We had a great breakout on Starting and Multiplying Missional Communities on Saturday at the GCM EveryDay Training. Several inquired about where to find the various documents and resources we mentioned.
Tools for Missional Church – this is a topical archive of missional tools I have created over the past few years in planting our church and forming missional communities.
GCM Resources – this is an “open source” collection of resources created by all of us in the www.gcmcollective.com. Feel free to take these resources and tweak them for personal use. I will list the ones that Nate and I referred to:
- 3 Marks of Gospel Community Formation
- 3 Steps for Gospel Community Multiplication
- Missional Community Leader Checklist
The inaugural GCM EveryDay training is off to a great start with Steve Timmis addressing us on Church in the Margins.
Church on the Margins
He’s delivering a sobering message about the decline of the church in America. We are moving towards 60% unchurched. Christianity is increasingly marginalized culturally, politically, spiritually.
This is a prophetic wake-up call to the American Church, a prescient message from the post-Christian UK to the US.
Steve Timmis Quotes
- I don’t like the term postmodernity but prefer hypermodernity. We don’t live in a secular society but in a pluralist society- an increasingly plurality of different beliefs and convictions in America, of people who will not come into our buildings!
- Don’t mistake religion for biblical faith. We need to show people biblical faith.
- We can no longer assume people want to find God and will go to a church.
- The church isn’t incidental to the purposes of God but central to the purposes of God.
- Jesus did not just die for me; he died for a people.
The relationship between Gospel & Culture is often fuzzy. I’ve recently been explaining the relationship between the two with three layering claims that build on one another.
First, we must understand the Gospel in light of culture. Second, we must understand Culture in light of the Gospel. Third, only then can we wisely Church the Gospel in our cultures. These three layers of understanding build on each other the way you plant a tree. We need seed (Gospel), soil (Culture), and growth strategy for your trees (Church). The seed layer is seminal and the second two allow gospel seed to grow into flourishing trees.
The challenge of mission is to so understand the dna of the Gospel that we are compelled to exegete our culture and grow indigenous churches that offer shade and strength to their cultures.
The Gospel Seed
The seed layer is: understanding the Gospel in light of culture. It’s impossible to conceive of the gospel apart from culture. So many people miss this, get in a tiff about contextualization, say it is compromising the gospel, and create unnecessary division. It’s so important that we get off on the right foot by understanding the Gospel in light of culture. This is our first, seminal layer. It’s more theological.
The Cultural Soil
The soil layer is: understanding Culture in light of the Gospel. Before we can sufficiently start, lead, and grow churches that spread the gospel, we need to understand and work over the soil of our cultures. Trees grow different in various soils. We must understand the soil of people’s values, rhythms, and beliefs before we can properly plant the gospel in their culture. This second layer is more practical.
Finally, the third layer is our growth strategy for nurturing the tree(s), where we will consider how to Church the gospel in our cultures. How does the seed of the gospel grow in the soil of our cultures in a way that actually grows a healthy, reproducing church? How do we church the gospel in our culture? The final layer is our strategy.
So, what I’m trying to practice and teach is putting Gospel seed in Cultural soil, with a strategy to Church the gospel in your culture. This is all vague and introductory, but if helpful, I will fill in this framework with future posts.
John Piper was recently presented with a festschrift called For the Fame of God’s Name, in which pastors and scholars contribute 27 chapters, totaling 508 pages, in honor of Piper’s God-centered life and ministry. New Testament scholar D.A. Carson made a considerable contribution in his chapter “What is the Gospel?–Revisited” (free by clicking on Sample Pages). This chapter will prove essential in clarifying positions and understandings of the meaning and scope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Though at times technical, this work is worth the read. After all, it doesn’t get more foundational or monumental than the Gospel!
Below I set up some important quotations from Carson’s chapter that help us clarify just what the Gospel is.
The Kingdom Gospel vs. The Salvation Gospel
Some have identified a “Gospel of the Kingdom” in contrast to a “Gospel of Salvation.” Carson explains why a distinction between the “individual” and “communal”, the saving and the kingdom gospel is artificial. His main point is that the Gospel of the Kingdom is something that is heralded by Jesus on his way to complete the Gospel Story. In other words, the Gospel of the Kingdom announced by Jesus in the Gospels can only be announced because of where Jesus is headed in the Gospels, namely to the cross and to the resurrection. To interpret it otherwise is backwards hermeneutics. He writes:
That is why it is so hermeneutically backward to try to understand the teaching of Jesus in a manner cut off from what he accomplished; it is hermeneutically backward to divorce the sayings of Jesus in the Gospels from the plotline of the Gospels. p. 160
Are the Narrow & Broad Two Gospels?
Carson then enters into a discussion of the narrower and broader foci of the Gospel. He points out that the narrower focuses on Jesus’ story (cross/resurrection) and the latter focuses on what Jesus’ story has secured (kingdom/new creation). Some have protested that there is too much focus on the former and that we need to focus more on the “gospel of the kingdom.” Carson points out that this reasoning assumes there are two gospels, to which he replies:
But this means that if one preaches the gospel in the broader sense without also emphasizing the gospel in the more focused sense of what God has done to bring about such sweeping transformation, one actually sacrifices the gospel. (emphasis added) p. 162
The Gospel is not Just for Non-Christians but for Christians
Preaching the gospel, it is argued, is announcing how to be saved from God’s condemnation; believing the gospel guarantees you won’t go to hell. But for actual transformation to take place, you need to take a lot of discipleship courses, spiritual enrich- ment courses, “Go deep” spiritual disciplines courses, and the like. You need to learn journaling, or asceticism, or the simple lifestyle, or Scripture memorization; you need to join a small group, an accountability group, or a women’s Bible study. Not for a moment would I speak against the potential for good of all of these steps; rather, I am speaking against the tendency to treat these as postgospel disciplines, disciplines divorced from what God has done in Christ Jesus in the gospel of the crucified and resurrected Lord. (emphasis added) p.165