Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Community: The Missing Link in Evangelism



In Total Church, Timmis and Chester conceive of evangelism as a rope with three strands; building relationships, sharing the gospel, and introducing people to the community of believers (p. 61). Prima facie this doesn't sound all that profound, yet I'm amazed how often I neglect the third strand. I try to build relationships, I share the story of Christ, but then I assume that non-Christians don't need to be exposed to the community of Christ. The problems with this view are legion. For instance...

1. It doesn't take Jesus' words to the disciples seriously (Jn 13:34-35; 17:20-23).
2. It assumes that the gospel can be separated from the community it creates. However, if - in the words of Newbigin - the local congregation is the hermeneutic of the gospel, this is a grievous mistake (see The Gospel in a Pluralist Society [London: SPCK, 198]; 222-223).
3. It creates unnecessary hindrances to new believers becoming involved in the community.
4. And there are plenty more...

It's exciting to think of evangelism as the task of the whole community. As we live together on mission, people experience the church not simply as a meeting or a program, but as a network of relationships (p. 59). This, in turn, creates a context in which gospel words will be heard.

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