Archive for the ‘Community’ category

Life in Gospel Communities

May 22, 2012

Fromt the Crowded House Network (Steve Timmis/Tim Chester), here is a great video of what life looks like in a gospel community.

HT: Z

Spiritual Gifts Inform Us of Our Neediness

February 28, 2012

We do not have an exhaustive list of gifts of the the Spirit in the Bible, but we do have a lot of them.  These gifts are sovereignly distributed by the Spirit for the common good and edification of the church.  When each member is working properly, the body grows and is built up in love.

In the wisdom of God, He has designed that we are all ministers to one another in various ways through a variety of gifts.  Have you considered what God is saying about us with the equipment of so many gifts?  We are a needy people! You are a needy person. We do not realize how profound our spiritual needs are, but God does, and He has made provision for our needs through the gifts of His Spirit exercised through the lives of His people. For example:

When the Holy Spirit intends a person with the gift of giving to be useful in the church, what does it say about us? We are in deep need of the generous benevolence of others, and God is intentional about providing that financial or practical through others.

When the Holy Spirit intends a person with the gift of exhortation to be useful in the church, what does it say about us? We are in deep need of encouragement and proper motivation, and God is intentional about providing people in our lives to stir our hearts and direct our steps in paths that honor God.

We could extend this exercise through the various lists of spiritual gifts, the point God is making to us is this:

1.  We have profound needs in multiple areas of our lives
2.  God has made provision for those needs to be met by the gifts of His Spirit
3.  Members of the body of Christ supply the needs to one another through exercising the Spirit’s gifts

This is another significant reason for being a covenant member of a local church and meaningful participant in gospel community.  As a needy person, you will feel tempted to address those needs through unspiritual means. But when you understand how God ordered the church, you know that God intends that each member would “have the same care for one another” (1 Cor. 12:25).

Lone-ranger Christians are at best disobedient and dysfunctional. They are disobedient because numerous commands of Scripture require us to be in regular contact with other believers (“one another” commands). They are dysfunctional because the needs they have are not being met by the God-ordained means of gifts of the Holy Spirit through each member of His body. Perhaps what exists behind of this is a denial of neediness–a determination of making it by self-determination and independence. Sadly, this state of existence is far too common in the church today.

God knows what we need before we ask Him. God has made provision through the distribution of the Spirit’s gifts through the work of ministry when each member is equipped and working properly. As we have our needs met through the ministry of others, we are also meeting the needs of others by the gifts given to us for their good.

Greear on a Gospel-Centered Church

January 30, 2012

I just finished J.D. Greear’s book Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary as part of the Roots Reading Initiative (with PLNTD).  His last chapter focuses on the marks of a gospel-centered church, and he provides three of them.  They are:

1.  In a gospel-centered church, preaching the message of the gospel is the priority.

Greear: “The gospel is an announcement that Jesus is Lord and that He has won the battle for your salvation. We are to respond in repentance and faith (Mark 1:15). The gospel is not good advice about how to live; it is good news about what God has done. Jesus told His disciples to be ‘His witnesses,’ which meant they were to tell everyone, faithfully, the story of what He had done for the world. Their lives would certainly demonstrate the changes His power brought in their lives, but they were to constantly point to what He had done that made those changes possible (222).

2.  In a gospel-centered church, the emphasis of the message is more on what Christ has done than what we are to do.

Greear: “… the only thing that brings true spiritual growth is abiding in–dwelling in, thinking about, standing in awe of–what Christ has done for us” (223).

3.  In a gospel-centered church, the members demonstrate the beauty of the gospel in community.

Greear: “… by doing what healthy local churches do (praying, sharing, constantly preaching the word, etc.), [the early church] were evangelizing the community. The presence of a healthy local church in a community is the greatest catalyst for the evangelization of that community. In a healthy church the local community should see the glory of God on display” (229).

Cultivating Gospel Communities | PLNTD Conference

January 16, 2012

Get all the info here.

Register this week for a special opening week rate of just $29.

We are only making this rate available to the first 100 who register. I would love for you to this training opportunity on how to cultivate gospel communities on mission from Steve Timmis and Jared Wilson, along with local practitioners. More to come . . .

Communities of Light, Part 2 (Practical Implications)

September 28, 2011

In yesterday’s post, I provided some biblical-theological reflection on the theme of “light” in Scripture.  These biblical truths and gospel realities are foundational to our identity as God’s people and instructional to our mission in the world.  In particular, I would like to argue that communities of light are (1) counter-cultural, (2) confessional, and (3) compassionate.

Counter-Cultural

The most obvious implication of being a light-embodying community is the qualitative distinctiveness we are called to bear in a world characterized by darkness. We a city on a hill that cannot be hidden (Matt. 5:14).  God delivered us out of the domain of darkness that we might put the character of God on display in a world that cannot bear to see the light.  As God’s representatives, we are commissioned to reflect God’s holiness and righteousness in a world characterized by ungodliness and unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18).  As God’s representatives, we are commissioned to hold fast the world of truth as lights in the midst of a “crooked and twisted generation” (Phil. 2:14-16).

As a counter-cultural community, followers of Jesus have a responsibility not only to avoid fellowship with darkness (2 Cor. 6:14), but they must expose their unfruitful works as well (Eph. 5:11).  The temptation with this responsibility is to excuse the unnecessary offensiveness of irresponsible and often times foolish behavior of immature Christians. The knee-jerk reaction to wrong-headed approaches to be a counter-cultural community of light tends to downplay the significance of being light.  This is rather unfortunate because the illustration of darkness and light could not be more stark in contrasting terms, and the responsibility of believers to be a distinct counter-cutural community more clear in its calling. Time and again, we are commanded to cast off the works of darkness and walk in the light (Luke 11:33-36; John 12:35-36; Rom. 13:12-14; 2 Cor. 6:14-18; Eph. 5:3-14; 1 Thess. 5:4-8; 1 John 1:5-7).  If we are going to be the people of God, we must faithfully live out our identity as children of light and fulfill our mission of declaring the excellencies of God who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9).

Before I go on to the next practical implication, we must be careful to avoid one major assumption.  The basis of us being counter-cultural is not being moral in our behavior or conservative in our values.  What makes us counter-cultural is Jesus.  He is the light of the world.  We have entered His kingdom and submitted to His reign and rule.  He is the one who has made a new humanity and sets the grounds on which we live, and move and have our being.  To the extent that we embrace the gospel and its implications in all of life and unreservedly submit to His rightful and universal claim as Lord is the degree to which we can legitimately consider ourselves a counter-cultural community of light.

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Communities of Light, Part 1 (Biblical Theology)

September 27, 2011

God is light.

I’m not sure we have probed into the depths of that profound reality. I’m not trying to sound abstract or philosophical. The Bible is clear to explain that God is light (1 John 1:5).  He dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim. 5:16) and is considered as “the Father of lights” (James 1:17).  All of this speaks of God’s character and domain of existence.  He is brilliant in all His holiness, perfect in all His righteousness, and absolute in all His attributes.  Darkness cannot exist in the presence of light, and in the same manner sin cannot stand in the presence of God.

In the beginning, God’s first work in creation was a reflection of His character.  God who is light made light out of darkness.  He took what was “without form and void” and stamped His nature upon it with four little words, “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:2-3).  Where there was chaos, there was clarity; where there was emptiness, there was the presence of His character.

God created Adam and Eve to walk in the light of His presence.  In the Garden, Adam and Eve were to bear God’s likeness, exercise dominion over all He created, and enjoy the presence of God in the protection and provision of His creating and sustaining Word.  But as you know, the serpent threw darkness upon the light of God’s Word, sowing doubt in the minds of Adam and Eve regarding God’s good purposes for them (“Did God really say . . .?”).  The darkness of doubt bore fruit in the sinful rebellion of Adam and Eve, and darkness moved from doubt to guilt and shame as they hid themselves from the presence of God (Gen. 3:8).  Since then, mankind is born in a state of sin and separation from God in what the Bible describes as the “domain of darkness.”

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2011 GCM Collective National Conference Audio

September 22, 2011


I’ve attended quite a few conferences the past ten years.  Some of them engender hype; others bring in large crowds due to the evangelical celebrity culture.  But then on a rare occasion, there will come a conference that surprises you in unexpecting ways.  It is not that I had low expectations but that the conference accomplished far more than what is typical for conference these days.

Last week, I attended the 2011 GCM Collective National Conference, and I came away with far more than inspirational thoughts or trendy methodology.  I walked away with a greater love for Jesus and His church.  Everything, I mean everything, was focused on the gospel.  I loved it.  I was convicted by it.  I was tremendously helped by it.  In fact, I can say with a certain level of clarity that there is few, if any, conferences that were as personally edifying and ministerially beneficial to me as this one.  Having said that, I encourage you to download the audio of the main sessions (the breakout sessions are currently being edited and will be available soon).

Thank you, GCM Collective, for a superb conference and a very affordable price.  I took home with me a mother load of gospel nourishment and application of what it means to be gospel communities on mission.

Main Session Audio

GCM Collective Vision
What Is the Gospel
:: Jeff Vanderstelt
Gospel-Centered Discipleship :: Jonathan Dodson
Generous Church :: Steve Timmis
Stealth Church :: Steve Timmis
A Movement of Multiplication :: Jeff Vanderstelt

Breakout Session Audio

/// Coming Soon ///

GCM National Conference

September 14, 2011

Today through Friday, I will be in Huntsville, AL for the GCM Collective National Conference.  If you are unfamiliar with the GCM Collective, I encourage you to check out their website and join their online community. Their vision is simple, and I love it:

A gospel community is a group of believers that lives out the mission of God together as family, in a specific area to a particular people group, by declaring and demonstrating the gospel in tangible forms. Regular people, living ordinary lives, with great gospel intentionality. The GCM Collective is a community that allows people to exchange ideas, resources and encouragement around topics that relate to creating gospel communities on mission.

The guys behind the GCM Collective (Steve Timmis, Tim Chester, Jeff Vanderstelt, Drew Goodmanson, Caesar Kalinowski, David Fairchild, and Jonathan Dodson) have all challenged and helped me in tremendous ways in recent years, probably more than any other group outside my fellow elders.  These brothers are gospel-driven practitioners who are leading churches to embrace a missional ecclesiology that is both healthy and fruitful.

If you would like to check out the conference schedule, click here.  If you are attending the conference, hit me up.  I’d love to connect.  I will also likely be posting updates via Twitter for those interested in following.

Reaching the Lives of Those Who Have Wasted It

July 1, 2011

Eleven years ago, John Piper boldly proclaimed these words:

I was a college student then, about to embark on my life as someone called to proclaim the gospel Jesus Christ. Never had I imagined then that I would be living in the communities comprised of tragedy after tragedy after tragedy.

I live and minister 15 minutes from the place John Piper speaks (Punta Gorda, FL).  I have never been in an area that is more challenging to advance the gospel.  In a city of 165,000 people, I am told that we have less than 6,000 people who attend church on any given Sunday, meaning that roughly 5% of our city consider themselves a part of any church.

A large percentage of our city is comprised of retired people who have moved down from New England or states like Michigan or Pennsylvania.  They also bring with them their New England religion, or lack thereof.  They are a people whose hearts have been hardened through the years, jaded and disillusioned by nominal Christianity, and fortify their tragic lifestyle with gates, fences, and security systems.  They have everything this life could offer them, as Piper explains, and they will soon stand before God for a life they have wasted.

It is tempting to believe there is no hope for such people.  After all, how many old people are converted to Christ?  If they are “happy” with all that life offers them, why would they need sea shells, boats, golf courses, AND Jesus?  And all the obstacles that must be overcome to simply have access to these people . . . it seems virtually impossible.  YET, we do not have the luxury to think this way when it comes to the gospel.  We cannot live and act as though the power of the gospel is somehow incapable of overcoming the obstinate and rebellious ways of man.  We cannot surrender the Great Commission because we might have to go the extra mile or make a greater sacrifice in order to bring the gospel to those who think they don’t need it.

What a testimony it would be if God did a sovereign work among those who have realized they have wasted their lives?! What a testimony it would be if they came to treasure Jesus more than their retirement, more than their toys, more than their life of comfort and ease?  What if several became missionaries to their own people who lay aside their shell collection and instead spend their time sowing the good seed of the gospel?

Because Christ is risen, I am filled with hope for my city and Southwest Florida. Though I have very little in common with most of these people, I want to reach them with the gospel that they might treasure Jesus. I want their to be a video for Jesus’ fame that shows the lives of those who have wasted it who are now giving it away for the glory of God.  Yes, I want the tragedy of their lives to become a triumph of the gospel.

Jeff Vanderstelt on Networked Structures

May 10, 2011

Jeff Vanderstelt of Soma Communities talks about networked structures from the 2010 Verge Missional Community Conference.

Soma Communities | Reorientation Around the Mission

May 5, 2011

Over the past two years, Soma Communities ranks in the top five resource centers that have helped me in theology and practice, in particular as it relates to gospel, community, and mission.  Jeff Vanderstelt and Caesar Kalinowski are careful theologians and seasoned practitioners who are consistently forwarding the vision of what it means to be gospel communities on mission.  Below is a video of Jeff Vanderstelt talking about their passion and orientation around the mission of the church with gospel intentionality.

[vimeo 22754743]

Be-ing on Mission in Community

March 9, 2011

There’s a lot of talk these days about missional communities.  Currently, I am working through Porterbrook’s Missional Community Life curriculum in three different venues, so I am discussing it quite a bit.  About a year ago, I started my kingly moleksine when I accidentally bought a sketchbook moleskine instead of a regular hardback journal.  I am not an artist, so there’s really nothing for me to sketch, but I do like to lay out my thinking in various ways, including systems, charts, diagrams, etc.

Several months ago, I began thinking about what would be the process of an unbeliever being engaged in a gospel community on mission.  The result of that thinking was this process I “skecthed” out on my kingly moleskine:

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Tim Chester on Assessing Gospel Communities

December 6, 2010

One of the recent projects I’ve been working on is development assessment metrics for our church’s growth groups and their leaders.  Our hope is that through these groups, our body will growth in the areas of gospel, community, and mission.  So I have been working to create a metric for evaluating our groups on various levels of development in these three areas.

Well, it just so happened that Tim Chester (as usual) is way ahead of the game, as he has recently provided some of his thinking about assessing gospel communities and determining the culture shifts that need to take place.  Chester breaks down the assessment in five areas:

1.  God: Are you God-centered?
2.  Love: Are you others-centered?
3.  The Bible: Are you Word-centered?
4.  Grace: Are you Grace-cnetered?
5.  Mission: Are you mission-centered?

Each category has a series of eight propositions/realities that are intended to serve as a grid or template for personal assessment.  Chester has also made this available for download here.   I found this really helpful, and when I get around to finishing the metrics of assessing our growth groups, I will try to make that available as well.

GCM Everyday Audio

November 26, 2010

Last month, he GCM Collective held a one-day training focused on the gospel, community, and mission in everyday contexts.  Steve Timmis and Tim Chester has a new book coming out soon on the “ordinary” church–living as gospel communities on mission in everyday life, not just Sunday’s.  The audio from this one-day conference is not available, so check them out!

There are some additional resources that you can check out here.  I also recommend that you check out their online community, which is a great place to learn with/from others.

The Gospel Community Conference Audio

November 10, 2010

Back in September, The Gospel Community Conference was held in my old neck of the woods (Huntsville, AL).  What is the goal of this conference?  They state:

It is our desire to retake the South through the biblical idea of missional community, the idea that life does not just include some missional activities, our life is about the mission of the Gospel. It is our desire to hold a regional event that will not only challenge and inspire the church planter, pastor, elder, member, small group leader, etc., with the biblical notion of a life immersed in mission, but to equip them by putting tools and networking opportunities in their hands with ongoing encouragement to begin to make it happen in their particular context.

I love this vision, and they have gathered a great group of dudes to lead in their recent conference.  Below is the conference audio that I encourage you to download and give a listen.  This is the kind of challenge we need today, especially in the South.

The Mission of the Kingdom by Paul Whaley
Tensions in Attractional and Incarnational by Jonathan McIntosh
The Gospel Centered Church by Jeff Vanderstelt
Community Focused Gospel by Jeff Vanderstelt and Caesar Kalinowski
The Gospel Presented Through Story by Caesar Kalinowski
Mission Directed Life by Jeff Vanderstelt and Caesar Kalinowski
Question and Answer with Jeff Vanderstelt and Caesar Kalinowski
Doctrine in Missional Community by Ray Ortlund
Planning Life to Plant Churches by Brian Howard and Chad Lewis (PDF)
Developing Leaders in Community by Paul Whaley, Mark Sellers, and Brad House (PDF)