the weblog of Alan Knox

Gospel, Community, and Beyond

Posted by on May 7, 2009 in books, definition, discipleship, service | 5 comments

Just over a week ago, in a post called “Total Church Principles“, I mentioned that I am reading the book Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. In that post, I discussed the first part of the book in which the authors discuss the principles behind the church as both gospel-centered and community-centered. In the second section of the book, they discuss practical implications of the church as centered on both the gospel and community. In this post, I will discuss the first four chapters in this section: Evangelism, Social Involvement, Church Planting, and World Mission.

I’ve decided to discuss these four chapters together because they all share something in common: they all focus on how the gospel-centered and community-centered church must reach beyond itself to impact the world. To begin, here are a few quotes that stood out to me:

Major events have a role to play in church life, but the bedrock of gospel ministry is low-key, ordinary, day-to-day work that often goes unseen. Most gospel ministry involves ordinary people doing ordinary things with gospel intentionality. Whether it is helping a friend, working at the office, or going to the movies, there is a commitment to building relationships, modeling the Christian faith, and talking about the gospel as a natural part of conversation. People often ask if they can come see our ministry at The Crowded House [the group of churches with which the authors are involved]. But all there is to see is ordinary people doing ordinary things. There are no projects, no programs, no “ministries”. (pg. 63)

We want to make three assertions about the relationship between evangelism and social action:
1) Evangelism and social action are distinct activities…
2) Proclamation is central…
3) Evangelism and social action are inseparable… (pg. 78-79)

There need be no second-generation churches if the church is constantly reconfiguring itself through church planting. Second-generation “Christians” are those without their own living experience of the gospel. Second-generation churches are those who have lost their gospel cutting edge. It may be that a fiftieth church anniversary is not an occasion to celebrate the faithfulness of God but to lament the stagnation of his people. (pg. 96)

There are two main things that I take from these chapters… two things that I have not thought much about before, but that I’m thinking seriously about now.

1) Evangelism should be a community activity. This doesn’t mean that groups should go door-to-door. Instead, it means that as I meet someone and begin introducing them to Jesus Christ, I also begin introducing them to the community. As the authors say, recognizing evangelism as a community activity takes seriously how the Holy Spirit uses and gifts people differently.

2) A church – as a Christian community – may not be intended to remain “together” forever. In fact, if it is our responsible to proclaim the gospel, and if that gospel includes community, then we must be willing to share both our words about the gospel and to share our gospel community. This may mean (and probably does mean) that our community will need to divide into multiple communities in order to reproduce itself.

I’m still enjoying this book very much. I’m especially enjoying thinking through the practical implications of the church being both gospel-centered and community-centered.

What do you think?


5 Comments

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  1. 5-7-2009

    Evangelism and social action are inseparable… (pg. 78-79)

    I am interested to know how they define this statement.

  2. 5-7-2009

    Sounds like a book I’d like to read myself. Thanks for sharing these thoughts. Your #2 towards the end is something I too continue to give a lot of thought.

  3. 5-7-2009

    Brother Alan,

    You point #1 is excellent. Our model in cross-cultural work has been, for some time, to place team members in different areas and have them “reach out to” as many people as they can in a search for those who are open. In many cases this has resulted in great confusion on the part of those we are there to serve. They are a community-oriented people and do not understand how we speak of love for one another and this deep fellowship, but they never see us together. Praise be to God that many cross-cultural teams, at least in the Islamic world, are abandoning this model for exactly what you described… living life as a community and allowing, even encouraging, Muslims to see what it looks like. Great post!

    Peace to you brother,
    From the Middle East

  4. 5-7-2009

    Brian,

    Here is the entire paragraph:

    3. Evangelism and social action are inseparable. People often talk about evangelism being the priority, but this suggests a list of actions that you work through from the top down; if you do not have time for the bottom items (like social involvement), then this does not really matter. But evangelism cannot be separated from social action because mission takes place through relationships, and relationships are multi-faceted. As Paul says of his relationships with the Thessalonians, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8).

    Guy,

    I’m still thinking about #2 as well.

    FtME,

    I’ve seen this in the US as well. Thanks for the example!

    -Alan

  5. 5-7-2009

    Brothers Guy & Alan,

    Re: #2

    The model of a community replicating itself rather than growing then splitting seems preferable to me. Of course, this will involve the "sending out" of community members, but not necessarily disconnection from the sending community. Not saying this is the "correct" way of doing it, but it makes more sense to my mind anyway.

    Peace to you brothers,
    From the Middle East