The Gospel Community
The phrase "gospel community" clearly consists of two concepts; gospel and community. Now as un-profound as that observation is, realizing the impact of each concept can produce a profound change in the life of the believer, the life of the local church and the community at large. I take the time to point this out because too often we embrace one without the other and in so doing we don't sufficiently serve either.
Many of us in the church profess in strong terms the "Gospel of Christ". We rightfully believe that the focus of God's Word is the Gospel, God's plan of salvation for man revealed in Christ's life and work, and we insist that the emphasis of the church reflect this focus in God's Word. While this is an admirable commitment many times we promote the message without engaging the community that the Gospel of Christ established. Others in the church are committed to community, "doing life together", while having only a passing interest in a sound Gospel message. Too often that interest is only piqued when it intersects with our desire to emphasize relationships. And while this desire for community lived out in compassion and service is beautiful it can never replace the true source of hope and salvation that the Gospel provides.
We cannot be sucked into the trap of choosing one over the other. Steve Timmis rightly describes the challenge that we face:
Evangelicals are called to a dual fidelity: faithfulness to the gospel word and faithfulness to the gospel community. The gospel word creates the gospel community; the gospel community displays and declares the gospel word. In the contemporary scene, people and movements tend towards polarization on this issue. It's often those who are solid on the gospel word who are flabby on gospel community. Likewise, those who elevate community tend to downplay the word.
The beauty of a gospel community is realized when both elements are equally vibrant in our lives as we participate in our local church as an expression of the universal church. It is then that the church becomes an instrument of of salvation, a beacon of truth, a tool of reconciliation and an expression of compassion into the lives of the needy and hurting.