Please read Eric Bryant on Reaching the “Hard to Reach” for the background on this post. I hope that what follows does more to build off of what Bryant has written than to tear it down. I read his blog, his books, and have heard him speak on several occasions. I appreciate the evangelistic thrust of his writing and his continued emphasis on xenos; while we do differ at points I hope this post conveys that appreciation.
Principle #1: Christ Creates Community. (Bryant’s 1st Principle)
I mean this in two ways. First, Christ creates all things and all things are a reflection of His, i.e. God’s, attributes. So in this sense all community is a reflection of the intertrinitarian community. Second, as we are specifically speaking of the church we must also understand that Christ has created the church as His body to physically bear witness to Himself. Bryant argues that “cause creates community” and this is true; however, various causes create various communities which reflect the nature of the cause. Here we are forced to be more specific and focus upon the creator of community and subsequently the giver of cause, Jesus Christ.
Principle #2: Christ Transforms Humanity. (Bryant’s 2nd-5th Principles)
I appreciate Bryant’s 2nd-5th principles and my only critique is that, once understood within the biblical framework of the imago Dei, they become the same principle. Man was created in the image of the triune God this image was marred in the fall and now redeemed humanity is being transformed into the image of Christ. We must “develop authentic friendships with those [we] know” (Principle 4) because we were created in the image of a relational God and are being transformed into the image of a relational Christ. We must “meet the needs of those around us” (Principle 2) because we have been made in the image of a God who provided for those needs in the garden and are being transformed into the image of a Christ who met those very needs during his earthly ministry. Finally, we must “reach out to Xenos” (Principle 3 and 5) because we have been made in the image of a missional God and are being transformed into the image of a missional Christ who came to seek and save the lost. I think it is important to remember that these things take place within the context of relationship, not a “Christian” welfare system or environmental agency. We meet the needs of those whom we have relationships with as those needs become apparent to us and as we understand the context in which those needs can be properly met. Furthermore, we must understand that changed individuals create changed culture and so our approach to environmental and social issues comes through engaging individuals with the gospel and not through engaging social policymakers through legislative process.
For a further explanation of the imago Dei I recommend reading this essay.
Principle #3: Christ Leads His Church. (Bryant’s 6th and 7th Principles)
And we are His disciples whom He commanded, with the Great Commission, to make other disciples who will in turn make disciples who will do likewise. This process will not be complete until Christ calls a people from every tribe and language and people and nation. We must not be prone to self-centered spiritual myopia, but must look beyond ourselves and our circumstances toward what God is doing and is going to do among the nations. Then we must live and work towards the fulfillment of this great vision. Bryant’s 6th and 7th principles have a similar thrust; however, I want to focus beyond what God is doing in your particular locale to what God is doing throughout history and around the globe.
Extended Critique―Principle #5: Allow people to belong before they believe.
Under this principle Bryant writes, “We should never allow our convictions to become a litmus test for friendship. In fact, we should actively pursue friendships with people – even people with whom we may disagree. Go to www.mosaic.org/faq for more on the staff process at Mosaic.” In a sense this is redundant and simply expounds what is means to “reach out to Xenos.” Furthermore, I thoroughly agree that “we should never allow our convictions to become a litmus test for friendship” and that “we should actively pursue friendships with people – even people with whom we may disagree.”
Eric has commented below and I think his comments thoroughly clarify this point. Also I would recommend reading The Suicidal Missionary where in a comment following the post he exclaims, “I am calling for the proclaiming of the gospel AND embracing of all those who need to repent.” I think that is the heart of what it means to allow people to belong before they believe.