Timmy Brister says a grace saturated community will ...
* have a warm disposition to the very worst of sinners (while moral community often be cold and careful to avoid people with big “messes”)
* show no pressure to perform or pretend; you are set free from lying about yourself (while moral community often centers on religious performance and convincing one another we are better than we really are)
* be comprised of needy people equipped to meet needy people by both word and deed, sharing the gospel as personal witness and showing the implications of the gospel in compassionate service (while moral community seldom acknowledges needs and is uncomfortable with talking publicly about areas of brokenness, failure, struggle, or loss)
* never be intimidated or turned off by the messiness of sinners, neither discouraged or deterred from meaningful engagement in the lives of people not like us (while moral community often consists of people like us, or people who present themselves in moral refinement and religious accomplishment)
* center the conversations Christ and making much of His life, death, and resurrection and how our identity is firmly and fully secured in Him (while moral community will make conversations much about oneself and how their identity is wrapped up in what they do, who they are not, and why others ought to esteem them)
* demonstrate selfless love toward others, not because they are lovely but rather because we cannot get over the fact that we have been loved by God (while moral community loves others by what they can offer us and whether they qualify as recipients or objects of our love based on our standards)
* seek the welfare and interests of others as more important than own, because Jesus taught us it is better to give than to receive (while moral community gives for recognition and receives for recompense, turning the interests of others, whether in giving or receiving, as means of self-promotion)
* carry a disposition of being sober in our judgment regarding ourselves and generous in our mercy toward others (while moral community is generous in judgment of others and undiscerning in mercy towards oneself)
* anticipate opportunities to sincerely express acceptance and forgiveness for times when they will be wronged by others (while moral communities fail to adequately address the issues for fear of conflict and what others might think of them)
* create a culture where repentance is celebrated and faith is nurtured in everyday conversations (while moral community will nurture faith in one’s good works and celebrate self-help as moral accomplishment)
One of my greatest passions is to see the church become a place of gospel-centered grace where we can be honest with each other and point each other to the Savior. A couple years ago I came across a book called TrueFaced by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and John Lynch. It's a helpful book on living by grace and trusting God and others with who you really are. This summer I picked up a novel written by the same authors entitled, Bo's Cafe. I confess. I don't read very much fiction, but I couldn't put this book down. The story of Bo's Cafe invites us to a safe place filled with people who know the worst about us and yet love us and give us room to honestly explore the deep sin issues we try to cover up through performance and self-protection. It's a story that helps us to lay our defenses down and take off our masks to embrace the grace of God as real people in real community. The only disclaimer is that the gospel is not as explicit as it could be. Nevertheless, I think you'll be encouraged by this novel as you see yourself in the story and pursue the freedom God offers you in Christ.
Tony Kummer, from ministry-to-children.com, recently asked me to respond to the problem of over-churched kids. By over-churched kids, he means kids with too much religion and not enough actual interaction with Jesus. This is a relevant issue for pastors' kids. My short answer is that we must model the gospel to our kids and get them on mission early as a church family.
Michael Wallenmeyer challenges us to ask these questions as we seek to engage our neighborhoods:
- Without asking someone else, can I provide the first and last names of the people who live beside (or above and below) me?
- What can I describe about their lives that can be known only by someone who has been inside their home?
- What are some of the God-shaped longings and/or questions that currently shape their lives?
And I'm especially challenged by this last question:
How cool would it be if when people asked us what God was up to in our church, instead of heading to our buildings, we took them for a extended tour through our neighborhood to show them?
Here's an old video from a couple years ago! The challenge is still relevant so I'm reposting it. Let's get off the couch and get into the lives of others this summer! You can also check out my post on Gospel-Driven Garage Sale.
As people enter our doors this Easter Sunday, will they see us as real people worshiping a real Savior? Will they enter a community of grace? Tim Chester, in his excellent book, You Can Change, lists some great questions to discern if your church is a community of grace, and thus attractive to broken, needy sinners.
- Are people open about their sin or is there a culture of pretending?
- Is community life messy or sanitized?
- Are broken people attracted to your community?
- Is conflict out in the open or is it suppressed?
- Are forgiveness and reconciliation actively pursued?
- Do you constantly return to the cross in your conversation, prayers and praise?
This video is at once weird and beautiful at the same time. No doubt the music pulls you in emotionally, but there's something deeper going on here. Could it be that we're made for human companionship and this kind of unabashed joyful community is what we all long for?
(HT: Randy Alcorn)
- Make your accountability partner drop ten bucks in the jar for that grievous sin.
- Make your accountability a circle of cheap confession by which you obtain cheap peace for your troubled conscience.
- Ask one another moralistic questions that reinforce moral performance.
- Pilfer through God’s Word for an experiential buzz or life connection.
- Go public with your respectable sins while cherishing your secret sins.
- Know your partner’s sin better than you know your own.
- Passively stand by as your sin slowly puts you to death.
- Make accountability, not Jesus, central to your group.
When we picture community in the church we usually think about sitting in a safe, comfortable home with our small group laughing and hanging out together. And that's a good thing. We need that! But I often wonder if real community can only happen when we get off the couch and get into the lives of people and risk something for the gospel. Alan Hirsch calls this communitas--the next level of community where individuals come together in a common mission that may include suffering and opposition. His thoughts are compelling:
What do you think? Do you agree with Hirsch? Can real community (communitas) happen without moving into the lives of people outside the church?
Dr. Mike Emlet explains how Christian accountability is more than just helping each other refrain from sin, but in a much broader, and more biblical sense, living the one-another's of Scripture together and thereby pointing one another to Jesus.
James K.A. Smith:
...in the past couple years I’ve become convinced that perhaps nothing is so important for your walk with the Lord as good friends. I think God gives us good friends as sacraments—means of grace given to us as indices of God’s presence and conduits for our sanctification. While “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24), that same Friend send us friends to help make his presence tangible and concrete. Nothing continues the incarnation like Christian friendship.
Tim Chester, from his excellent book, You Can Change:
Every Sunday in our church we give people the opportunity to talk about what God has been doing in their lives during the past week: answers to prayer, comfort from God's Word, opportunities for evangelism, help in temptation. In so doing, we reinforce our belief in a God who is alive and active among us.
I think Chester has hit on something huge here. We need to take time to hear each others' stories so we can grow in grace together. As Scripture says, we grasp the love of Christ "together with all the saints" (Eph. 3:18).
In his third post, David highlights the fact that "Singing is a COMMUNITY Activity." He writes:
As we sing to one another, encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ with the precious truths of God’s works and ways, we bring glory to God. He has designed singing as a wonderful way for those who are strong in the gospel to encourage those who are weak as they give witness with their lips and body to the reality and power of what they are singing about. Even as a song leader, I have had many mornings where I was inwardly struggling to believe and appropriate the gospel. God often uses the sound and the posture of the congregation to help get my attention off of myself and my individual spiritual walk and be encouraged at His work amongst our entire congregation.
Read the rest here.