As we prepare to begin a new series of devotional thoughts in a couple of weeks, we are going to do sometime a little different. For the next two issues we will be telling you about some books by our Missional Wisdom leaders that will be published soon.

Together: Community as a Means of Grace
Larry Duggins

Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to travel to a number of cities to meet with people who are interested in repurposing a church building to be used to connect with the neighborhood in new ways. I have seen big church buildings and small church buildings, old church buildings and new church buildings, and urban church buildings and suburban church buildings. We walk though the spaces and through the neighborhoods, identifying strengths and weaknesses and dreaming about ways to connect the people.

Almost inevitably, as we sit down to process what we have seen, someone will say that the building is empty six days a week, and that people simply do not gather there as they once did. That leads to a discussion of what really defines a church, and why people gather today. Those questions led me to write Together: Community as a Means of Grace, a new book coming soon through Cascade Press.

Together examines the concept of community as an avenue to a deeper relationship with God. Many Christian churches have been suspicious of forms of gathering that fall outside of the traditional norms of Sunday worship, Christian education, and church-based fellowship. Together addresses that uncertainty by developing a theological stance grounded in the nature of God as Trinity. Using an ecumenical Wesleyan approach, I explore the idea that the concept of “God as community” flows into the understanding of “humanity created in the image of God” to conclude that bringing people together in almost any setting allows people to grow in God’s image by providing a way for God’s grace to flow into their lives. I frame this idea using the historical concept of the “means of grace:” the ordinary ways in which people encounter God.

Together then shifts to an examination of examples of non-traditional forms of Christian community that act as means of grace. I draw heavily on the work of the Missional Wisdom Foundation, beginning with a reflection on the community building aspects of traditional church. In Part Two, I use storytelling to introduce four common forms of community: community through work, community through food, community through children’s schools and activities, and community through shared recreational activities.

Together is intended to help Christian people embrace the freedom to experiment with alternative forms of Christian community. By providing a strong theological framework and examples of successful community formation, I hope to nudge the missional imagination of people who long for spiritual connection and growth, but for whom traditional church is not the answer. Using a yes/and approach, I conclude that traditional church can empower and stand alongside new forms of community, each of which can act as a means of grace.

Together: Community as a Means of Grace is the first of several new books which will flow out of the Missional Wisdom Foundation in 2017.