Month: September 2010

Books on Church (from 1st year of planting)

A friend and church planter recently asked me for a list of “best books” I read my first year of church planting on ecclesiology. Here is that list:

Academic

“The Challenge of Churchless Christianity” – Timothy C. Tennent (article)
Introduction to Ecclesiology, Veli-Matti Karkkainen
When Church Was A Family, Hellerman
Anthrpological Insights on Missiological Issues, Hiebert
The Missionary Movement in Xn History, Walls

Practioner

Total Church – Chester & Timmis
The Essence of the Church/The Spirit-Led Ministry of the Missional Church – Craig Van Gelder
Forgotten Ways (& later Untamed) Hirsch

Sociology

Better Together, Putnam
Cities of God, Stark
Local Publications/Study

Missiology
See blog post at Acts 29:
http://www.acts29network.org/acts-29-blog/reading-good-missiology-/

The City to Come in the City that Is

Just think, if you knew the future, if you knew what would happen 10, 20, 100 years from now wouldn’t you live differently? Wouldn’t you alter your actions in reaction to the future, to make the best of your life? In Revelation 21, God shows us the future through three distinct images: a City, a Bride, and a New Creation. What do these images mean? What does a future-as-city tell us about the present? Knowing the future, how should it change our lives in the present?

The City That is to Come

In Revelation 21 (and Isaiah 60) we witness the future, when people from all over the earth will stream to see the city that is to come! Now, I want you to notice that the City of God is not a lazy city, it’s not filled with cherubim on clouds popping grapes into the mouths of the elect. Notice that Zion contains the domains of a normal city. The mention of camels from Midian draws our attention to the transportation domain. Camels carried freight across great distances for wealthy merchants. Its not just a few but a multitude of camels! The various regions mentioned (Midian, Ephah, Sheba) were populated by these nomadic merchants. We might compare them to traveling businessmen in our cities today, which brings us to the next domain—Business.

Not only do we see businessmen but also business taking place. Later on Isaiah refers to the arrival of the “ships of Tarshish.” These vessels were huge, designed to carry great tonnage across vast distances. In the text, they carry gold & silver for business transaction. There’s also an allusion to the Arts domain (gold/jewelry, frankincense/perfume), Industry (lumber of Lebanon). We could turn to other descriptions of Zion to find more domains. Here’s the point—the future of the world is a creative, bustling, city! All sorts of city domains will be present to contribute to human flourishing. What will we be doing? Working in a bustling, creative, beautiful, joy-filled city!

Making Great Culture

Now, notice something in particular about the culture that is created in Zion. Isaiah describes it as the “wealth of the nations.” Not the poverty of the nations but the wealth of the nations. In other words, in Zion people will make good culture, great culture. The best of the best. The holy city itself is made of superior materials: “Instead of bronze I will bring gold, and instead of iron I will bring silver; instead of wood, bronze, instead of stones, iron” (Isa 60:17). Everything is upgraded. The culture that is made is great! In the city that is to come we will make great culture in all the domains of the city. It will be a diverse, bustling, and beautiful city filled with the highest achievements of human culture: “I will beautify my beautiful house!” We will make great culture. How will people know about the city to come? What will bring them to the brink of belief in Zion? They have to see it, to see the city of Zion in your work, your culture-making.

Can Your City See the Future?

Can people see the city that is to come in the city that is? Can your city tell by looking at your work that you have citizenship in the city that is to come? Does your family life, your legal work, your customer service, your studies, your promptness, thoroughness in everything from communication to design to products point to the city that is to come? Does your work reverberate with the excellence and beauty of Zion? One way to renew the city culturally is for your work to be an excellent, beautiful, preview of the city that is to come, not as an act of greed but as an act of worship!

How the Gospel Renews Cities

The gospel renews cities by Christians changing their view of the city, by being changed by the city themselves, and being changed by the gospel in the city.

Change Your View of the City

Christians have a terrible reputation for seeing the city as a bad place, something to flee from, something to judge, something to escape. Alternatively, some Christians view the city as something to be conquered or saved. They swagger into a city as great spiritual giants, as enlightened benefactors. We should not approach the city as a recpient of our great wisdom, character, and resources. This is parochial. The city isn’t something to escape or conquer but it is something to love and renew. We need to change the way we view the city. To “renew” is to reinvigorate, to change for the better. It is neither triumphalistic (conquer/take) nor is it escapist (flee, run).

Be Changed by the City

The Gospel alone can give us the humility, the happiness, and the purpose needed to renew the city. Tim Keller has noted that because Christians are accepted in Christ, they don’t have to have all the answers to non-Christians questions. (Nor do they have to have all the answers to our questions.) We can and should learn from city. Become more environmentally friendly, artistic, excellent, financially wise, and so on.

Be Changed by the Gospel

Because we have a well of deep, lasting joy in Christ we can serve (not exploit) the city for happiness. Because we get our purpose not from the city or from the suburbs but from Christ, we are freed to serve and renew the city.

Because we have a well of deep, lasting joy in Christ we can serve (not exploit) the city for happiness. Because we get our purpose not from the city or from the suburbs but from Christ, we are freed to serve and renew the city. Henry Drummond, Scottish evangelist and author articulates our purpose well: “To make cities—that is what we are here for. To make good cities—that is for the present hour the main work of Christianity.” The gospel frees us to make good cities.

From “How to Renew a City” sermon