I would really encourage you to think and pray carefully through this section as I believe it is of absolute, foundational importance for our future as a church.
A Key Scripture
‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ (John 13:34-35)
A Key Quote
“…a Creative Minority must be built on the foundation of a close-knit community that is both vulnerable with and committed to one another. In such a community, individuals are not leveraging the network for their own good, but rather have devoted themselves to the well-being of one another and the betterment of the community in which they live” (p.20)
The Six Defining Characteristics: We are called to be a light on the hill so that people may see our good works and glorify God. This is not about gaining cultural dominance but about influence through ‘redemptive participation’. We are also called to be the salt of the earth but if we lose our saltiness, we are good for nothing but to be trampled underfoot. What are the characteristics that keep us salty – different from yet full of promise for the world. There are six defining characteristics: covenant; narrative; ethics; practices; authority; participation. The rest of the book looks at these in turn.
Covenant – Authentic Community Over Loose Networks: the church has embraced the culture of individualism, but the love Jesus speaks of is other-centered and communal, and we are to be known in the world by our love for one another (John 13:34-35). It is impossible to live the way of Jesus on our own. God himself is relational in his very nature, and he uses covenant communities to renew the world. We can take inspiration and instruction from historical examples such as the Clapham Sect (he outlines their story and influence). To live in a covenantal community means we choose accountable unity above loose networks. We choose to be a close-knit community that is vulnerable and committed to one another. In a loose network, when conflict arises we retreat into our private worlds. An accountable community can confront issues and stay united despite disagreements. He uses the example of the Moravians, the covenant that they made together and how God responded to their unity with an outpouring of his Spirit, which led to 24/7 prayer for over 100 years, to mission and to the way of Jesus influencing the world for generations. It all started with unity and genuine community. Paul makes it clear that if we do not get love right, nothing else matters. Strategy and ministry, without love, is just noise.
Questions for Reflection
- What are some of the unhealthy ways that the Church has tried to be salt and light?
- What are some of the features of the Church that show it has been infected by the individualism of our age?
- What will be involved in choosing to be a true, close-knit, covenant community?
Next week we will look at the second characteristic: Narrative. We will consider what it means to offer a compelling alternative story to our world.