Yesterday I wrote that “planting a church without planting a church” would require a “missionary band” of ordinary people living ordinary life with gospel intentionality. I also said that may or may not look like something we would commonly call church today. So what could that look like?
1. Gathered Around the Word: God rules his people through his Word. It is in his word that we hear, are challenged and encouraged by the gospel. We must be a people of the Word if we are to be God’s new community in the world. Without the Word we will lose our gospel intentionality. And without a gospel intentionality we simply become ordinary people living ordinary lives… and everybody does that.
Most of the talk that goes around being a Bible-centred church normally means being a pulpit-centred church. Now, once again I have nothing against pulpits (except perhaps those hideous glass ones!) or preaching but to equate this with being Bible-centred is too narrow an understanding. Deuteronomy 6:7-9, which comes right after the Shema, (6:4-5) a text central to the Hebrew self-understanding, instructs Israel that “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”
This is the language of all of life, the Word of God is to be something that “dwells among us richly” (Colossians 3:16) not simply when we gather on Sundays or for Bible study on Wednesday. But when we walk the dog, do the shopping, watch the rugby, eat dinner, play football… We are to speak the gospel Word to each other daily in the ordinary events of ordinary life. We are to do that when we gather as Christians and when unbelievers are among us too. Of course we do this in a manner that is gentle and respectful (1 Peter 3:15). If we are theologically convinced that the Bible is a Word that speaks to all of life then we must bring it out of the special and into the ordinary, everyday, on the road life of the people of God.
It would be naive though to simply expect this to happen in some spontaneous, natural, organic movement. It would also betray an inadequate doctrine of man and sin. We are sinners, easily swayed from “what we know we ought to do”, easily distracted from the mission of the gospel, easily consumed with chasing careers, relationships, comfort or family as our satisfaction. We are easily seduced by the lure of comfort, entertainment and pleasure to serve our “needs” rather than giving ourselves away in service to others.
It is therefore crucial that we gather regularly, at least weekly, to eat together, share stories, study the Word, pray and share life. This is not church, it is a gathering of the church. This meeting must always be seen as both an outflow of our identity as God’s people and in the context of our wider life together as God’s people. Our regular, structured meeting together must never replace the Word dwelling among us in our day-to-day life together as God’s people. The meeting must lead to the Word dwelling among us in all of life more richly, deeply and consistently. Our life together on mission, must compel the need to meet together, pray together and be together to encourage and challenge one another in the gospel. Gathering leads to scattering as scattering leads to gathering.
Seem like the blog post took on a life of its own. I will continue this post with a few more thoughts tomorrow.