The Compelling Community: What to Do Next?


Periodically, pastors read The Compelling Community, and then ask us where to start in putting its ideas into practice. Here are three thoughts for your consideration:

1. Do a “Nominal Christianity Audit” of your church.

The Compelling Community talks about the “Gospel-Revealing” community in a church—where the relationships in your church testify to the power of the gospel because they would not and could not exist apart from the gospel. It contrasts this with “Gospel-Plus” community—where most every relationship in a church can be explained by some commonality in addition to the gospel.

Problem is, many of us have built our churches through Gospel-Plus community. We’ve used many things other than the gospel to entice people into our churches: great programs, great music, great friendships with people just like you, etc. Over time, this approach will attract both genuine Christians and nominal Christians, that is, those who mistake their heartfelt affinity for certain morals or activities or social groups with personal, sincere, and repentant faith in the Lord Jesus.

Ask yourself: In what ways does your church allow Christians-in-name-only to blithely exist in self-deceived comfort?

2. Adjust your membership practices.

The vision of The Compelling Community is a church community that is evidently supernatural. We want churches that are giant, irrefutable arrows pointing to the power and mercy of Almighty God. But unless your members are committed to each other in ways that confound the world, your church community will end up looking like any other civic-minded organization. Since membership is a formalization of this biblical commitment, membership in your church should clarify three things:

  • It should clarify that membership is only for those who give evidence of faith in Christ.
  • It should clarify the significant commitment that every Christian is to make to other Christians in a local church—even before they know those people well.
  • It should clarify the distinction between those who are members of the church and those who aren’t (the line Paul describes between those inside/outside the church in 1 Corinthians 5). In other words, can the day-to-day life of a non-member in your church look pretty much the same as that of a member? If so, then membership doesn’t say much about the power of the gospel.

3. Preach on the beauty and power of the local church.

One natural application of nearly any text in Scripture is the glory of the local church. What Old Testament Israel pointed to, what Jesus perfectly fulfilled, what the New Testament church inaugurated, is the new covenant people of God. Why does God love the church so much? Because it is his glory made visible. It is as close as we have in this present age to seeing the gospel with our eyes.

That’s why Christians are called into churches: so that together we can image the beauty and power and grace of God through the gospel. That vision of glory is what will draw non-Christians to faith, and slumbering Christians to wake up, and struggling Christians to persevere. Is that what motivates your congregation? Or are many of your pews filled with consumers—mainly interested in church because of the package of goods and services you offer? Show off that glorious picture of the church in Scripture. After all, Jesus gave his life for the church, and he compels us to do the same.

A quick note in conclusion: let’s say that through an attraction-based ministry you’ve managed to fill your pews with Christians-in-name-only who for years have been reassured in their spiritual consumerism. To some extent this probably describes every church. But if this has happened to a large extent, you may find that if you really want to build toward a Compelling Community you’ll need to be prepared for some of these dear souls to leave your church. Depending on how pervasive this problem is, how fast you make changes, and what God’s Spirit decides to do, that departure could be small or it could be substantial. But that cost is small compared to, on the other side of that shift, having a church community that visibly showcases the power of God in the gospel, a community that with supernatural attraction.

Jamie Dunlop

Jamie Dunlop is an associate pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D. C. He is the author of Budgeting for a Healthy Church: Aligning Finances with Biblical Priorities for Ministry.

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