results:

Models of the Church Survey Results

Go ahead and try it for yourself. Now you may ask, what do these models mean? Good question. To get that, you’ll have to read the book.  

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