This article contains more insight about the nature and practice of the church than video venue wisdom. Bob’s comments regarding community, missionaries, and preaching. Here are some of them:
Preaching: “Some churches grow faster than they can find, train, and send church planters who have the same teaching talent as the “main guy.” But what if instead of asking “Can he preach as well as me?” you ask, “Can he or she, with a team of others, lead a Christ-centered community that starts small and grows, reproducing itself before becoming unmanageable and outgrowing the gifting of its leadership?”
Missionaries: “I know, a lot of people love your preaching and want to hear it. Let them get saved and discipled at your community, or spend a season there, and then point them to your pod/vodcast, sending them as missionaries to reach their local communities.” I would add that instead of pointing them to your cast, point them Christ, their community, and their mission. We have made preaching too central in the Ministry of the Word. Tim Chester has made some great points on this subject.
Churchplanting: “One of the main justifications for video venues is that upwards of 70 percent of church plants fail. Giving people a “brand name,” proven communicator makes more sense. But do church plants fail because of the planter? Or is it because of unreasonable expectations, unsustainable “big launch” methods in which thousands of dollars are pumped into new churches in an effort to make them big, fast… because of the consumer mindset…” I would agree and add that plants can flourish when the bar of church is lowered and the bar of discipleship, community, and mission is raised. Convert people to Jesus and in the same breath, to Jesus-centered communities on mission to the city, world, not to your preaching.
HT: Judd Rumley
Elsewhere I have commented on our approach to evangelism (Gospel, Social Networks, and Community).Tim Chester describes it as “Three-Strand Evangelism.” Austin City Life does not place our emphasis on doctrinal conversion, memorized gospel presentations or evidential apologetics, rather, we are cultivating communities of Spirit-led disciples who redemptively engage people. Consider Rodney Stark’s comment:
It is important to realize several important things about doctrine and conversion. After conversion has occurred is when most people get more deeply involved in the doctrines of their new group…conversion is primarily about bringing one’s religious behavior into alignment with that of one’s friends and relatives, not about encountering attractive doctrines.
How does evangelism typically play out for us? It means several things: 1) We form relationships for relationships sake; we value the friendship and perspective of those who do not believe as we do. 2) We invite people from these social networks into our community, a community centered on Jesus. We do this through BBQs, meals in the home, parties, and so on. 3) We strive to understand and apply the gospel in our lives and relationships, addressing the whole needs of our friends (celebrating a new birth, adopting foster children, counseling people through a hard time, sharing God’s forgiveness in Jesus, etc.). This approach to evangelism is the product of biblical reflection, study, practice and contextualization. This happens through our City Groups and social networks. Stark’s comments are, once again, apropos:
By now dozens of close-up studies of conversion have been conducted. All of them confirm that social networks are the basic mechanism through which conversion takes place. To convert someone, you must first become that person’s close and trusted friend.
One wonders how Stark accounts for Pentecost, a breakout awakening of people who did not even speak the same language. Well, he certainly makes room for “Damascus Road” experiences but argues that this is the exception, not the rule.
Quotes taken from Rodney Stark, Cities of God, 12-13. See also The Rise of Christianity.
Quite a few readers were interested in my series of posts on Total Church, a book about gospel-centered community written by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis in the U.K. Total Church has been picked up by ReLIT, a publishing branch of Crossway Books and will be released in the U.S. in September. See info here. (By the way, someone has my copy, if you have it would you let me know?!)
Redeemer Church of Tim Keller fame has posted their recommended Summer Reading List.