The term “Total Christ” originates from 5th century pastor-theologian Augustine of Hippo about the relationship of Christ’s incarnational ministry (past) to his ongoing ascension ministry (present). Applying John 1:14 to Eph.1:21-23 and 2:19ff, Augustine conclude
The Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us; to that flesh is joined the church, and there is made total Christ, both head and body.
While holding to the “distinct but never separate” formula of Chalcedon Christology applied to the incarnation, the principle is therefore applied to the nature of the church as mediated by the Holy Spirit.
The fullness of Christ, then, is head and members. Head and members, what is that? Christ and the Church!
St. Augustine, Homilies on the Gospel of John
The entire MA project is informed by a theological vision inspired by Ascension Christology-Applied! Derived from a Christ-centered analysis in biblical theology, the church by divine institution and organization is envisioned to become Gods temple presence in local manifestations informed and governed by a Christo-centric divine covenant. The church as such is more than a gospel centered "best practice" or "philosophy of ministry," it is God's real and efficacious presence as then a topic in soteriology (salvation) as an essential element of the gospel.
More specifically, we discern that there was never a time in all of redemptive history when salvation was accomplished apart from a transaction of BOTH covenant (forensic grace accomplished by divine law) and temple (missional grace mediated by divine presence). The New Covenant gospels declare that Christ is both the Word (covenant head) and Temple (flesh-on-flesh presence), such as in John 1:14. These two aspects of Christ loomed large in the debates leading up to the Council of Chalcedon (word-Cyril and temple-Nestorius respectively), which resulted in the orthodox conclusion that one is always “distinct but never separate” from the other. We do not have access to Christ as Word without Christ as Temple, and vice versa.
As applied to Christ’s ascension ministry today, we seek to experience and practice the many implications that accompany Christ’s ministry as BOTH justifier (covenant head) AND missional power (temple presence), through a ministry that is BOTH “high gospel” (the good news of Christ's person and work) AND “high church” (the good news of Christ's mediated presence for salvation in our present age).
Sadly, to pit one emphasis against the other has contributed to schisms throughout church history -- West vs. East, Transcendence vs. Immanence, "Teaching" churches vs. "Worship" churches vs. "Mercy Ministry" churches, and the many “either-or” pendulum swings represented in intra-mural debates denominationally. MA is dedicated to the "five marks," a spirituality that reunites (1) high gospel with (2) high church, so as to rediscover Christ as our (3) Prophet, (4) Priest, and (5) King.
As far back as the Acts of the Apostles, history has shown that the best way to reach new generations, new residents, and new people groups for the Gospel of Jesus Christ is quite simply to get people to the person of Christ himself! At Mission Anabaino, we believe that during Christ’s ascension ministry today, we believe Christ has an address at every place where there is an apostolic, Christ-centered church. T. F. Torrance in Royal Priesthood explained it like this:
The Spirit operates by creating out of the word a body, which St. Paul calls the Body of Christ…. As such this body becomes matched to Christ as His vis-à-vis in history and as the instrument of His saving purpose in the Gospel. It is the sphere where through the presence of the Spirit the salvation-events of the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension are operative here and now in history, the sphere where within the old creation the new creation has broken in with power.