G.K. Chesterton writes this about private religion:
“The modern habit of saying ‘Every man has a different philosophy; this is my philosophy and it suits me’—the habit of saying this is mere weak-mindedness. A cosmic philosophy is not constructed to fit a man; a cosmic philosophy is constructed to fit a cosmos. A man can no more possess a private religion than he can possess a private sun and moon.” (HT: Andy Naselli)
Chesterton is known more for being blunt than gentle, but I agree with his point.
I was thinking this morning about the fact that I don’t write much about my faith or faith community on this blog. I write about it more on this one. I suppose it makes sense since this is a family blog - but our family is deeply shaped by the good news of Jesus. For that reason, I thought I’d share a little bit about our faith community and books that have shaped my view of faith and faith community in the past year and a half or so.
We moved from Chicago-ish to Cleveland-ish in July of 2008 with the intention of starting a new church. We left some very dear friends behind. As an aside, we don’t mind if they follow us here – offer stands for friends in other locales, too.
When we got to “The Cleve”, we purchased a house and Naomi started a job at the Cleveland Clinic. I was Mr. Mom. We became members of Providence Church about 20 minutes from our home. (fast forward: in March 2009 and I started a job with the US Department of Labor and Naomi recently re-started her job at the Cleveland Clinic once a week)
In our neighborhood, we began meeting lots of new friends, including five couples from our church (and a few others just outside our neighborhood). These couples – us included – re-formed a “FLOCK” group (the small group ministry name at our church). In our formation of this group, we intentionally centered our mission around three vital and linked components: Gospel, community and mission. To steal a phrase, we are attempting to live our “ordinary lives with Gospel intentionality.” (Tim Chester) And we’re having a lot of fun doing it.
“So are you starting a new church? Isn’t that why you moved to Cleveland?”
I’m glad you asked. Well, because of circumstance and the providence of God (and the two are linked) the answer to those two questions isn’t easy, but here’s an attempt: only God knows and yes, respectively.
We’re having a great time in our Gospel community (FLOCK) and in our neighborhood “being the church without the fuss.” In other words, we’re enjoying learning and living together what it means to be a Gospel community on mission with God. We believe that Jesus is the one who builds his church, so we’re focused on following his call to make disciples (followers of Jesus) in our community. We want to continue to grow as disciples, as well. As a quick aside, we are not developing relationships with others in our neighborhood so that they will become part of our Gospel community. Some of them already have churches to which they belong, but we want them to know that we want to share our lives with them as well.
As for our meetings (which are only part of what we believe it means to “be the church”), we do Bible study twice a month, prayer night or service night once a month, and fun night once a month. Nothing out of the ordinary. It’s not rocket surgery. We just attempt (by God's grace and the power of God’s Spirit) to keep Gospel, community and mission at the center of what we do and who we are.
With that, here’s a list of books I’ve read this year that have helped shape the way I think about being the church and have shaped me (I say “me” because Naomi hasn’t read them all) personally (in no particular order):
1.) “Counterfeit Gods” by Tim Keller
2.) “The Prodigal God” by Tim Keller
3.) “Total Church” by Tim Chester
4.) “Mark for Everyone” by N.T. Wright
5.) “The Gospel Centred Church” by Tim Chester
6.) “The Gospel Centred Life” by Tim Chester
7.) “The Coming King” by Tim Chester
As you can see, when I find an author I like, I tend to keep on reading their stuff.
Hopefully that helps you see what we're doing and why. We believe and are relieved by what the Proverb says:
"Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand."