It’s late in 2008 and so people are busy preparing their top 10 lists on blogs, books, posts, movies, songs etc. Now depending upon how much I blog between now and the end of the year you may see one or two of those lists appear here. But just to get your taste buds going here’s a really late entry and, in my book, contender for post of the year: Jonathan Dodson – The 50/50 Gospel – Part II
Archive for the 'Gospel' Category
‘We all agree with the theory of being a community of God that defines and organizes itself around the purpose of being an agent of God’s mission in the world. But the missional conversation often goes a step further by dismissing the “attractional” model of church as ineffective. Some say that creating better programs, preaching, and worship services so people “come to us” isn’t going to cut it anymore. But here’s my dilemma—I see no evidence to verify this claim.”
Wow!!!!! – that’s all I can say after reading Dan Kimball’s Missional Misgivings. Here’s an emerging/missional leader sharing some serious misgivings about the state of the missional church. His little article is definitely going to draw some heat – but its also going to make a lot of people think very hard about what it means to be missional. I wonder if the issue is not so much attractional versus missional but rather the content of the gospel message preached in either approach. I’m convinced that when the gospel is rightly proclaimed people are converted and disciples are made. For me the missional approach rightly suggests that there is an important context for that gospel proclamation – the redemptive community on mission – but at the end of the day the transformative power is in the gospel message, missional or not. Perhaps the reason why many missional models have failed to get off the ground is because the community has been prized over the message – but that’s pure speculation on my part. Either way, Kimball has made us think.
(HT – Jason)
After making a biblical case for the necessity of living breathing community as the best context for the gospel and the work of the gospel, Steve Timmis and Tim Chester put forward the following caution:
‘If you warm to this vision of Christian community then start where you are. Sell the vision by modelling the vision. Don’t become a pain to your existing congregation, telling them everything they are doing is wrong. Become a blessing by offering hospitality, showing practical care, dropping in on people. Create around you a group of Christians who will share their lives and encourage one another in the faith. You might start with your home group. Often home groups are little more than a meeting. Make yours a community by acting like a community. You don’t have to mount a campaign for change – just get on with it and make community infectious. Create something that oter people want to be part of. And think about whether you could establish a context in which people in your church can hang out together and invite unbelieving friends: something like a regular cafe night, an open home or football practice‘ (Total Church, p.48)
What I appreciate about Steve and Tim is that they somehow manage to be radical, challenging, mature, sensitive and patient all at the same time. My temptation is to err on one of those at the exclusion of the others. Its easy to be radical and just forge ahead disregarding all the genuine people of God around you who might not be ready to go where you lead. Its easy to make a lot of noise about your newly found convictions and not worry about whether or not you are alienating others. Having read much of Steve and Tim’s literature, following Tim’s blog and listening to all their talks from the recent Total Church conference in San Diego, I’m convinced that these guys know how to bring balance and sanity to the missional conversation which is, by nature, a very radical conversation. I’m greatly encouraged and rebuked not to simply go out and tell everyone that they’ve got it wrong but rather simply to get out there to love and live in God’s new community.
Thabiti Anyabwile and Carl Trueman think that there’s too much fascination with ‘culture’ and ‘engaging culture’ in Christian circles today. I must confess that I’m not completely convinced that they’re on the money, or (if I may be so bold) that the school of thought, ministry and theology that these gentlemen speak out of has taken culture seriously enough yet and what it means to engage culture in a way that is congruent with the gospel. But then maybe I’m just a naive, young, little upstart – ok so I know I am, but anyway… I really get the feeling, looking at the average reformed and evangelical church around me that culture, and real engagement with it is still something a bit mysterious and off the agenda at present even despite the large amount of press available about engaging the culture. (HT – Jason)
I tend to read my Bible far more critically than I did two or three years ago. Things I’d normally just gloss over as a given I now sit and toy with in my head, second guessing myself as to whether or not some of the foundational things I believe are really there or if they apply to me.
This morning I read Matthew chapter 1. Now in verse 21 an angel tells Joseph that he should name the child in Mary’s womb Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. Now normally that would be a fairly standard thing to read – Jesus has come to save people from their sins - we all know that, but that’s not actually what it says. It says that Jesus has come to save Israel from the national sin and guilt that hangs over them in their constant rejection of their covenant God – well at least that’s how a first century Jew (Matthew’s proposed audience) would have read it. From there my mind jumps into overdrive second guessing my understanding of Jesus’ coming to save people from sin.
So I start asking myself all sorts of questions: Did Jesus come to save everyone from their sins or just national Israel? When the New Testament talks about sin is it talking about the way modern evangelicals talk about it or is it talking about the specific covenantal sin of Israel? All these sorts of questions pop into my head. In the end I had to turn to Acts and read the accounts of Phillip and the Ethiopian and Peter and Cornelius just to be reminded that ultimately Christ’s work does extend to all the nations and all sorts of sin. It was fairly handy exercise for me in the end as my faith in Christ’s work was firmed up yet at the same time I read the gospel story with a bit more historical clarity and integrity. It can seem a bit of a risky exercise but it does yield fruit in the end.
“The church is always tempted towards a church of glory, whether that takes the form of grand buildings, political influence, global structures, charismatic personalities or mega-churches. But an approach to the church consistent with the gospel of Christ crucified and discipleship shaped by that gospel is an ecclesiology of the cross. That means power in weakness, wisdom in folly, and glory in shame. It means we must put our confidence in Christ’s little flock and the sovereign rule of God. It means we must put our energies into the church of the cross even if that means obscurity.
The problem is that ‘power made perfect in weakness’ is so counter-intuitive and counter-cultural that we do not believe it. We believe that God will use the powerful and important and impressive. But he does not. We need a radical change of perspective. We need to ditch our worldly notions of success. We need to ditch our modernistic preoccupation with numbers and size. We need to turn our notions of success upside down so that we align them with God’s kingdom perspective.” (Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church, p.194-5)
As I stand on the precipice of church planting and church leadership I’m overwhelmed by the need I have for God to come and do some serious reconstructive surgery in my heart so that I will lead his church with a theology of the cross and not a theology of my own glory.
My continued reading in everything missional is providing me with insight, surprises, encouragement and also concern and, at times, disappointment. Since I spend most of my time on this blog waxing lyrical about the upside of the missional movement I think its time I started to approach it from a bit more of a critical stance. I’ve already done that a bit in my last post.
Today I want to think a little about the usage of prescriptive texts versus descriptive texts in our developing of a missional ecclesiology. What has become apparent to me is that a significant amount of weight, in much missional writing, is given to the descriptive texts of the Gospels and Old Testament narrative. Now I’m not at all against gleaning insight from descriptive texts – I firmly think it is a task we must embark upon. But, I also think its a delicate task which requires a bit of hermeneutical skill. So for example, what does it mean to embody the life of Jesus in our mission? How do we follow the example of Jesus? Is everything he does a paradigm for us to follow? These are difficult questions that, in my mind, are bypassed a little in a lot of missional writing. I think Tim Chester exposes this a bit when he explains why he doesn’t believe in incarnational mission. I think its tricky and we need to be careful of not forcing the bible to match our missionary methodology of choice. In our desperation to convince others of the missional agenda we can misuse texts and make prescriptive requirements for others from texts that were never meant to be prescriptive.
Conversely, I haven’t seen enough interaction with the prescriptive texts of the epistles in missional literature. I haven’t seen many detailed discussions of passages like Ephesians 4 and how they should shape our missional communities. I think we’d all benefit from some serious study in these areas. Paul is the single biggest commentator on the life of the local church in the Scriptures and so we should be hearing more from him as we build missional ecclesiologies.
I want to see more reformed and evangelical South African Christian blogs – I want to see more people talking about what it means to be the church in South Africa in the contemporary world in which we live. So I’m laying down a challenge to anyone out there who is a South African Christian to start a blog.
Now most people think its a stack load of work to keep up a blog – and I guess if you want to post everyday then it is a bit of work and time. But I think its also very rewarding (read my post on the 10 benefits of blogging I’ve experienced in the last 2 years) and you don’t have to post everyday to write a good blog. So go over to Blogger or WordPress (blogging platforms) and get going.
Here are some tips to start off with:
- Start reading other good Christian blogs (browse through the links on my sidebar)
- Learn how to use a feed reader and syndication (I use Google Reader and Feed Burner)
- Don’t write long complicated posts
- Sign up with Amatomu
- Link, link and link to other similar blogs
- Make sure the template or layout you choose is simple and easy to read
- Categorize or tag all your posts
- Don’t use corny pseudonyms – use your real name!
- If you can, make your name the url
- Always give credit to material you find on other blogs by linking back to the source
- Don’t promo your blog by dropping spam comments on other people’s blogs telling them to check out your site
- Don’t rant and preach too much on your blog – people will get tired of you – write posts that encourage dialogue rather
- Have fun…
If you decide to take up this challenge then leave a comment below with a link to your new blog. Come on your bloggers…
UPDATE: If you already write a reformed, evangelical South African blog then introduce yourself and leave us a link in the comment section to your blog.
Its funny how you wake up every morning expecting relationships to just pan out exactly as you’d like them to, expecting your future plans to come together as if you’re the sole architect of your future circumstances, expecting yourself to be able to simply deal with life because that’s what you’re good at.
You only have to be awake for a few minutes to realize that things are not going to work out that way, that relationships are messy and painful, that the future can change in an instant completely out of your control and that when you’re faced with shifting circumstances you can’t always confidently take them in your stride. You only have to be awake for a few minutes to realize that we live on the wrong side of the Fall and it sucks.
Jesus needs to remind me every morning that he has effected and put a plan in action to reverse the Fall and that one day I’m going to enjoy the full benefits with him…till then I need to get on board with the plan, with his story, and start living for the benefits now or else I’m going to be miserable all the way through.
Since the cat is out the bag I thought I’d start slowly blogging through the church planting experience I’m about to embark upon. This gives you a way to keep up to date with what we’re doing and a forum to give some critical feedback. To be honest the more I think about church planting the more I realize that I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. Sure I’ve read some books and talked to some peeps – but let’s be honest Cape Town City presents a conundrum of challenges and opportunities in its radical diversity and its going to need serious prayer and real hard work to see something start emerging here.
To date God has been very good to us in laying the groundwork in so many different ways through the people he’s brought into our lives and the way everything, so far, has just effortlessly fallen into place. My guess is that its probably not always going to be that way and we’ll need to have a long term view of the work we’re doing to keep going. So welcome to my church plant diary and feel free to make comments along the way as a group of us take on the city of Cape Town with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
There’s something that just seems to existentially click in the soul when we sing glorious gospel truths like this:
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.
Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace,
One in Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God!
- Charitie L. Bancroft, 1863
I can finally tell everyone the news!!!
Some of you will be aware of this news already, some of you won’t, but today it all became official and so now I can post about it on my blog. We are joining and helping to head up a church plant in Cape Town City! As many of you know I’ve been completing my post-graduate studies at George Whitefield College this year with a view to going out to be involved in some sort of church planting ministry in the future. Initially Robin and I thought we were going to head back to Durban and be involved in some work there, but since January this year I’ve been in conversation with some people from our denomination about a church plant in the Sea Point and Greenpoint suburbs of Cape Town. Altough we’ve been fairly certain for the last 3 months that it was going to happen we had to wait for denominational approval. Well today we got it. Robin and I attended a selction conference where prospective ordinands are placed in various ministries throughout the country and there we met with some of the bishops of CESA and lecturers from GWC. They gave us the great news that they’re all keen on the idea of the plant and are happy with our involvement in it from January 2009 onwards! So we’re extremely excited about what God is going to do in this city through us.
I’ll be joining with a friend by the name of Jacques Erasmus to plant this church. Jacques has been working in the area with a ministry called Straatwerk (Street Work) for the last few years ministering to homeless folk, prostitutes, the homosexual community, refugees and the night-clubbing crowd. He’s an amazingly gifted gospel worker with a huge heart for the unconverted – especially the marginalized in society. Together, with a small core team, we’re going to be launching an all out offensive on Cape Town come January. Please hold us up in prayer as we attempt this. Pray that God would be pleased to grow his church in these difficult places.
I’ll be updating you with news as we go along and give you more details to the plant as we flesh it out. Peace.
Check out the preview video for Driscoll’s new book.
In January I posted about my desire to interact with the issue of ‘church’ over the course of this year. ‘Matt the Knight’, a friend of mine, suggested that I give a mid-year update as to where I am in my thinking about some of the questions I set out to explore. So here’s some of the answers to the questions so far:
According to the New Testament what do you have to have, as absolute minimum, for a church to exist?
I’m thinking you need people who have been regenerated by the gospel, living under the consistent proclamation and teaching of the word of God, worshipping in a community by serving, caring, speaking, teaching and loving both each other and those outside. I found a recent study I did on Luther’s view of church quite helpful in part and I’m still blown away by Timmis & Chester’s ‘Total Church’.
What is the relationship between the church and the Kingdom of God?
This one is difficult. I’m still not sure if I have it nailed down (or if I’ll ever nail it down). In light of this a did a study and wrote a paper on the concept of the kingdom of God as found in Luke’s gospel. You can read it here.
What is the relationship between the church and social concern (as opposed to the relationship between Christians and social concern)?
Still not clear on this one either. I know all the various arguments out there and I’ve read quite a bit but I’m not sure I’ve read anything that directly answers this question in a way that looks at individual Christian responsibility and the corporate church’s responsibility.
What is the relationship between the church (local) and culture?
Daniel 1. I have a brilliant talk by Vaughan Roberts on Daniel 1 that answers this question beautifully. Unfortunately I don’t have the rights to post it. I haven’t checked if its available elsewhere so have a look around and I’ll tell you if I find it on-line. Basically his thesis is: Don’t run away from culture but don’t compromise either – and be humble and generous as you figure out this tension.
Is the Knox-Robinson view of church too narrow?
I’m struggling to figure out if its the actual theology that’s too narrow here or the way people practice it in church life. Do I believe that the earthly gathering of believers is the embodiment of an already existing heavenly gathering? Yes. I just think there’s more to ‘church’ than ‘the gathering’.
What does over-realised eschatology look like in the church?
A church that neglects gospel proclamation because its too busy trying to make the new creation happen now.
What does under-realised eschatology look like in the church?
A church that only ever does evangelism and forgets that God’s agenda is the renewal of all things.
How do the above two questions relate to the plausibility of the homogeneous unit principle?
This is tricky. Most people who write on this issue, that I’ve read, write from predominantly mono-cultural society whereas things in South Africa are a lot messier. I’m still working on this one.
What do those same two questions have to say about the depth of gospel community a church should be attempting?
It should be deeeeeeeeeeep. The one thing I’m becoming more and more convinced about in my studies is the need for authentic community that extends beyond the structures.
Are multi-site churches theologically viable?
I don’t see why not. But I also think they can be a breeding ground for a number of different sins: like pride for example. There is also the chance that they can turn the church into not much more than a market commodity – not good. But then again the whole arena of multi-site is quite diverse.
Joe Thorn has a really great piece on developing gospel conversations with those you mix with in the suburbs. For me its normally quite easy because people ask me what I do for a living and I have an open door to a gospel conversation. But I know its often a terrifying thing for most of us and so Joe’s got some good tips.
…to describe mission as far as Tim Chester is concerned. Read his fascinating thoughts and healthy critique of trendy missionals. I think I might have been a bit guilty in this area for blurring categories.
At the moment I’m busy studying some material for a practical theology seminar that starts on Monday morning and runs for the week. As soon as I finish that I’ve got a paper about Luther’s theology of ‘church’ to get cracking on. In between all of this I’m filling up on books about missional church, urban ministry and church planting as I prepare to put pen to paper on my dissertation. Along with all the theological studies I’m dreaming about church planting and next years plant (I’ll give you more details when I’m able to). In many ways it feels like playing air guitar – you think you’re a hard-core rocker but if you stood in front of a mirror and saw yourself you’d feel pretty stupid. For me its the difference between theologizing, studying and talking about the gospel and missional church and actually simply doing it. I’m tired of the talking – I want to breathe in the gospel deeply and get on with it.
I’m back in freezing and rainy Cape Town and after reading through a ton of feeds this one caught my eye: The Gospel Coalition has a new site with resources and on-line Themelios articles – check it out.
Hot on the heels of ‘The Reason for God,’ Tim Keller’s new book, ‘The Prodigal God: Christianity Redefined Through the Parable of the Prodigal Sons‘ is available for pre-order on Amazon.
Some people have their head in the clouds when it comes to the worldwide evangelical/theologically conservative Christian movement, be it Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist, Charismatic, Independent, the Young Reformed, the old Reformed, the Reformissionals, etc. etc. Take for example Father Jake’s comment that the rhetoric of GAFCON is “so obviously the last gasp of a dying world view.” – Not that obvious to me buddy. If anything it seems to me that there are numerous indications that in 20 years time the evangelicals (sure they’ll probably look different) will still have a substantial voice – maybe not so much on their traditional turf but perhaps more globally.
Is this a good thing? Well I think with wise heads like Peter Jensen’s close to the front it will ensure that the primacy of the historic orthodox gospel is on the agenda for some time to come.