Here the writers set out the ‘unease’ some people feel, themselves…

“The validity of this three strand model does not need to be argued for purely on pragmatic grounds. Its primary value is the way it takes the corporate dimension of evangelism seriously. Historically, evangelicals have been so committed to the centrality of the gospel word in evangelism that they can be uneasy about ‘conceding’ the centrality of the gospel community. Talk of the gospel community authenticating the gospel word creates a certain amount of unease. But this is precisely how the Bible describes the people of God…

[re Ephesians 2-3] The Christian community makes God’s wisdom known in the heavenly realms. And that is because we are the beginning of God’s purposes for the whole cosmos. God is going to bring ‘things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ’ (1:10)…The church is an outpost of heaven. We are heaven on earth. John Stott says:

‘The ‘mystery’ was not an abstraction. It was taking shape before people’s eyes. And in this new phenomenon, this new multi-racial humanity, the wisdom of God was being displayed. Indeed the coming into existence of the church as a community of saved and reconciled people is at one and the same time a public demonstration of God’s power, grace and wisdom: first of his mighty resurrection power (1:19-2:6), next of his immeasurable grace and kindness (2:7), and now of his manifold wisdom (3:10).’

The Holy Spirit brings the church into existence through the gospel word. Through that same gospel word he continues to change people so that they become less lovers of self and more lovers of God and others. This is the community life that models the gospel becuase it is the life for which we were made. As non-Christians are exposed to this dynamic, they begin to see that the gospel word is more than a set of prepositions to be assented to. They see it as the very power of God for healing and wholeness; as he word that brings life and blessing.

In view of contemporary culture, we should not underestimate the need for authenticity among the people of God… People have rejected the gospel word in part becuase they have not been exposed to credible gospel community. Churches have often stood aloof from society. Evangelicals have tended to run away from marginalized urban areas to populate more comfortable suburbs. Christians are often perceived as irrelevant and self-righteous. If these perceptions have any basis, we should not point the finger too quickly at people’s spiritual blindness. Jesus gives the world the right to judge the sincerity of our profession on the basis of our love for each other. In other words, we should face with humility the challenge of unbelief. Our response should be one of repentance and faith resulting in lives of authentic corporate existence lived boldly before a sceptical and apathetic world.” p. 63-65

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