Review | ‘Community’ by Brad House

This month, Crossway was kind enough to send me a copy of Community by Brad House, and I was pleased review it considering that the title of the book is 1/3 of the name of this blog (…fitting?) and House is Community Groups pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, a large church known for robust gospel community (and a church with whom Charis Community Church is affiliated). The book, with the bold subtitle “Taking your small group off life support” was written with a clear goal to do just that, however unpopular it may be. This book comes at a timely point in the Reformission movement where we have a bevy of churches, leaders and small group attendees who are tired of the old systems and methods of “community” that seem to be nothing more than an awkward social gathering, yet are unsure on how to cross into organic and truly gospel-made community.

The Foundation:

Community, broken into three major sections, starts out by laying a theological groundwork for community in the church. This first section does what it was written to do, which is remind the reader of the gospel and the gospel’s communal implications, which is essential to building any foundation or vision because “A clear view of God puts life into perspective” (P.37). House uses a host of effective charts, graphs and diagrams to create a clear understand of the church’s biblical call to community and the practice of that call. Community is able to successfully avoid being theoretic and successfully springboards into a healthy deconstruction of the current state of the social purgatory that is most churches “small groups ministry”.

The Health Plan:

House gets to the root of the problem, which is, community has become an “event, rather than a lifestyle” (P.96-97). So House digs and digs and digs so much so that you will read this and hopefully feel some holy discontentment in this area. House talks about why non Christians do not and would not feel comfortable in the typical ‘small group’ setting in the Church, and where we Christians have built barriers instead of bridges to the culture around us (p.128) by the way we do small group. House deals here especially with ‘barriers’ (defined as ‘Issues of practice, culture and perception that inhibit the progress of the gospel” P.128) that tend to be legitimized, accepted as inevitable and pardoned in our church, such as expecting minimal time commitment, flipping the conversational switch from “small-talk” to “spiritual” in the after dinner ‘drum-circle’ (P.98), and that unavoidable awkwardness in most small group settings. But within this second part of the book, House does not leave us out to dry, but offers stories, models and insights as to how to practically break the cycle of unhealthy community in both gospel-founded and culturally conscious ways (the exact purpose of this blog!). In this part of the book especially, House says things that I truly haven’t heard before that sharpened my understanding and motivated me to action.

Treatment:

Community finishes with a section that cleans up and restores order to everything the first two sections have dissected. This is the part where House clearly articulates practical leadership needs, potential pitfalls in rebuilding as well as lay out the framework that has worked so well for Mars Hill, a 10,000+ person church with networks of intimate community and pastoral care that a church of 150 would be lucky to see. One of the most interesting things about this section is House’s detailed layout of Mars Hill’s community group leader training outlines, (including homework for leaders, and leadership meeting structure) along with a fantastic appendix that includes a blank outline for those interested in using Mars Hill’s model.

By the end of the book church leaders should feel significantly more prepared to train up new leaders, reach out to the community around them and experience more concrete, gospel-centered fellowship in the context of small group community. I would strongly recommend this book to church leadership and those who are not satisfied with the depth of their small group and want to start gospel-change. And while the book was not perfect, some topics were neglected and I was left with a few questions mostly on leadership expectations and discipleship, Community is an exceptional Operator Manuel for gospel-driven small groups that make disciples, build cultural bridges and love people well.

My Review | 9/10

Go here to purchase | ‘Community’ by Brad House

Knowing Yourself

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu poignantly declares “if you know neither the enemy or yourself, you will succumb in every battle”. This is not just true in bloodshed, but just as much in the trenches of everyday life. Sometimes it is easier just to wade at the surface of our actions and consider our lives one dimensionally; without depth or honesty. As a Christian, the first thing we must know about ourselves is who we are as Christians, this means evaluating ourselves by the standards that have been met in Jesus| as being…

  • Spiritually Alive (Romans 6:11)
  • Forgiven (Colossians 2:13)
  • Dead to Sin (Romans 6:11)
  • Victorious over Satan (Luke 10:19)
  • Cleansed From Sin (1 John 1:7)
  • Secure In Christ (1 Peter 1:3-5)
  • Loved by God (1 John 4:10)
This is who we are as Christians, this is the gospel that frees us from satan, sin and death. This gospel is meant to change every part of who we are. Not just spiritually, but relationally, personally, professionally and emotionally. Sometimes though, it is too easy to stop short of this reality. Too often Christians charge the battlefield without considering themselves and what that gospel means to who you actually are. Resulting in a difficult, long and lonely fight to the finish.
There are some helpful questions worthy of being asked, as to consider who we are and who Jesus is in regards to our Personal life, our Spiritual life, and our Missional (community) life.
Personal
  1. What are some evidences of God’s grace in your life recently?
  2. What is your greatest need in your personal life? (look for idols, agenda, identity, or selfishness)
  3. What challenges are you facing personally?
  4. What temptations occur in your personal life?
  5. What obstacles are you experiencing in your personal life? (money, job, relationships, depression, bitterness, etc…)
Spiritual
  1. How is your soul?
  2. What is God doing in your heart lately?
  3. What is your biggest threat to your relationship with Jesus right now?
  4. Where have you experienced the most ‘growth’ lately?
  5. What is the greatest need in your spiritual life?
  6. What resources would be helpful to improve the quality of your spiritual life? (Books, study plans, bible, prayer, etc)
Missional (community)
  1. What opportunities do you see for ministry before you?
  2. What are some challenges you are facing in different responsibilities God has called you to?
  3. What is most difficult about being in biblical community?
  4. How are you loving other people well? (or how are you not?)
  5. What challenges do you face missionally?
There is no easy way to know yourself, it takes time, grace and diligence to accomplish, and it is best done in community. Because in the trenches of life, you will not get too far is you don’t know yourself, your enemies, your allies and your Savior.
(lists taken from Gospel Coach by Scott Thomas)

Week 6 | Experiencing Grace Through Community

 

Today, pastor Jon Bricker spoke on the importance of being in gospel-shaped community and the pitfalls we tend to fall into that keep us from gospel community, listen to the full audio above. This is part of the current 7 week sermon series we are running though at Charis Community Church. A concurrent devotional series for the week has been constructed to go along with the series. This format is encouraging growth in belief and understanding of the Gospel. If you go to Charis, this should be a helpful tool for you to grow in gospel maturity. If you do not go to Charis, but want to follow along, please join us as we go through this devotional series!

Continue reading

Week 5 | The Discipline of Sojourning

Listen to ‘The Discipline of Sojourning’ here

JD Bridges spoke this week at Charis Community Church on the Discipline of Sojourning (you’d do well to follow @JDBridges on twitter) as part of the current 7 week sermon series we are running though at Charis Community Church. A concurrent devotional series for the week has been constructed to go along with the series. This format is encouraging growth in belief and understanding of the Gospel. If you go to Charis, this should be a helpful tool for you to grow in gospel maturity. If you do not go to Charis, but want to follow along, please join us as we go through this devotional series!

Week 5: Practicing Grace

(The Discipline of Mission) Continue reading

Matt Chandler | A Brick is Not a House

 

Listen to Entire message here  [The Local Church | Matt Chandler 1.25.09 audio] & [.PDF]

The Christian life was meant to be a life of community. As a Christian, you are saved into a community of believers, not just into an individual relationship with Jesus. The Bible does not separate these two callings, and this community is the church. The Church is not just an organization or event, but a covenant. Yet sadly, many Christians go to churches in attempt to “get fed”, hear good preaching and suck resources that they need for their own spiritual lives. Not only is this a form of spiritual narcissism, it is parasitic and a detriment to the community of believers that you, Christian, are saved into.

“In the book of Amos, the prophet called the women there the “fat cows of Bashan.” Here’s why, He basically says, “You do nothing. Here you’ve been given these things by God, and yet you do nothing. And in so doing, you are spiritually fat cows.” You have to wonder at some levels if most Evangelicals aren’t the spiritual equivalent of fat cows who go everywhere but belong nowhere. I think one of the things that has really retarded our faith is that we don’t have that [local church] type of community and we aren’t committed and we aren’t wired in. We like the preaching here, we like the music there. That’s how we pick it. Spurgeon said that Christians are designed by God like bricks in a house. They need one another to be worth anything. He says to say that you love Jesus but refuse to plug into, to belong to a local congregation is like a brick being kicked down the street, that every time it gets kicked it screams, “I’m a house…I’m a house.” And I think that’s what we’ve got. I think you’ve got a mass of  believers who aren’t plugged in anywhere. So the things required for safety and growth are not present in their lives, no one can speak into them, there’s no authority that they’ll submit to, no one can rebuke them because they won’t let themselves be known. They simply come, listen to a sermon and get out. And this is not how the church is designed to be. It’s not how she was designed to work. And then we’re just kind of dumbfounded when we’re not growing. And so usually we say something really dumb like, “Oh, I’m just not being fed there anymore, so we’re going to move on to the next place.” You won’t find too many places in the Scripture that say it’s my job to feed you. What you will find is Paul constantly rebuking people who by now should be able to feed themselves.”    -Matt Chandler

College Students and the Church: Spread So Thin

If there is one thing college kids are really terrible at, it is moderation. College (in our culture) is, for most, an age of extremes. Prone to binge drinking, staying up so late they catch more sunrises than morning classes, over-involvement, passions unfettered and extreme laziness. This is what is expected of this age in our culture and this really sums up the mythical “college experience”: excess. I am not going to dissect the rightness or wrongness of culture at length here, it is unnecessary. But this is the world we live in, and the church has to understand this, engage this and show how the gospel applies to this phenomenon. Continue reading

College Students and the Church: The Parachurch

The church and college kids aren’t really on the best of terms, for the most part, these days. But this doesn’t mean that college kids and Jesus aren’t on good terms. At least at Illinois State University, there is at least a portion of the student body involved in campus ministries and para-church organizations such as Young Life, Campus Crusade for Christ and the like. This is certainly not a bad thing. However, this is not translating into church involvement for the most part. What is happening here? I covered it in brief in the first post in this series, but I think this church-parachurch relationship is one that needs to be looked at a little more. Continue reading