Few would argue with the assertion that gospel-shaped Christian community is fundamentally about sharing. In this sense it’s like all community — at least if O’Donovan’s on the money when he suggests that meaningful sharing is the essence of community (Ways of Judgement, pp 250-251).
But this leaves the question: What makes Christian community distinct? What is it a sharing in?
The good (and thoroughly sound) evangelical reflex is to shout: ‘The gospel!’
Surprisingly that wasn’t Paul’s response. Or at least not the whole of it. Writing to the relatively new believers at Thessalonica he says: ‘So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our very selves’ (1 Thess 2.8).
Can you imagine … if we really believed in such whole of life sharing, what our churches might look like?
I’ve just finished reading The Church of Irresistible Influence, and I’m pondering what would be different about the way we structure and organise the various programmes and activities that come under the local church umbrella if this whole of life sharing were bigger than just an ‘in house’ thing — as it surely was for Paul who (presumably) shared like this with the Thessalonians before as well as after their conversion?
What difference might it make to our churches — and the networks in which they’re embedded — if this was part of our DNA? And we became churches of irresistible influence — salt and light in the world?