Gospel doctrine creates gospel culture. As the gospel message goes out, a community around Jesus Christ is formed. When God joins his word with his people, he gives power to the church as an outpost of the kingdom of heaven. Ray Ortlund puts it simply:
- Gospel doctrine – gospel culture = hypocrisy
- Gospel culture – gospel doctrine = fragility
- Gospel doctrine + gospel culture = power
Of the two, gospel doctrine is easier. It’s easier to learn the words than to be formed by them. It’s easier to recite the message than to reconcile to your brother. But both are needed. When gospel doctrine is joined with gospel culture, God's power shines forth. Francis Schaeffer understood this as well. In his book, The Church At the End of the Twentieth Century, he explains the power of L’Abri:
It’s a costly business to have a sense of community. L’Abri cannot be explained merely by the clear doctrine that is preached; it cannot be explained by the fact that God has been giving intellectual answers to intellectual questions. I think those two things are important, but L’Abri cannot be explained if you remove the third. And that is, there has been some community here. And it has been costly.
In about the first three years of L’Abri, all our wedding presents were wiped out. Our sheets were torn. Holes were burned in our rugs. Indeed once a whole curtain almost burned up from somebody smoking in our living room. Blacks came to our table. Orientals came to our table. Everybody came to our table. What happened at L’Abri could not have happened any other way.
You see, you don’t need a big program. You don’t have to convince your session or board. All you have to do is open your home and begin. And there is no place in God’s world where there are no people who will come and share a home as long as it is a real home…
If you have been married for years and years and had a home or even a room and none of this has ever occurred, if you have been quiet especially as our culture is crumbling around us, if this is so – do you really believe that people are going to hell? And if you really believe that, how can you stand and say, “I have never paid the price to open my living space and do the things that I can do on my own level?”
I have a question about in my mind about us as evangelicals. We fight the liberals when they say there is no hell. But do we really believe people are going to hell?
Community is a costly business, but someone must pay the cost. Why not you? Why not me? If we want to make a big impact on our world, why not get in the risky business of building community? Why not take the gospel seriously enough to let it impact the way we relate to one another? Why not reach out to reconcile? Why not open up your home to welcome? Why not rearrange your schedule to be free for those who need friendships?
What could God do if we chose to reach out beyond social media to the real persons behind the avatars? It would be costlier, yes, but it would be more beautiful and more satisfying. And, in the end, it may be the thing that God uses to bring revival.
Editor's Note: This post originally appeared at David's blog, Things of the Sort.