Two of My Favorite Authors
Tim Chester and Steve Timmis have probably done more than anyone else (excluding Tim Keller and Jeff Vanderstelt) to help me understand what applying the gospel to everyday life looks like. Their first book, Total Church, rocked my face off. And Everyday Church is more of the same.
What is a Missional Community anyway?
I began planting a church about two years ago, and it’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. One of the things we knew we wanted to do while planting Basileia Church was to have missional communities. But to be honest, none of us completely understood what missional communities were, we just knew they sounded awesome. Our first concept was that it was an outreach thing and a numbers thing. In other words, in our minds a missional community was a small group that tried to reach people, and it was a larger small group (20ish people instead of 10). That’s a stupid idea I know, but that’s what we thought.
It wasn’t until a few of us heard Jeff Vanderstelt, Steve Timmis, and Jonathan Dodson begin explaining missional communities that we really began to understand what they were. When I read Total Church, the picture started coming together more and more. And when I finally began trying to incorporate all these ideas into the life of our church, and God began doing really cool things because we started praying more, that I really understood. Things got clearer, and they’re still getting clearer, and we’re still learning.
My Whole Life I’ve Never Really Understood Healthy Evangelism
I’ve always known and understood that evangelism is something I should do, but I’ve never been very good at doing it. I’ve shared the gospel a fair amount, and I’ve seen some people follow Jesus as a result, but I’m willing to say that at least 85% of the time evangelism felt weird and contrived. I believed what I was saying, I just never really believed that the way I was going about it was actually very effective. I lean reformed doctrinally, so I was confident that God was working everything out and would draw people to Himself, but I still felt like there was more to it. And I think there was more; it’s this idea of missional living, missional community, and everyday church that made things feel authentic and real. Instead of evangelism being an event, it was a way of life.
I Probably Felt the Most Alive in College
In college I was part of a community of believers that really loved one another and where we honestly pushed one another towards godliness. And I’ve got to say it was awesome; I wouldn’t trade those years for anything. And I don’t think it was just because it was college. It was the friendships, and the desire to see one another walk with God, and learning how to use our gifts for God, and the sense that we had real brothers and sisters in the faith who loved one another. But there was an element missing. It was mission. A lot of what we did in college was self-centered. I didn’t even really realize it at the time. But our group never reached out very well. And we didn’t even realize we were blowing it; we were seeking to be the best Christians that we knew how to be. Our experience in church was that evangelism was this “second or third tier” thing that no one really did, except occasionally. We thought God just wanted you to know His word, and sing great worship songs, and maybe go on a mission trip, and not sleep with our girlfriends / boyfriends until marriage. But everyday mission was a foreign concept. Evangelism, if we did it, was this separate event where you shared the Roman’s Road. It definitely wasn’t a part of everyday life. This honestly was a great community, but it wasn’t a missional community.
Everyday Missional Living
The thing that makes evangelism feel natural is doing it all the time as part of your everyday life. It’s learning how much you still need the gospel, and how much your buddies still need the gospel, and how much your neighbors need the gospel, and learning how to talk about the gospel and challenge yourself to put faith in Jesus all the time. Sometimes people will argue that “friendship evangelism” doesn’t work; it’s jus an excuse to be lazy. I mean you can’t just be a designated driver for your plastered college buddies all the time, without ever sharing the message of Jesus, and expect them to come to faith. That’s true. But missional living isn’t friendship evangelism as I just described it. Instead, it’s learning that you are a missionary all the time. I’m learning to redeem every part of my day for the purposes of God. Rather than evangelism being something that I (at best) do once a week for a few hours, it’s something I’m trying to do all the time. And it’s something our whole community participates in together. For me, this has made all the difference in the world. Evangelism no longer seems contrived, but genuine. I’m part of a group of believers who love one another and who are on mission together for the good of the community in which we’re planted. We want to bless the community and see our neighbors and friends and acquaintances come to know Jesus. We’re learning how the gospel message is what’s needed in every situation. We don’t behavior modification, we need Jesus’ grace. And we’re learning to pray a lot. I need God to work all the time. I need Him to make things happen. I can’t do anything on my own.
I know I’m Not Really Reviewing a Book
At this point I know I’m not really reviewing Everyday Church, I’m just telling you how I’ve been inspired and instructed by it. In a nutshell, it’s a follow up to Chester and Timmis’ first book, Total Church. One big difference between the two books is that Everyday Church is based loosely on 1 Peter, where as Total Church is a more systematic explanation of what a missional church looks like. I love both books. Everyday Church goes through 1 Peter because it’s one of the most instructive books in the New Testament for describing how the people of God should live as missionaries in the midst of a culture that it continually finds itself more and more at odds with.
Instead of getting in the nitty gritty of the book, let me just say, “You should read it.” You should read Total Church too. They’re both life-transforming, and I don’t say that lightly. Perhaps my ramblings on this blog post demonstrate how much I love this book, and I hope they have inspired you to check it out too.