Monday, July 12, 2010

Church Happens When . . .

A few years ago, two friends were acting as missionaries, befriending and evangelizing a group of people who would never intentionally go to any church. They purposely gave up their own ownership of their lives to be available to their new friends. Their goals were to:

A) live out the Gospel in community with these people
B) show them Jesus through their relationships (more than in talk or on paper)
C) see them come to know Jesus for themselves
D) help them find good church homes in which to grow

One day, as they were meeting with some of these friends who had become as close as family, a woman who had come to faith with them asked, "So . . . is this my church?" The leader answered that, no, this was not a church. This was a faith community.

The woman persisted, "Yah, that sounds good, but I came to faith and so have some others here, so aren't we supposed to go to a church?"

In that moment this man who had no intention of starting a church knew what he had to tell her. "Actually, church is something everyone should be a part of, but it's different than being a faith community. Church happens when a group of people decide to go on mission with God together."

In that moment this mission gained a new and un-looked for goal:

E) guide converts to pursue these three goals together

And very quickly it became clear that their friends were on board with them, for better or worse seeking to also give up their lives to grow the mission of Christ in that neighborhood. And so a church was reluctantly born.

As Matt Smay and Hugh Halter worked through the practical and theological implications of what God was doing with them, they came to understand a great truth: God gathers people together in the body of Christ (community), so that he can scatter them into the world (missions), so that in every place they find themselves they can gather new people into the body, so God can scatter them . . .

You see the pattern. The body of Christ is constantly gathering together and purposely scattering. Or it should be. In general we are better at the gathering than at the scattering.


Among all the church planting/missions/street evangelism books I've read, this one tops my list. It is altogether down to earth. There is no great promise of huge crowds (in fact that isn't desired) but the true promise of great sacrifice and blessing in the living out of Christ's body.

They ask, "How can we engage the culture to which God has called us?" To reach the unreachable, discourse on theology, frightening sermons and tidy church services wouldn't do. They also needed to overturn the framework in which people understood themselves. And cultures, worldviews, and frameworks don't buckle to reasoned argument. The answer, they learned, was "The community, not the individual, is the primary witness to this 'bigger' gospel."

I am truly excited to recommend AND. It is the first book I've found whose message of a real, solid, tried and true, biblically reasoned lifestyle of community and self-sacrifice corresponds in great detail to many of my conclusions in COVENANT AND COMMUNITY. Christ is seen as his body functions together, as the hands and feet and eyes all live in love/service to the others. And in every way the community/church that they have grown seems strikingly similar to the community/church of the New Testament.

At last! A church planting book that I can highly recommend.


Larry Baxter said...

Nice review Doug. The story you highlighted gives the flavor of the book. The book does a balanced job in helping the gathered church understand the need to scatter, and the scattered church the benefit of gathering.

Doug P. Baker said...

You're right, Larry, it really is ballanced. And by dealing with general principles rather than a ten-steps-to-success program, it leaves room for us to consider the context of our own lives/work.