Nicholas Lash on Christ’s priority to the Church
Is it the case that the church is a community of people who, at any given moment, pre-exist the presence of Christ in their midst, or is it rather the case that the presence of Christ pre-exists, and is the essential precondition for, the existence and activity of that group of people whom we call the church? […]
The very idea of the church pre-existing the presence of Christ in her midst is theologically meaningless. The church is that community of people constituted as church by being personally ‘addressed,’ called, by the living Christ. Christ is not ‘able to be present’ because we, ‘the church,’ can fix things that way. We are the church because Christ is present to us, present in us, present as the objective significance of our gathering. We become ‘more church’ (which is to say that Christ becomes ‘more present’ to us) by responding, in word and deed, to his objective, constituting presence.
from His Presence in the World, (Pflaum Press, 1968), 110, 112.