Community

Serving your community: Filling in the cracks

by Jan Paulsen

A person casually scanning Norwegian newspaper headlines recently could be forgiven for thinking that this secular European country is in the midst of a Christian awakening. For a start, the surprise best-selling book of 2012—selling more than 160,000 copies and outselling every secular title—was a newly released Norwegian translation of the Bible. The Norwegian Bible Society had mounted an impressive advertising campaign for its updated, easy-to-read version of Scripture, but even this does not wholly explain its unprecedented market popularity in Norway.

And then in 2013 came a six-hour play called Bibelen, Norwegian for “the Bible,” staged in one of Oslo’s wellknown theaters. The play’s six-month run drew more than 16,000 people and generated a stir in the media as critics and commentators alike speculated on what could be fueling interest in such a topic in a society where only 3 percent of the population regularly attends church.

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Breaking through: Christ’s methods in the twenty-first century

by Mark Finley

Reaching the lost with the gospel is increasingly more challenging in a postmod­ern, secularized society. The western world particularly dismisses the concept of divinely revealed truth and a personal God. Although in some parts of the world, tens of thousands of people readily respond to the preaching of God’s Word, the numbers of responders are dwindling in developed, more affluent countries.

According to the Hartford Institute of Religion Research, more than 40 percent of Americans say that they go to church weekly; that number, however, is really less than 20 percent.1 In other words, more than 80 percent of Americans are doing something else rather than attending church. “The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the United States public—and a third of adults under 30—are religiously unaf­filiated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

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Seeking to Belong

I’ve often asked people in various settings, what it would take for the people in their community to want to know more about Jesus? The answer to that question will be different in Berlin than it would be in Tokyo. Muslims would have different criteria from secular or postmodern people. However, I believe that it is important for us to answer that question for it forces us to investigate the community where we live in order to try to understand the needs, fears, and challenges of our neighbors and friends. I also believe that there is one constant that is in place in the various cultures and religions of the world. And that is that people change—begin a journey to Jesus Christ—in the context of relationships and community much more easily than as free agents or individuals.
This chapter explores the concept of community. First, I will briefly present a biblical basis for community. What does the Bible have to say about community? Why is it important, and why is it our Christian duty? Then I will briefly look at two very different ways of reaching people. Finally I will discuss some of the reasons why the emerging generations come to faith by first belonging rather than the more traditional way of believing first and then belonging.

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When thinking BIG means thinking small: Growing communities of faith in a postmodern world

By David Cox

Though contemporary Western societies in general are less responsive to traditional evangelistic approaches than they used to be, they still present the church with unprecedented opportunities for healthy growth. We could be just steps away from the biggest and most impressive results ever, if we think small enough. Small enough? If that sounds contradictory, consider the needs of postmodern people in relation to the mission of the church.

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Church in a Postmodern Society

By Richard Tiplady

Introduction

What is the purpose of church meetings? Why do we gather together? To sing hymns and songs of worship? To hear the word of God preached? To meet infellowship with other Christians? At the church which I attended after first becoming a Christian, the minister had a favourite saying; “What does the story of doubting Thomas tell us? Never miss a meeting, you don’t know what might happen!”

Evangelical Christians are fond of their statements of faith, yet we frequently work to a far more visible method of calculating orthodoxy, that is, consistent and frequent attendance at church on Sundays, and midweek as well if possible. Catholic professor and Dominican Edward Cleary comments on this; “Latin American Pentecostalism shares characteristics of religion in the United States. Specifically, it places exceptional emphasis on congregational participation and worship attendance as a measure of religious involvement” (IBMR 28/2, Apr 2004, p51)

But have we ever in fact stopped to consider why evangelicalism functions in this way?

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