Tag Archives: community

The Johannine Prologue

Jey Kanagaraj says this about the Johannine prologue and how the gospel is encapsulated within it:

The whole Gospel according to the prologue evolves around one theme: the revelation of the one God in his glory and his encounter with all human beings in the life and mission of Jesus, the pre-existent God-become-flesh, to found and nurture a witnessing new covenant community.

John: New Covenant Commentary (9)

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A Fellowship of Differents (A Primer on the Christian Life in Community)

This is the most important book you may ever read outside of the Bible…

At least that’s what Derwin Gray says about A Fellowship of Differents, Scot McKnight’s new books. Now I really respect Derwin Gray and I definitely try to snatch up any new book that Scot McKnight writes – but really? The most important book you will ever read? That’s a pretty bold claim – and a really hard description to live by.

Gray has gone too far. However I will certainly agree that it is a good an important book for any believer, especially those in ministry to read. Basically McKnight helps us answer the question –

What Would Paul say to the church today?

McKnight takes the teachings of Paul, specifically his major emphases like Grace, Love, Unity, Holiness, and Flourishing and applies those themes to church life today. McKnight takes his deep understanding of the New Testament and his love for the church and gives insight into what a church that actually lives by God’s word might look like today.

Yes the book contains many criticisms of the state of the church in the West, but its all written out of a love for the church in the West. Sometimes you need someone to call out your failings so that you may grow from them.

Favorite Quotes:

  • If we want our church to become holy, we need to learn to spend time in God’s presence, basking in the light of his holiness. (119)
  • To love a person means that together in our mutual indwelling we strive unto kingdom realities, or Christlikeness, or holiness, or love, or full maturity in Christ. (61)
  • If some said, you must be kosher to eat with us, Jesus said, eat with me and I will make you kosher. (135)
  • The ideal Christian life is not a life of “rules and regulations,” but rather a life of irresistible, Spirit-Shaped, new creation freedom to do all God calls us to be. (149)
  • Faithfulness is not our own strength muscled up by determination and discipline and grit; nor is it our strength combined with God’s strength. Faithfulness happens when God’s strength is unleashed in us as we look to, lean on, and love God. (161)

So if you are looking for a primer on how to walk the Christian life in the context of community then this book is for you.

Book Review – Slow Church by Christopher Smith and John Pattison

Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus explores what it would look like for the church to embrace the “slow” way of life. The authors explore the possibility of doing slow church by focusing on three areas – ethics, ecology, and economy. By “ethics” they are referring to what it means to be the embodiment of Christ in a particular location. By “ecology” they are referring to their place within God’s mission of reconciliation. By “economy” they are referring to God’s provision to carry out his reconciling work. As the authors tackle each section they give us a sampling of what it looks like to live as a “slow church.” They do not provide “steps” or “instructions” or “how-to-lists” – because that would be characteristic of a “fast” way of doing church, rather they paint pictures with words, give plenty of examples of churches who practice “slow church,” and open up the reader’s imagination as to what God might want to do in each local church community.

Review

Efficiency, predictability, calculability, and control – are four words that nail down the essence of MacDonaldization. These are the same four words that nail down the essence of (many) Mega Churches. Working in a Mega Church I know that many see these four words as “good words” but Smith and Pattison see them as “bad words.” They aren’t qualities that we as a church should strive to achieve. Nevertheless I have seen ministries built around these four concepts. As I see churches strive to achieve these things I can’t help but think to myself – Is this the way that Jesus would have done things? Is this the way that Jesus built his “little flock?” Is a MacDonald-ized (Supersized) church the church that Jesus envisioned? I don’t know. Either way, I know that this is the Church that Jesus loved and died for. Whether it’s a “fast church” or a “slow church” Jesus loves his church. However because Jesus loves his church he desires to see his church flourish. I honestly (along with Smith and Pattison) think that the “fast church” isn’t flourishing. Humans can’t thrive and flourish on a fast food diet – neither can the church thrive and flourish with a “fast church” mentality. Change is needed – the church needs to slough off its industrialized and Macdonald-ized approach to church. It needs to embrace a holistic, interconnected, organic, and local way of life grounded in a grand gospel. Slow Church helps us imagine what it would look like if the church were to do that.

A Personal Note

I believe that I have embraced (or at least have tried to embrace) a holistic, interconnected, organic, and local way of living out the gospel. Of course, being a fallen human being, I am tempted to Macdonaldize my ministry. I am tempted to value efficiency, predictability, calculability, and control over and above relationship and God’s sovereignty. However Jesus helps me to recognize my sin and repent of such things. One area in which the Lord has been helping me to do that has been in the area of discipleship. I want people to grow in Christ, I desperately want that. I want the college students I work with to grow into a Christ-centered community of missional disciples. But my temptation has been to try to systematize that growth. However as I read this book I came to realize that much like a political revolutionary I wanted, no I demanded, instant change. However (as the authors say) “unlike human revolutionaries, who demand instant change, God is not impatient.” I am impatient – I want growth to happen now – on my time and my conditions. As this book has forced me to rethink how people grow I have come to realize that God’s primary means of growing people is through the slow process of intentional one on one and small group relationships. Spiritual Growth takes time and effort, it’s a slow process, it’s a messy process, its a relational process, and I am certainly not in control of it. Spiritual Growth cannot be “Macdonaldized” – it’s a slow and organic process.

(Note: I received this book courtesy of IVP in exchange for an impartial review.)

The Church and Its Missionary Calling

What is the purpose of the church? What is its calling? Why does it exist? These are all questions that the Armenian Catholicos of Cilicia, Aram K’eshishea answers when he wrote about the nature of the church as a missional community…

The church is a community of faith. Under no circumstances should we lose this very concept of the church. Being a community of faith, the church is also a common mission. Our Lord Jesus Christ did not establish an institution that come to be called “church.” He gave a particular mission to his disciples: Go forth  into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 10:15). In fact the raison d’etre of our church, its true riches and real value is neither in its structure nor its hierarchy, neither in its theology nor is spirituality. Its true riches lies in its missionary engagement, evangelistic witness, and diakonal action.

We should remind ourselves that mission does not come from the from the church; the church acquires its real nature, unique identity and true vocation from mission. Hence a church becomes a church when it fulfills its missionary calling.

-Aram K’eshishean (HT: Scott Sunquist)

 

Book Review – Uncovered by Rod Tucker

Let’s be honest for a minute – on a scale of 1 to 10 – how honest and open do you think you are? How honest are you with yourself? Your own sins, your own baggage, your own issues, etc. How honest are you with others? Do you feel like you can share your mistakes, your shortcomings, and your junk with people at church? How does our lack of being honest with ourselves and our fear of being honest with other people hurt our relationships? These are all the sorts of the questions Rod Tucker addresses in Uncovered.

The Positive

Let me be honest with you – I loved this book. I loved Rod Tucker’s desire to see the church become more honest. I loved his desire to see the church become a haven of grace. I loved the fact that he points out that the gospel frees us up to be open. I love the fact that he challenges us to be more honest with ourselves and with our Uncoveredchurch community. I especially loved how he tied honesty in with maintaining our image and focusing on the American dream; it’s a lack of authenticity and honesty that leads us to consumerism in order to cover up our shortcomings.

There are some great chapters in this book, let me just highlight a few of those for you:
➢ Chapter 2: Self Protection – Rod shares about how we use dishonesty to protect our self-image.
➢ Chapter 3: Sewing, Hiding, Blaming – We resort to these three tactics (just like Adam and Eve) to cover up the things we are ashamed of.
➢ Chapter 15: Being a Safe Place – “We need to treat people exactly how God, because of Jesus, treats us.” The keyword is grace!
➢ Chapter 16: Why Honesty Matters – We can use excess and stuff as a way of hiding. This hinders our relationships.
➢ Chapter 18: Mirrors – A brilliant short story about a girl who all of a sudden discovers her reflection.
➢ Chapter 20: Reconciliation – God is in the business of bringing people back to himself. If we want to be a part of that, we need to be honest with ourselves and admit that we were once in a position of need, just like all the lost people out there.

I could see myself using this book as fodder for sermons but I could really see myself handing this book over to some church small group leaders, telling them to open it up and read certain chapters as a form of training. In other words this is a much needed resource for the church. We need to listen to a lot of what Rod Tucker is saying in this book.

The Negative

Again I will be honest with you – I loved this book – but there were some parts I didn’t like or agree with. 1)The chapter on homosexuality – while there was nothing in this chapter that I necessarily disagree with or reject, it seems as disjointed from the rest of the book. The chapter doesn’t really “fit,” so I am not sure why he included it. More importantly though… 2)His idea that “honesty is the point.” He says “honesty is not something to move past.” He argues against people who want to move past “simply being honest and figure out how to quit sinning” (56). Although I would agree with him, that “quitting sinning” is not the goal of our faith, simply being honest isn’t the goal either. Our goal is to be Christ-like, yes that includes honesty but when it comes to spiritual growth, honesty is a major tool for bringing the sin to the light and allowing Christ to transform us. What is a bit disappointing about this book is that he builds it off the premise that “honesty is the point.” It almost seems that for Rod Tucker, honesty is the silver bullet that will solve most if not all of the Church’s current problems. However honesty in and of itself certainly will not solve any of our problems, only Jesus can do that, thankfully Jesus has given us the grace to be honest, and that will definitely help the church grow into becoming Christlike.

Overall
This book was a short read. It was both provocative and challenging. As I read I felt the desire to grow in honesty with people in my life around me. Rod’s goal was to show us how to cultivate honesty within the church, having finished the book I can say that this book will certainly help in doing that.

As a bonus to you, the reader, I want to give you a free copy of this book. So Today only (April 7th) you can download the book on Amazon by clicking the link below. After that it will be on sale through amazon for only $2.99.

Uncovered-BloggerAd-450x150

(Note: I received this book from Kregel in exchange for an impartial review.)

Free EBook – Uncovered by Rod Tucker

Let’s be honest for a minute – on a scale of 1 to 10 – how honest and open do you think you are? How honest are you with yourself? Your own sins, your own baggage, your own issues, etc. How honest are you with other? Do you feel like you can share your mistakes, your shortcomings, and your junk with people at church? How does our lack of being honest with ourselves and our fear of being honest with other people hurt our relationships? These are all the sorts of the questions Rod Tucker addresses in Uncovered.

I will be writing a full review of Rod Tucker’s book uncovered. As a bonus for you the reader I bestowing you some awesome things!

April 7th – Get a Free Download of “Uncovered: The Truth about Honesty and Community” by Rod Tucker

April 8th-13th – Get “Uncovered: The Truth about Honesty and Community” by Rod Tucker for only $2.99

You are going to click on a banner like the one below – so get ready to jump on this deal on April 7th!

Uncovered-BloggerAd-450x150

(P.S. This might be an awesome book for your Life Group to study together!)

Book Review – Flesh by Hugh Halter

Open up any systematic theology and you will find a chapter on the incarnation. This chapter will usually revolve around metaphysical issues including anthropology, the Trinity, and discussion over the contradiction between categories of humanity and divinity. What you probably won’t find in that chapter is discussion about how incarnation informs our mission. Hugh Halter addresses that problem in Flesh: Bringing the Incarnation Down to Earth.

Hugh Halter is probably best known for his book The Tangible Kingdom, a primer for living in missional kingdom oriented communities; in this book he puts a bit more flesh to that concept.

Summary

FleshThis book is broken up into six sections. The first section, “Incarnation,” explores what we mean when we talk about Christ’s incarnation and what it means for us to be incarnational as a faith community. The second section, “Reputation,” is probably the most helpful section of the book. Here Halter explores the ins and outs of how one goes about being incarnational. A major part of being incarnational is earning a reputation in a community that gives you authority to speak into the deeper issues of people’s lives. You do this by avoiding shallow religiosity, planting yourself down in a community long term, working well, and practicing hospitality. Doing these things goes a very long way and actually set us up for having the type of conversations he describes in the third section, “Conversation.” As we incarnate God’s presence in the world our conversations must be filled with truth, but they must also be filled with grace. We must also learn not to point people to our church or to our religion. We must learn to point people to Jesus first. This means that the name of King Jesus must constantly been on our lips, and we must ooze out the gospel in our conversations. Eventually these conversations lead to a confrontation; the next section is aptly name “Confrontation.” It only consists of one chapter, but it’s a very important one. It’s the chapter that most people are probably waiting for (“when are we going to talk about evangelism!”). Halter makes the important point that this final step – evangelism – is supposed to be a spirit led and inspired moment. He concludes this book with a section titled, “Transformation,” where he addresses the issue of conversion without discipleship.

Pros

  1. The book is filled with great stories that help put “flesh” to the ideas he is writing about.
  2. He clearly communicates the notion that incarnational ministry is not easy and that it takes a lot of time and work.
  3. He does not “church bash” – at times these sorts of books tend towards a “the church has it all wrong” attitude; that attitude is absent in this book.

Cons

  1. Halter briefly addresses this, but many have written about how “incarnational ministry” is actually a category mistake. They argue that “incarnation” is unique to Christ’s role, thus we cannot be “incarnational.” This might not be the book to address those types of issues, but I think Halter could have spoken a bit more to it.
  2. The chapter on confrontation tends to overlook some important parts of scripture – Halter says that “Jesus never tried to confront someone. They always tended to confront themselves.” Halter holds this up as a model for Christians when they interact with friends and family who are making poor choices. I am pretty sure that Jesus did confront people, however he knew how to confront them well. We cannot simply let people “confront themselves” because there are certainly times, especially within the church, that we need to confront one another.

Wrapping Up

Hugh Halter has written an excellent book describing what it looks like to live incarnationally. There is much wisdom here, especially for those who want to jump quickly into “sealing the deal.” We need to learn to slow down, do life with people, and earn a position to speak the gospel into people’s lives. That slowing down and doing life is the “incarnational part.” I think Hugh is right, we need to learn to be more like Jesus who spent 30 years “moving into the neighborhood” before he began preaching about the Kingdom.

May we learn to “move into the neighborhood,” learn the community’s rhythms, learn what is “good news” for our friends and neighbors, before we begin preaching a gospel that makes no sense to them…

(Note: I received a advanced copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley and David C. Cook in exchange for an impartial review)