An increasing number of theologians believe that the Western world has moved from an era of Christendom to an era of post-Christendom. This book goes to the heart of the debate related to this shift, asking, How are we to understand the distinctive identity of the church with special reference to its role in a post-Christendom society? It then presents an analysis of the work of the English Reformed theologian Lesslie Newbigin and the American Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder, both of whom reflect on how we should understand this important question. At the end of The Distinctive Identity of the Church, the charge of sectarianism is discussed. It is argued that a missionary God sends the church to the world and, consequently, this sending should fundamentally determine its existence in the world. The book argues that the task that lies before the church in the Western world is not to bypass its distinctiveness with accusations of sectarianism, but to recapitulate an understanding of its own distinctiveness that should be seen as a precondition for its engagement in society. Such an ecclesiological position holds important potential for an understanding of the role of the church in pluralistic Western cultures. ""Nikolajsen's study is a substantial contribution to missional ecclesiology. He demonstrates convincingly how Newbigin and Yoder are crucial and prophetic guides of the church after Christendom. Nikolajsen's work is a remarkable combination of dispassionate research generating passionate theology. His scholarship not only defines the identity of the church but shows what 'missional' properly means."" --Darrell Guder, Henry Winters Luce Professor of Missional and Ecumenical Theology emeritus, Princeton Theological Seminary ""I can't think of any better theological and missiological guides than Newbigin and Yoder to help us navigate the post-Christendom waters of the 'secular' West. And I haven't found any better analyses of their distinctive ecclesiological visions than the present book. Not merely an analysis, but also a constructive proposal of the distinctive identity of the Christian community, this study should be essential reading for all interested in the role of the church in the third millennium."" --Veli-Matti Karkkainen, Professor of Systematic Theology, Fuller Theological Semimary ""Ever since I first read the writings of Lesslie Newbigin I knew there was considerable overlap between his thought and that of Yoder. I also believed that comparing the thought of both could be illuminating. And now Nikolajsen has shown how incredibly illuminating the comparison, and the interweaving, of both is. This book was a great idea and unfolds the central claims with considerable acumen--offering tremendous insight for Christians who desire to be missional in our post-Christendom world."" --Mark Thiessen Nation, Professor of Theology, Eastern Mennonite Seminary Jeppe Bach Nikolajsen is Adjunct Professor at MF Norwegian School of Theology in Oslo and Associate Professor at Lutheran School of Theology in Aarhus, Denmark. He has edited two anthologies that have appeared in Denmark.