I'm hoping to gather a group of people together to read and talk about this book sometime during this fall. If you have an interest in being part of such a discussion, let me know. As Central moves toward gathering people into smaller communities this book will be an important part of the strategy. We're still talking about what shape those communities might take -- Bjorn Dixon, our Director of New Worshipping Communities, and I had the privilege of meeting yesterday with Peter Churness, who among other things helps lead Life Together Churches, a networking resource organization that helps churches of whatever size or shape grow into true communities.
What is the difference between most churches and a Jesus-focused community? Here's what I was reading in Total Church this morning:
"It is in the family of God that I am able to care and be cared for, love and be loved, forgive and be forgiven, rebuke and be rebuked, encourage and be encouraged -- all of which are essential to the task of being a disciple of the risen Lord Jesus. Too often, however, churches are not contexts for making disciples so much as occasions for acknowledging relative strangers. Experience teaches that there is also an inverse ratio at work: the larger the group, the more inevitable is the superficiality of our relationships. Instead of churches growing beyond the point of being able to sustain meaningful life-on-life family relationships, an alternative (and maybe essential) strategy would be to begin new congregations through church planting ... Philip Yancey says, "We often surround ourselves with the people we most want to live with, thus forming a club or clique, not a community. Anyone can form a club; it takes grace, shared vision, and hard work to form a community." We might also add that it takes a miracle that only God himself can perform. But it is in such a community that disciples are made. To be a community of light from which the light of Christ will emanate we need to be intentional in our relationships -- to love the unlovely, forgive the unforgivable, embrace the repulsive, include the awkward, accept the weird. It is in contexts such as these that sinners are transformed into disciples who obey everything King Jesus has commanded." (112-113)