By Shannon Youell
In the prayer of Jabez, the line that I’ve oft heard prayed when church folk gather to pray, about growth, evangelism and engaging their communities is the prayer for God to bless and enlarge our territory, our areas of influence in our neighbourhoods, schools, workplaces and cities.
As Christ followers, this cry should become part of the DNA of our new person selves and the communities we gather to worship and serve in. Though this verse is not exactly prayed in the context of sharing the good news of God’s Kingdom among us, uttering it in those prayer meetings is full of that intention. We do sincerely long to see God’s Kingdom light shine where darkness still holds people prisoner in its grasp of deception and isolation from the Creator of all things.
Where we get stuck, though, is how do we do that? Most of us would honestly acknowledge that our usual methods of evangelism are not received as good news to many in our current world. In this fall series we want to expand our language and understanding around our concept of gospel, Kingdom and justice. These are not three separate aspects but rather intertwined within the good news story that God Himself has fulfilled in and through Jesus our Lord. As we experience a renewed “thickening” of the Gospel, we may be surprised how that expansion naturally leads us to activity in God’s Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven where God’s shalom, His ministry of justice, peace, mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration becomes the prayer on our lips daily.
You may wonder what this has to do with church planting, since this is the church planting blog. The one word answer is EVERYTHING. The early Christians formed communities that grew to established communities of disciples by sharing the amazing good news that Jesus is Lord and Savior, and those hearers well understood the implicit and explicit implications of that good news in their lives and circumstances. We plant new churches to receive new believers, to disciple those new believers and one another (I like the phrase “to gospel one another”), to celebrate God’s goodness to His creation and to invite others to find how their story intersects with God’s story and completes them and the community they are welcomed into.
One of the resources we are recommending is a bundle of primers that, though they are specifically targeted on particular aspects of gospel, kingdom and justice, have been helpful for many pastors/leaders in beginning to explore deepening our understanding and our level of engagement in the Good News. These primers are meant to be used as group discovery, utilizing story and dialogue, scripture and prayer, confession and repentance.
The Gospel Primer helps frame what is the story we should be telling, how do we tell that story in such a way that our listeners ‘hear’ it, and our own understanding of the dynamic of the Gospel in our own everyday lives and choices. Concepts include the idea of apprenticeships that move us beyond what we know about the Gospel into greater engagement in action with the Gospel; Gospeling as an action and something faith communities do with one another and those who do not yet know God is looking for them; Gospel Fluency in which how we “speak and display the gospel…leads us to transformation and restoration; Identity as those who trust in Christ; Gospel Listening which is where we learn to actively listen to the story of others and discern what is Good News for that person in their story; and patterns and rhythms to help us move away from separation of our faith life and our world life (sacred and secular divide).
The Tangible Kingdom Primer helps our faith community view our calling to be on mission with Jesus—joining the family business, as Cailey likes to say. It takes us through such reflections as What is community; Living Out and Inviting In; What is incarnational; and What is missional. This is not a primer with a model or program of evangelism that we do to people. It is ways to create room and pathways so that the gospel touches into the real lives of people in such a way as to draw them into relationships with God and with others and restored to a community where God’s shalom—His healing, salvation, love, justice, peace are evident and active.
The Justice Primer is an eight-week guide to serving through community. It serves to build on our understanding that living a Gospel life includes action oriented towards those within our faith community and those in our neighbourhoods, schools and cities. The idea is how we “become good news” to the people in our community by living fully the mission Jesus calls each and everyone one of us to. This is not just about social justice and action but how it apprentices us to grow in Christ likeness and mission.
We will have a copy of each for you to take a look at during the Banff Pastors Conference, and you can purchase them online from the publisher here or at some Christian book retailers.