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LEAD 09 with Tim Chester and me went really well. Two days of stimulating talks, practical breakouts, and great conversations. Some of the audio is out with video to come. I thought the following audio that is currently available was
If you haven’t read Total Church, buy it today. If you’d like some more resources on Total Church, check out the following:
Total Church study guide. – This is a good tool to use when Building Missional Core Teams for church planting, and for helping re-orient existing churches around the gospel, community, and mission.
Resurgence Resources – includes helpful teaching videos by Steve Timmis and other blog posts.
Steve Timmis is an innovative leader in The Crowded House and Porterbrook Traning Centre and now European Director for Acts 29 in the UK. I’ve had the joy of working with Steve on a few things and my respect for him grows each time. Here are some outstanding resources on cultivating gospel-centered missional communities.
- Session 1: Gospel-centered Principles – an outstanding explanation of the Gospel summarized as: “Jesus, God’s promised Rescuer and Ruler, lived our life, died our death and rose again in triumphant vindication as the first fruits of the new creation to bring forgiven sinners together under his gracious reign”.
- Session 2: Gospel-centered Practices – focuses on the “how tos” of GCs, addressing language, structure, mission.
- Session 3: Gospel-centered Practices – focuses on more best practices on leader development, etc.
Last night Steve Timmis taught on Gospel Communities at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. After establishing a solid biblical theology of the centrality of Jesus for missional communities, Steve shared some key training points for MCs. Below are my summaries of his teaching. I have placed Steve’s direct words in quotes.
- Community is not for girls. Don’t here what Steve is not saying. Very often community is percieved as a feminine practice. Its where you get in touch with your emotions, where you go around affirming one another, touchy-feely. But this is not biblical community. True community is a response to the Jesus who is Lord. The true Jesus is neither anemic nor hypermasculine, atrophying in weakness or bulging in strength. He is the Lord who “lived our life, died our death and rose as the first fruits of the new creation” and is gathering a community of grace that is to be a foretaste of eternity. As that community of grace, we need to look to Jesus as the center of community, who lives in us and reigns over us, compelling us to be a community that speaks the truth in love, not merely swaps emotions or confessions. Community is for Jesus.
- Just because we have communities that are honest and open about their sin doesnt mean we have gospel-centered communities. We may very well have communities that mistake confessing sin for living in the gospel. Confessing our sin in community is only part of the task of living in the gospel together. We mustnt linger there but complete the process through repentance and faith in Jesus. Confession must lead to repentance and faith, not under the weight of legalistic demands but as a response to how ravishing Jesus us. We need to lead our communities into seeing the beauty and glory of Jesus and allowing that to motivate true change, true repentance, such that we say: “Oh, brothers and sisters I see how sweet and ravishing Jesus is and I want you to pray for me in ______, hold me accountable and prod me to live in the gospel not in _____.
Look for the forthcoming video and audio on this Total Church Community Training on Resurgence and Acts 29 blog.
During the Total Church Conference, Steve Timmis shared that The Crowded House does church discipline without church membership. They advocate a culture of “gospeling” that promotes Jesus-centered discipline in little ways throughout the week. Apparently, this happens in their house church communities quite often.
He shared a story of a young woman who called him on the carpet for being impatient and touchy with someone on the telephone. He suggested that, done respectfully, this kind of “church discipline” should be normative in churches. Moreover, he argued that, if this church discipline method was normative, bigger church discipline issues could more easily be avoided. Provided that this is a gospel-centered phenomenon, I see some merit in it; however, I’m not quite ready to jettison church membership. Are you? Why or why not?
For more see the recent 9 Marks interview with Steve.
The Q&A below is intended to provide some answers and stir up more insight regarding some burning questions in the current debates on Sunday gatherings, missional communities, and diaological preaching. This Q&A is adapted from an email exchange I had with Mike Edwards, who kindly lent me his permission to do so.
Dialogical vs. Monological Preaching
Mike: Where are the theological/biblical roots for monological preaching?
Jonathan: The Bible does not sanction one method of delivering God’s word over others. In fact, it advocates a variety of ways, monologue being just one of them. See the monological examples of Peter and Paul in Acts 2, 4, 17, and so on. Paul’s letters, which were read aloud were monologues, homiletical deliveries. Throughout the epistles we are told to preach, teach, correct, rebuke which strongly connote a direct address, not so much a conversation. However, I am open to and use dialogical approaches in different settings. Paul used dialogue in the synagogues, with individuals (Lydia), and even on Mars Hill.
The key here, I think, is to minister the Word diversely in ways appropriate to context and audience. Monologue has served the Western church well for some time in a post-Enlightenment, post-Gutenberg age. Yet, with the shift of the center of Globally Xty away from the West to the South and the East, and increase in postmodern values of conversation, changes in technology to visual, aural, and vibration experiences, dialogical increasingly makes cultural sense.
Missional Communities vs. Sunday Gatherings
Mike: If you start your church on missional communities, why have a larger gathering? What does that look like for your church?
Jonathan: Similar to my statement above, the Bible doesn’t sanction any one way. We need to have a dynamic ecclesiology that allows for contextualization; there are many biblically faithful ecclesiologies. That is the brilliance of the gospel and the incarnation; its translatability into community and culture. We started City Groups (Missional communities) before we started the weekend gathering/service. That was good for our context and good for our ecclesiology, gospel-centered, community-focused, and missional.
I think a launch/service model can cultivate good community and mission, but is often more difficult to do so. In suburbs it is difficult to even get a gathering to shepherd into CGs/MCs, so the launch model offers a gathering point. Pentecost was a dramatic launch model that spun out house churches. I am glad we did CGs first and service second. It has made a HUGE difference. Gathering doesn’t need to be weekly, but it should happen regularly to maintain the marks of the church and instructions in Heb 3 & 10 of not forsaking the assembling together. Also, somehow these groups would need elder oversight and auhoritative teadching and leadership for church discipline.
Drew Goodmanson has posted the audio files from all of the plenary and breakout sessions from the Total Church Conference. This was a very good conference. Of all the sessions I attended, these talks stood out the most:
Tim Chester recently used a phrase that is becoming commonplace among our leaders to describe what we are trying to cultivate—steady state community. We are trying to cultivate communities that share life and truth throughout the week, not just on Sundays and City Group days. We are kidding ourselves if we really think that showing up to two meetings a week and engaging in a missional partnership once a month is really living in Christian community. So, we are trying to cultivate steady state community, which requires much more than preaching on it. We envision shared meals, leisure, mission throughout the week. How?
In order to cultivate steady-state, gospel-centered missional community, just about everything in a church has to be reconfigured. Traditional paradigms and practices wont work; they are bent around a different ecclesiology. So, in order to think things through, I recently sat down with my friend Mark Moore at Total Church conference in San Diego and fired away with a list of questions. Here are a few of the insights (framed by the Q&A, not verbatim):
The Crowded House advocates a non-membership, community-centered, consensus decision making governance. You still have membership. Why and how do you develop members?
Man, we’ve got to take what Crowded House (CH) is doing and contextualize it. In America, well at least down South, especially in the Bible-belt, there is still a paradigm for church membership. It’s jacked up and needs to be tweaked, but people still come to church expecting some kind of membership, no matter how bad it is. So, we can work with that. What we (Providence Community) do is hold a six week class that goes through Gospel, Community, and end with a session on Church Planting. Then, what we tell them at the end of the class that your participation in this class doesn’t make you a member. What makes you a member is being in a missional communty.
How do you reinforce that the church is not a Sunday morning service?
One of the things we do is spotlight a missional community every week. For about five minutes someone comes up and shares something, typically about mission, from their missional community. That way, everyone coming to the service gets to hear what they are missing, to hear from the church about the church. [I asked, "Do you script this or go over it with them beforehand?"] No, and, man, sometimes people say something that doesn’t really make sense, but that is just an opportunity for us to be a real community, and if it’s really bad I can transition making some editorial comments.
How do you view yourself, as a pastor/elder, in steady state community?
My role is a shepherd, my identity is a sheep. So I try to relate to them as a fellow sheep not just as some inaccessible professional pastor. I also make sure that when I meet a dude or someone on Sunday morning that I get them connected to their missional community leader that morning, if possible. They need to know that the pastor of their missional community is the best person for them to relate to.
Austin City Life has incorporated all of this at various levels of participation and church life. Mark’s comments spurred me to spotlight our City Groups every week and not just on occassion. Our leadership has soaked up the steady state community idea, and we are working on implementing it. What a privilege!