The Real Church: An Ecclesiology of the Visible

By Harald Hegstad

A study of the Church as the social reality of the community of believers, with sociological and theological insights on contemporary ecclesiological issues.

ISBN: 9780227174098


Harold Hegstad, one of Norway’s most eminent theologians, puts together both dogmatic and doctrinal ecclesiologies in this compelling analysis of the theological Christian tradition.

What is the relationship between the church we believe in and the church we experience? Is there an invisible church that is different from the visible? This book is an argument for an ecclesiology of the visible. The only church, the real church, is a concrete reality made up of people, just like any other fellowship. What distinguishes it as church is the presence of the triune God among those who gather in the name of Jesus, making it a sign and anticipation of the fellowship of the kingdom of God.

From this premise Dr. Hegstad analyzes such issues as the relationship between church and world, mission and diakonia, church as fellowship and organization, ministries in the church, worship, and the unity of the church, as well as discussing the relationship between a sociological and a theological understanding of the church.

Additional information

Dimensions229 × 153 mm


Trade InformationJPOD

About the Author

Harald Hegstad is a Norwegian Lutheran theologian. He is Professor of Systematic Theology at MF Norwegian School of Theology, Oslo, Norway. His research in ecclesiology includes empirical studies as well as publications within systematic and practical theology.



1. Introduction
2. The Church: People Gathered in the Name of Jesus
3. Sociological and Theological Perspectives
4. Sent Out into the World
5. Fellowship with One Another
6. The Church as an Organization and Institution
7. A Fellowship of Ministries
8. Worship: As Gathered in the Name of Jesus
9. The Universal Church as the Fellowship of Local Churches
10. Epilogue: Building Up the Real Church



Endorsements and Reviews

This is an ecclesiological masterpiece. Hegstad’s multi-disciplinary erudition, logical acuity, and, above all, theological wisdom all come into play as he argues – very convincingly – that the church we believe in is not, and cannot be, anything other than the church we live within and experience. A complex-yet-balanced constructive, theological proposal that is a must-read for everyone interested in the church.
Nicholas M. Healy, Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, St. John’s University

In this lucidly written work, which he has himself translated from Danish into English, Hegstad argues that we should dispense with a Platonically inspired idea of the invisible Church which exists above and beyond the real-life community that gathers in the name of Jesus for worship and fellowship.
Revd Dr Edward Dowler, in Church Times, 28 March 2014

… this book, is something that is often lacking in contemporary studies of the Church: a union of systematic theology and empirical research. This would be a very good book, therefore, to put into the hands of those curates I met who are about to undertake a study of their local church as part of their training.
Alan Billings, in Theology, Vol 117, No 4

This text is a helpful work of ecclesiology, both for its formal means of argumentation as well as Hegstad’s material conclusions and prescriptions.
Joseph McGarry, in Theological Book Review, Vol 26, No 1