Tag: Gospel-centered

Sunday Services Aren’t Enough

In Austin City Life, we like to say that City Groups are where the church is the church to one another and to the city. This kind of “church” is rare. Unfortunately, much of American ecclesiology has devolved into an inflexible structure that facilitates attendance—a church building. Church equals building or Sunday service. This defective ecclesiology approaches “church” as an event not as a people. Tim Chester and Steve Timmis offer a helpful corrective: “Church is not two events during the week. It is a gospel-centered community on mission.”[1] City Groups are meant to facilitate gospel-centered community on mission. They are where we can be church to one another and the city.

Why Sunday Isn’t Enough

While Sunday gatherings of the church are important, they are an incomplete experience of what the New Testament describes as church. It is impossible to carry out Paul’s “one another” instructions to the church in the context of an hour and a half on a Sunday morning. Therefore, we need some kind of structure to facilitate loving one another, bearing one another’s burdens, encouraging one another, forgiving one another, forbearing with one another, weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice. City Groups are meant to facilitate this kind of “life together.”[2] They are flexible church structures designed to facilitate the people of God living out their intended life together. While City Groups are not a “purer” expression of church than Sunday gatherings, they are a much-neglected expression of church in North America.

Steady State Community

What then does “life together” look like? City Groups are encouraged to view church, not as two events during the week, but as a steady state of community.[3] Instead of seeing community as something that primarily happens during a meeting, we need to adjust ourselves to see all of life as community. Steady state community is a constant flow of social, gospel, and missional connections throughout the week. It’s not adding special “community building” events to your already full calendar. It’s inviting people into your existing calendar. Invite people into your life not just to your City Group meetings.

*This is an excerpt from my forthcoming book: City Groups: Gospel-centered Missional Community.

Gospel-Centred Family (Chester & Moll)

When I received Tim Chester & Ed Moll’s extremely helpful book Gospel-Centred Family, I was determined to write an immediate review. Weeks passed. I kept going back to the short 93 page booklet to remind myself of gospel principles in raising my children. After reading through chapter 5, Disciplining a Child’s Heart, again this morning with my wife, I decided it was time to do the review!

Summary: One of a Kind

Gospel-Centred Family is simple, accessible, applicable, and profound. Many of us were raised to think that the gospel was something we should accept, not something we always need. This is equally true of parents. Like our children, we need the gospel to start and continue the Christian life. Instead of stooping to bribery, manipulation, behavior management, or emotionalism in parenting, Gospel-Centred Family lifts us up with gospel principles that point to Jesus as our King (not just example), to the heart (not just behaviors), and to understand how grace (not family goals) will transform a child into the image and beauty of Christ.

Book Structure: Easy to Read

The book is broken up into Four Sections: 1) Gospel-Centred Family 2) Grace-Centered Family 3) Word-Centered Family 4) Mission-Centred Family. Each chapter in each section contains a Principle, Biblical Background, and Questions for Reflection. I’m typically not into this kind of layout. In a lot of books that take this approach make the interaction feel “forced.” Not so with Gospel-Centred Family. Quite the opposite! The questions and principles are helpful and I’m considering using the whole book as the basis for a course in our church.

Disciplining a Child’s Heart: Gospel-centered & Practical

Instead or reviewing each chapter, I will provide a sample review of the book by examining one chapter.

Principle: Addressing the heart matters ore than controlling behavior.

Biblical Background:  Colossians 2:20-3:10. This background shows how Scripture does not advocate a rule-based approach to change, but that identity as a new creature in Christ is what changes us from the inside-out.

From Controlling to Addressing the Heart: Using helpful anecdotes, the authors explore common misconceptions about why children misbehave (“influences” not the heart). Many of us fall prey to these misconceptions, disciplining our children in ways that reinforce behavior-centered, not heart-centered parenting. We often try to control a child’s behavior instead of instruct their hearts. Consider some adapted examples:

  • Manipulation – “Can’t you behave like your sister?”
  • Fear – “If you don’t obey, you’ll get hit by a car.”
  • Bribery – “I’ll give you some candy if you obey me.”
  • Emotionalism – “After all I’ve done for you…”
  • Inconsistency – “Okay, just this once.”

We all fall into these, some more than others. My wife and I had an honest conversation about where we see one another choosing these behavior control approaches. We encouraged one another to address the heart more often.

Good Discipline

The authors then turn the corner of critique to instruction:

“…if your aim is to teach your child the ways of God, then your discipline will be calm, clear, consistent, and concentrated on the motives of their heart. The goal is not control—that’s your agenda. God’s agenda is a child who delights to know and serve Him.

They unpack each of the 4 Cs for godly discipline:

  1. Calm: The focus of discipline is the child’s hear rather than your emotional state.
  2. Clear: Make your commands clear…explain why they are being disciplined.
  3. Consistent: Set consistent boundaries..by always following through with warnings…and being consistent between parents.
  4. Concentrated on the heart: Focus on motivation, not just behaviour, e.g. “What did you want?” “Why did you do it?”

Concluding Thoughts

These principles and practices are immensely helpful, but they must be applied together as parents. Make sure you have some discussion time together over these things. Unite in prayerful repentance over failure and joyful resolve to not just change your kids’ behavior but instruct their heart. Parents should never stop talking about how to raise their kids. Fathers should lead out. As children grow older, it is important to move from discipline to self-discipline. As they grow, create times of discussion between parents and children so that you can grow in the gospel together.

Bonus: Gospel-centered Family Rhythms & Resources

5 Ways to Fail My Church

Reading through the Pastoral letters of the New Testament, I’ve been struck by the fact that if I don’t insist on Gospel-centered doctrine in my church, then I will fail you in at least five ways. If I don’t insist on Gospel-centered doctrine, then…

  1. The church will devolve into a socially-minded non-profit or a consumeristic Groupon. The gospel of Jesus Christ is what sets the church apart from any other organization or community. If I remove the gospel, or don’t insist on its centrality in everything we do, then you do not need the church. You can find social service outlets with better non-profits and community with Groupon gatherings.
  2. You will lose a substantial reason for living in community and on mission. Though anyone can experience community and mission outside of the church, it is a gospel-centered church that keeps mission and community from becoming your raison d’etre (reason for being). If community becomes your reason for being, then your community will likely become ingrown, selfish, snobbish, cliquish NOT inclusive, diverse, generous, growing, and vibrant. If mission is your raison d’etre, they mission will eventually become optional or so essential that you will look down on others who aren’t on mission. Only the gospel can call us away from these two extremes because it reminds us that Jesus Christ is our raison d’etre. Bottomline, community and mission will always fail you but Jesus will not. You need a church that reminds you of that.
  3. I will become unfaithful to what the Bible teaches and misrepresent historic Christianity to you. This is intellectually dishonest, historically unfaithful, and theologically untenable. You need a pastor who does not see doctrine as an end in itself, but that the gospel is the end of every doctrine.
  4. I will remove the one Person that consistently loves you, satisfies you, beautifies you, and releases you into your created purpose–to glorify God by enjoying him and calling others into a life of spreading that gospel joy over all the earth.
  5. I will remove the very Person and principle upon which the church was formed–Jesus Christ. Not only is this inconsistent, it is a genetic fallacy, distorting something from its designed purpose, tampering with its DNA.

2 Books on Gospel Change

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Offer expires on Thursday, April 1st.

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