Tag: gospel-centered community

Two Great Principles for Gospel Community

Last night Steve Timmis taught on Gospel Communities at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. After establishing a solid biblical theology of the centrality of Jesus for missional communities, Steve shared some key training points for MCs. Below are my summaries of his teaching. I have placed Steve’s direct words in quotes.

  1. Community is not for girls. Don’t here what Steve is not saying. Very often community is percieved as a feminine practice. Its where you get in touch with your emotions, where you go around affirming one another, touchy-feely. But this is not biblical community. True community is a response to the Jesus who is Lord. The true Jesus is neither anemic nor hypermasculine, atrophying in weakness or bulging in strength. He is the Lord who “lived our life, died our death and rose as the first fruits of the new creation” and is gathering a community of grace that is to be a foretaste of eternity. As that community of grace, we need to look to Jesus as the center of community, who lives in us and reigns over us, compelling us to be a community that speaks the truth in love, not merely swaps emotions or confessions. Community is for Jesus.
  2. Just because we have communities that are honest and open about their sin doesnt mean we have gospel-centered communities. We may very well have communities that mistake confessing sin for living in the gospel. Confessing our sin in community is only part of the task of living in the gospel together. We mustnt linger there but complete the process through repentance and faith in Jesus. Confession must lead to repentance and faith, not under the weight of legalistic demands but as a response to how ravishing Jesus us. We need to lead our communities into seeing the beauty and glory of Jesus and allowing that to motivate true change, true repentance, such that we say: “Oh, brothers and sisters I see how sweet and ravishing Jesus is and I want you to pray for me in ______, hold me accountable and prod me to live in the gospel not in _____.

Look for the forthcoming video and audio on this Total Church Community Training on Resurgence and Acts 29 blog.

Great Book on Community

I recently received God’s New Community by Graham Beynon (left) from my aunt in England. My friend, John Hindley of The Plant recommended it. If you can get a copy of this theologically grounded, gospel-centered, practically rich book, buy it immediately. Don’t let’s size deceive you. God’s New Community is dense with practical theology of the church. Commenting on the absence of mission in Acts 2:42-47, Beynon writes:

I think there is a strong hint that it wasn’t so much specific evangelistic efforts that brought people into the church, but the attractiveness of this new community’s life. People around were drawn to the church by the believers care for each other, their unity, their desire to learn, their joy in the Lord. God’s New Community, 135

Beynon is a pastor in England who occasionally writes for Beginning with Moses, which if you haven’t subscribed, go ahead and do that now. Click BT Briefings at the top and then Join our Mailing List.

My New Article: Community and the Cubicle

By 2000, forty million American white-collar employees were using the cubicle. What began as a customizable work environment eventually turned into an urban dungeon. Cutting us off from contact with the real world, the cubicle is scorned for suffocating productivity and community. Attempts to correct these individualistic work environments, such as co-working or collaborative workspace, have met with little to moderate success. Does work have to be so isolating?

Tobacco and Community

In a thoughtful essay on tobacco production from Sex, Economy, Freedom, & Community, Wendell Berry lists the benefits of tobacco work. (The morality of tobacco work is another issue altogether.)  Among them is the practice of “swapping work.”  Tobacco, Berry points out, is a very “sociable crop,” one that calls upon the entire community for help in the setting, cutting, stripping, and harvesting of tobacco. He comments:

At these times, neighbors helped each other in order to bring together the many hands that lightened work. Thus, these times of hardest work were also times of big meals and much talk, storytelling and laughter.

I suppose that tobacco farmers could have insisted on doing the work alone, but it wouldn’t have been near as fun or efficient as swapping work. But there’s more merit to work swapping than efficiency. Berry’s reflections reverberate with community. Words like: neighbor, each other, together, many hands, big meals, storytelling, and laughter seem foreign to the professional workplace, even to contemporary expressions of church. Yet, many of these words and concepts occur frequently in New Testament descriptions of the Early Church.

Early Church Community

For example, Acts consistently describes a church that experienced a steady state of Christian community, not just meeting one another on weekends. They devoted themselves to sharing meals, sharing needs, sharing possessions, and sharing a mission (Acts 2:42-47). This radical community was in response to the gospel of Christ, a community-cultivating message that enriched the surrounding social fabric of Jerusalem (Acts 4:32-37). The gospel promoted community in private and in public, through the ministry of reconciliation. They sought God-centered reconciliation (Acts 2,7,17), ethnic reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles (Acts 10,15), and social reconciliation of the poor, sick, and lame (Acts 3:1-10; 5:12-16). The gospel of reconciliation brought very different people together publicly and privately, renewing Jerusalem socially and spiritually.

Gospel, Community, & Work

What would it look like to extend the community-cultivating power of the gospel into our cities, into our workplaces, into our churches? How would the workplace change? In the city, when our workload increases, community often declines. We buckle into the cubicle for days, only to emerge a worn-out mess. Berry recounts an increase in community when hard work sets in—more laughter, more meals, and more hands. On the contrary, urban work deadlines often bring about despair, fewer meals, less sleep, and less time at home with the family. Far from enriching community, office work can isolate individuals from coworkers and families. Ironically, Tom Rath has demonstrated that community can increase productivity. In his book, Vital Friends, Rath points out that people with best friends at work are proven to be seven times more engaged in their job!

It would appear that the city has much to learn from the country. Although some vocations are not as sociable as others, the gospel compels us to work for community and reconciliation. To honor, serve, and love those that are different from us, even the employees that get on our nerves. What if you became an agent of reconciliation and community in your workplace? Company morale and output would likely increase, and so would the glory of God in your life. Perhaps some repentance from go-it-alone work is in order. The rural wisdom of “work swapping” could take us a long way in cultivating better work, better relationships, and better communities. Wouldn’t it be great if Christians led the way?

Originally published at The High Calling

Communities of Performance or Grace?

Tim Chester offers a great diagnostic list to determine whether our communities are communities of performance or grace:

Communities of Performance Communities of Grace
the leaders appear sorted the leaders are vulnerable
the community appears respectable the community is messy
meetings must be a polished performance meetings are just one part of community life
identity is found in ministry identity is found in Christ
failure is devastating failure is disappointing, but not devastating
actions are driven by duty actions are driven by joy
conflict is suppressed or ignored conflict is addressed in the open
the focus is on orthodoxy and behaviour (allowing people to think they’re sorted) the focus is on the affections of the heart (with a strong view of sin and grace)