Gospel and Community

Trevin Wax has a great post on Why the Gospel Community is Essential Understanding the Gospel and he concludes: “The gospel announcement of Jesus Christ must be understood within the context of the story that gives it meaning. This announcement then births the gospel community. Saying the good news is limited to the gospel announcement is like saying, “The good news is that the adoption papers are signed” without a view to the purpose of the papers – to incorporate an orphan into a family! We can say all day long that becoming part of the family is the implication of the adoption process, not the process itself. But to make that point too forcefully risks losing the point of it all.”

I whole heartedly agree and I’m working on saying something similar in the ecclesiology section of a Systematics volume I’m writing.

For some folks the gospel is an iGod app that enables a person to get a wifi connection with heaven (where the one mediator between God and Man is Apple Mac!). To use another metaphor, the church is reduced to the weekly meeting of Jesus’ Facebook friends.[1] The locus of Christianity becomes God and me rather than God and us. One could contrast two slogans: “I believe, therefore, I am saved” with “We believe, therefore, we are God’s people”. Evangelicals tend to have the former rather than the latter as the default setting for their ecclesiology. I do not think it possible, or even desirable, to eviscerate all and any type of individualism from theology. Individuals have to respond to the gospel; individuals do have to cultivate obedience and holiness; and inviduals are held accountable for their action.[2] Even so, what evangelical ecclesiology has lacked is a notion of corporate identity. I am who I am only as I am one part of the church of Jesus Christ. Or as African theologian John Mbiti famously said: “‘I am because we are, since we are, therefore I am”.

I also want to assert that there is a symbiotic relationship between “gospel” and “church”. As Scot McKnight has commented, the gospel we preach shapes the kind of churches we create. The kind of churches we create in turn shapes the gospel we preach.[3] Belief in the gospel signifies our entry point into the faith. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the chief emblems of the gospel that mark our entrance into the church and remembrance of the work of Christ. Discipleship is a matter of learning to live out the realities that the gospel creates. And proclaiming the gospel is the mission of the church. That is why I think we should think of the church as the community of the gospelized! When you magnetize a piece of metal, the metal becomes magnetic. When you sterilize a surgical tool, the tool becomes sterile. When you tenderize a piece of meat, the meat becomes tender. When a person or a church is gospelized, they ooze gospel, they bleed Jesus, they over flow with Spirit, they radiate the Father’s glory. That is the goal of a gospelized community. Our telos is to be and become a church that knows the gospel, preaches the gospel, and lives according to the law of the gospel – we are gospelizers. For me that is the true meaning of what it is to be the evangelical church!


[1] A point I owe to Nick Perrin.

[2] Cf. Gary W. Burnett, Paul and the Salvation of the Individual (Leiden: Brill, 2001).

[3] Scot McKnight, Community Called Atonement, 5.


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