Scott McKnight on gospel and community

I know, I know I said I was taking a break but seriously read this if you are interested in evangelising/Gospel Order.

If reading the Bible as Story teaches us anything, and we need to emphasize this one more time, it teaches us that God's work in this world is to form communities that visibly demonstrate the power of God at work in this world.

This is explaining some stuff I've been thinking on for a while. I think the evangelical movement really have something in terms of connecting people to the God experience but there seems to be this difficulty in following through, in connecting people to the reality of the huge changes that need to happen in us to live as a community under Christ Jesus. If people are properly hooking up to God in their thousands at church why are so many still involved in violence, individualism, consumer lifestyles, carbon addiction? I guess to me the reality of the connection to the root/God can be judged by the fruits that it brings forth. If we're talking about the Kingdom I'm expecting to see the hungry fed and watered, wounds dressed, tears wiped, and all that.

I'd love to see the thousands at "Spring Harvest", "New Wine" or whatever, walking into the life of God's love. But like Scott McKnight says, that demands really effective spiritual formation, effective church community to receive the new followers of the gospel. Maybe we are not ready to offer that, maybe that's why we're not seeing the impact? That's a message I really got through Martin Kelley's writing on Quaker Ranter *about how awfully bad Quakers can be at outreach - I think you posed the question, what would have to change if Quakers were to double in numbers in the next few years? That's had a huge impact on the way I think about Quakers. What would they need to know, these new Quakers, in order to get ready to live and pass on the faith that makes a difference?

I know this comes across as critical of someone else's spiritual journey but I guess that's the place I'm at and I hope you can find some wisdom and kindness towards me in your reading. I'm hungering and thirsting for a new vintage of Christ to come pouring down, so that humans can stop being so ignorant, violent, careless and so on and accept God's tuition to learn how to live on this planet as we're meant to: in covenant community with God, each other, and the rest of creation. I can hardly see what justice and peace mean if they aren't that. I think we might have a few of the pieces but we sure are missing some to my view. There's an itch in my brain says we can solve the problem of destroying the earth's life support systems, solve global injustice at the same time, if we could just hook the evangelical program up to the kind of spiritual formation that happens if you get serious about the Quaker way in enough company to keep you cheerful some of the time. Maybe I'm barking again.

* I can't find the essay from a quick Google - can you recall, Martin Kelley or anyone else?

Views: 126

Comment by Johan Maurer on 5th mo. 21, 2009 at 6:37pm
I've been searching, too, because I linked to one of Martin's essays along these lines back in 2005, and the link is broken. However, look here (at and the whole martink archive.

Thanks for your passion!
Comment by Forrest Curo on 5th mo. 21, 2009 at 7:04pm
Something to be said for "God's work is forming communities that visibly demonstrate the power of God at work in this world."

But God seems to be busy at other things as well. Creating beauty, for example. Which we need to share with someone, true, or we fail in our responsibility to it.

Anyway, main quibble. Is it our work to do God's work for him?

We want good things to happen; we can't expect to see much of that if we aren't holding up our ends. But we're caught in this necessary tension, between letting God work unimpeded, and being part of the work. We can't just say, All right, we'll put the dorms here and they will come! We can't drag people in by the strength of our hands, minds, even our hearts!

But somehow, God has built this loose, unintentional community around here; we get by with a little help from each other, and wouldn't be quite the same without any of us. So maybe it ain't Jerusalem--or even Pendle Hill-- but it visibly demonstrates the power of God to me!

I don't have time now to give all this its due, sorry! But thanks, and I'll be back!
Comment by Lillian Henegar on 5th mo. 21, 2009 at 8:55pm
You have to be awake, or striving to be and stay awake, to manifest the power of God as you describe. That's a tall order for many of us. So much contrives against that. And how can you be sure you are not missing the visible demonstrations of the power of God?

I appreciate your struggle with this question. I ask it of myself and find myself in that spot as well. Other times, I do better. I forgive myself and the world for being where we are. I let go, stay in relationship with God as best as I can, and practice having faith in my path. All will be well.
Comment by Martin Kelley on 5th mo. 21, 2009 at 9:31pm
@Johan: yeah, whatever did happen to that Martin guy, LOL!

Sorry about that. One of the dangers of blogging for 11-1/2 years is that blogging systems and domains change (the first automated blogging system postdated my first blog by a couple of years and is the archive I myself use to access it!). Most of the more recent posts have just undergone name changes. "It's Our Language now" is here. I don't know if that's the particular essay Alice was talking about.
Comment by Richard B. Miller on 5th mo. 21, 2009 at 10:51pm
we should dream big. What would it take to make Quakerism double in size in the next few years? Yes, that's big. Bigger still would be what would it take to make Quakerism double in size in the next few years AND be spiritually active places in which we saw people's lives changing in tangible ways--real and obvious growth in love, joy, peace, patience etc. I wouldn't be too excited if we got the first without the second. Evangelicals seem to be filling churches but a lot of those people don't seem to be changing a whole lot.

So what WOULD it take? I thinkit would take a lot of simple humble Friends who would be willing to travel once a month to visit small struggling little Quaker meetings and worship groups. As someone with a lot of experience with these small groups I can tell you that such visits are vital to the spiritual life of such groups. There are literally hundreds of such groups around this country. What would happen if each little worship group had one Friend visit with them once a month. It would not surprise me if the Society doubled in size in a few years as those meetings bloomed.

Just a thought. Anybody out there want to try it?
Comment by Forrest Curo on 5th mo. 22, 2009 at 12:13pm
I would love to see Quakerism double in size, but more to the point would be to see more people, whether or not connected to a Meeting, finding themselves taught/enlightened/deepened by God in their ongoing lives. More bodies in the folding chairs, okay, fine, that would be evidence of a renewal taking place, but not the essence of renewal itself!

God's power. I keep thinking of Dorothy Day, this extremely practical organizer of food-shelter-spiritual-refreshement for the poor, and her fondness for Dostoyevski. Because, I think, she found characters like Prince Myshkin exemplified something ultimately more important than the practicalities. He ends up, utterly mad, embracing a murderer and the murdered body of a woman they both loved in their different ways, as little "successful" as Jesus. Hardly an example of God's "power", except for that crucial power of loving each person as their are, for their own sakes.

Yes, there are potential social structures, practices etc that might render that sort of love easier, more likely rather than less likely to flourish. It's worthwhile trying to organize them; they'd just better not be mistaken for the goal itself!
Comment by Martin Kelley on 5th mo. 22, 2009 at 1:15pm
I guess where I'm at is that I don't care about Quakerism. I don't care if it doubles in size and I don't care if it winds down into obscurity. I care about spreading the good news that Christ has come to teach the people Himself, that we can be comforted and guided by the Holy Spirit in a very lived, real and direct way. We can do that without unnecessary noise. One of the best modern toolkits for this lived Christian life has been put together by Friends, which is why I'm still hitched to this yoke.
Comment by Callid Keefe-Perry on 5th mo. 24, 2009 at 11:31am
Martin speaks my mind in his last post above. Ours is not to determine the way to God that best fits people, but to enjoy and spread the fruits that Spirit has given us. Friends have a particular way of doing that, but at the end of the day, what matters is that the gifts are spread, not the suit the spreader wears. These things are those that give life and bring about the Kingdom: love (agape); joy (chara); peace (eirene); patience (makrothumia); kindness (chrestotes); goodness (agathosune); faithfulness (pistis); gentleness (prautes); self-control (egkrateia).
Comment by Alice Yaxley on 5th mo. 24, 2009 at 12:15pm
Thanks for your advice and guidance! I'm grateful. I knew I was going a bit wrong up there, that's kind of why I wrote it out to get some more opinions on it.

Yes the practice is not replaceable at all! If that's not there then we can't remind each other to stay awake as Lilian puts it.
Comment by DianeReynolds on 5th mo. 25, 2009 at 7:20pm
Hi Alice,

I think you may recently have commented on my blog at emerginquaker. If so you, you might know I'm a huge Scot McKnight fan. Yes, I agree--I love when he writes, however we act as a church or corporate body, that IS our gospel. Not what we say, but what we do, how we witness. While I'm all for the headship of Christ--it's THE only important thing--I do think Quakerism has distinctives it would be a pity to lose. Oh and as a plug for Scot--my review of his latest book, The Blue Parakeet, will be showing up in Friends Journal ... soon! I've submitted it but don't know what issue it's scheduled for.


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