Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fighting through the Church

My continued review of Fights Clubs: Gospel-Centered Discipleship, by Jonathan Dobson (the Lead Pastor of Austin City Life Church).

In Chapter Four of Fight Clubs is titled: FIGHTING WITH THE CHURCH: The Three Conversions of the Church. Most everything we read or hear of, concerning fights and the church, are fights (struggles) within, or against it. In this chapter Dobson challenges us to fight for and with the church.

He introduces the chapter with this paragraph . . .

What would happen if we started fighting with the church instead of against her? Christians often fight one another over petty disputes instead of encouraging one another in the urgent fight of faith. We need to shift from seeing the church as an enemy to be fought, or a community to fear, to viewing the church as a community of fellow contenders for faith in a world rife with unbelief. We need to fight with the church not against her. [p. 37]

How does that happen, by refocusing our understanding of the church as the scared place where gospel- is to be lived out and discovered in community . . .

(After introducing the story of Haydn) It was through these relationships, through being the church, that Haydn rediscovered the power of the gospel. He came to understand that the gospel of grace wasn’t just something that makes you a Christian. It is something that keeps you Christian. He began to grow in his understanding of theology, community, and mission. He and his wife hosted members classes, City Groups, and eventually became deacons in the church. What changed Haydn’s view of faith and the church? A gospel-centered community. A group of people that made grace, not law, central to their discipleship. Instead of emphasizing legalistic rules, they focused on the grace of God in the promises of Christ. [p. 38]

The problem . . .

Church has been reduced to a weekly or bi-weekly event. Instead of being the church, we have fallen into merely doing church, and far too often our doing is disconnected from being. We have devolved from being a Jesus-centered community into a loose collection of spiritually-minded individuals. … Why this radical devolution? There are far too many reasons to discuss here, but one fundamental reason that Christianity in America is both churchless and in decline is due the fact it is characterized by a one-third gospel. This one-third gospel is hardly a gospel at all. It focuses on Jesus death and resurrection as a doctrine to be believed, not the way forward into a Person to be trusted and obeyed. The gospel has been reduced to a personal ticket to glory. But the biblical gospel is much more than personal conversion or a heavenly reservation. The Gospel has two more “thirds”. The Gospel calls us into community and onto mission in Jesus. [pp. 38-39]

The solution . . .

Not only does the Gospel convert our heart, mind and money, but it also converts us to something, three things to be specific. When we are converted, we are not converted to Christ alone. The Gospel converts us to Christ, to Church and to Mission. [p. 39]

And this is taught in the New Testament through three metaphors . . .

1) The metaphors of Jesus as Lord of the Harvest, Head of the Body, and Cornerstone to the Temple all underscore the inextricable connection between conversion and community. [p. 40]

2) A second metaphor is that of a field or harvest. Jesus is Lord of the Harvest (Luk 10) and we are his Field (1 Cor 3). As a field, the church grows through the planting, sowing, fertilizing, weed pulling, and watering in community. We need encouragement, correction, rebuke, empathy, prayer, truth-telling, and promise reminding. Although our growth is ultimately caused by God, God has chosen the community to facilitate that growth! [p. 40]

3) The final metaphor is that of a temple or building. In 1 Peter 2 we see Jesus as the Cornerstone of the temple or building of God. The cornerstone is the most important stone in the whole building. The entire building depends on it for structural integrity. However, the cornerstone alone does not constitute the building. As Peter points out, the temple is comprised of other “living stones” that together comprise a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Pet 2:9). …The temple grows through the addition of more stones, demonstrating its glorious mission. [p. 41]


3 John 8

Bill H.

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