Simon Chan, in his book Liturgical Theology, says that the Holy Spirit was not merely given to empower the church to continue in Christ’s mission after he was gone. He says that the on the day of Pentecost, new stuff happened, that the church was transformed from being simply the people of God to being the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the actual presence of Christ on earth. Because of this, we cannot proclaim the gospel truly without telling the story of the church (as well as the story of Christ’s death and resurrection).
Herein lies the main weakness in Protestant and evangelical theology: it terminates the gospel story at the resurrection and ascension, so that the church is seen solely as the agent to retell or restate a story that ended with Christ’s resurrection. Protestantism has no sense of the continuation of the gospel into ecclesiology and pneumatology. When it comes to understanding the church, sociology takes over.
Against such a view, we need to see ecclesiology as an intrinsic part of the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ, not an administrative arrangement for the sake of securing some practical results.
The church is an essential part of the gospel story, one that goes beyond simple pragmatics. One implication of this is that we can never dismiss the church simply because she isn’t doing "her job". If the church is only a pragmatic solution to the problem of getting the word out about the gospel, then we can just throw it away when it isn’t working. But if the church really is the Body of Christ, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, then we cannot lightly discard it, even when it seems ineffective or obtuse. Throwing the church aside for the sake of getting a job done won’t ultimately work because the church is part of the story of the gospel, and if we try to preach a gospel without talking about Christ’s Body and the Spirit’s Temple, we end up with a gospel that merely records individual transactions and prints "Go To Heaven When You Die" tickets. We preach a docetic gospel if we forget the church. I wonder if what the missional church movement needs is a solid ecclesiology if it is going to make a long-lasting impact.
Maybe Augustine said it best: "The church is a whore, but she is my mother."