Christ said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
An essential part of a Christian’s life, and therefore for the Church, is community. Authentic Community is community that seeks to resemble that of the early church described in Scripture. The fifth core value addressed in our study of core values for Providence Church is authentic community.
Six months ago, I read two books side-by-side that expressed the nature and need of community well: Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis; and Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. From these books I will attempt to define and describe authentic community.
Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community by Chester, Tim and Steve Timmis. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008.
Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community by Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. New York: Harper & Row, 1954.
Chester and Timmis argue the importance of “gospel” and “community” in shaping the way we should “do church” (15). Their premise is that conservative evangelicals place their emphasis on the gospel, while others like the emergent church emphasize community. “We need Spirit-inspired imagination to reconfigure church and mission around the gospel word and the gospel community” (20).
To be an authentic gospel-community, the church must have leaders who rightly handle and apply God’s Word. “The gospel is a word; so the church must be word-centered” (32). Few Christians object to the need for being gospel-centered. “The problem is the gap between our rhetoric and the reality of our practice” (33).
The fourth topic in our summer study of core values for a new church is Kingdom Priority. A church must recognize the priority the Kingdom of God has in the Scriptures. Jesus was clear about the importance of His Kingdom and its importance in our lives. His rightful place as Lord and King of all means the Christian life is reoriented with new priorities so that we live as those who have a Father in heaven who protects and provides for our every need.
God’s purpose for this world is to manifest His glory among all nations. The problem is that Sin has corrupted all nations and left all aspects of humanity in need of reconciliation to God (Colossians 1:20). Left to ourselves, therefore, none of us glorify God (nor can we). In order for the world to manifest His glory, God is raising up worshipers from every tribe and language through the renewing work of Jesus Christ (Revelation 21:5).
God has purposed to bring glory to Himself by advancing His Kingdom, not just over all human hearts, but all realities of human life. In other words, God plans on fulfilling His purpose for the world by making His invisible Kingdom visible. He has chosen to advance His Kingdom through His Church. Ultimately, God has chosen to advance His Kingdom by His Church with His Gospel (Romans 1:16).
God has given the Gospel of Christ to be proclaimed through His Church in order to advance His Kingdom to make known His Glory. Therefore, having a Kingdom of God mindset is essential for any church that seeks to be in line with God’s purposes. Any church that seeks to glorify God must have a high view of Kingdom priorities, if they are going to have a high view of the Gospel, the Church, and the Glory of God.
In planting a church, it is helpful to identify some core values that help define the new church. What makes the church significant? Why will the church be what it is and do the things that is does? What are some principles the church will hold tightly?
It is important to note that a core value is NOT a core value if your actions do not reflect what you say you value. To many people, organizations, and churches fall into the trap of saying they value certain principles, while their actions either fail to validate their claims, or even contradict their claims. If a church makes this mistake, they will come across as disingenuous and inauthentic.
Knowing this, it is important to know what you should value early, and then measure what you do against your stated values. These values can serve as measurements of accountability towards those things you recognize as most important. It is easy for an individual, church, or organization to state their values, yet have no accountability to see whether your actions verify the truth of your words. This a big reason why the early participants of this church planting endeavor are taking time to discuss core values. Do we really mean these are our values? And are we willing to be held accountable to these beliefs?
We have already discussed, in no specific order, Sent Living and Family Focused. Next we looked at Bible Sufficiency as a core value. The Bible is God’s Word intended to transform lives into the image of Jesus Christ. The Bible claims to be spoken directly from God through holy men as human instruments of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It claims to be infallible and is without error. If we believe the Bible, then we should believe what it says about itself.
Furthermore, because we believe the Bible, we should trust the biblical text in all matters of life. God’s Word is not only inerrant and infallible, but it is sufficient for all areas of life. As a church, a primary means for this to happen is through preaching/teaching that is text-driven and Spirit-empowered such that the main point of the biblical text is the main point of the message.