Continuing discussion of Chester and Timmis Total Church: a radical reshaping around gospel and community
Chapter 3 is on Evangelism
The authors describe how, while Christians ‘want to want’ to share the good news of Jesus wth others, but all too often enthusiasm evaporates like mist in the morning sun.
Building on the dual framework laid out in chapters 1-2, evangelism must, they contend, revolve around ‘gospel word’ and ‘gospel community’.
In the ‘gospel word‘ there is content to be explained, taught and proclaimed; a story to be told.There can be no evangelism without proclamation.
But evangelism is intimately connected to the ‘gospel community‘. A nice phrase:
The word creates and nourishes the community, the community proclaims and embodies the word.
The community authenticates the gospel. How? By love. Nothing is more powerful than a community loving as Jesus loved: not doctrinal orthodoxy, not preaching, not strategizing, not church planting. Such ‘cross-love’ is evangelistic. It goes far beyond putting evangelism neatly in a slot in the diary. It involves sharing the word and sharing life.
Such a community can’t be faked – it attractive and a visible mark of the Spirit. I belong to such a community and it is a joy. It is also evangelistic in that as people get a taste of the presence of the Spirit, they are drawn to the message of the gospel. But community on its own is not enough.
Thus, Chester & Timmis propose a threefold strategy of evangelism – like three cords of a rope:
– Building relationships:- making friends, sharing life.
– sharing the gospel:- speaking and discussing
– introducing people to community:- connecting friends with others
In this model, evangelism is team work and involves the whole community. The way this works out in The Crowded House is that there are ‘no projects, no programmes, no ‘ministries”. Just people living out lives with gospel intentionality.
For this to work means that the whole community is committed to evangelism through everyday life. It means developing a sense of being a community of missionaries, praying for and ‘commissioning’ ‘ordinary’ people in ‘ordinary jobs’ for mission.
My comments? It’s true that in today’s Ireland there is a massive credibility gap facing churches. A highly sceptical culture will (rightly) judge churches on their credibility – whether lives match words.
And I like the ‘community of missionaries’ idea – a huge contrast and radical shift in thinking from ‘Christendom church’ where the paid professional does all that stuff and the rest come to church on Sunday to watch. I caricature – but only a bit. That still describes all too much church life in Ireland today.
What are your thoughts on this?