Book Review: The Compelling Community by Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop
The Compelling Community: Where God's Power Makes a Church Attractive
by Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop
A recommended resource for "You Are... a series in Christian Basics"
Review by Bob DeLateur
Community. Here is a word that evokes all kinds of responses in our modern world. In a post-modern, relativistic, and increasingly fractured society, community seems to be a rare commodity. Yet all people seek to find community somewhere. Simple observation shows that we all desire a place where people share similar values to us. As long as humans long for comfort, security, stability, and relational connection, they will seek community. To seek community is to be human.
The Church is the place where the people of God who have been transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ find the shared value of knowing, loving, and worshiping Jesus Christ. The church is a community. But it is drastically different than the natural communities of our society. The book, The Compelling Community, makes the argument that church is a supernatural community that can only be explained by the power of the Gospel. How is it supernatural? The people who consist in the church have been transformed by a supernatural forgiveness in the Gospel, a forgiveness that has erased the sin debt we owe a righteous and holy God who created us. This forgiveness reconciles our relationship with God and then gives us the ability to love other Christians who have been transformed as well. The bi-product of this is that the Christian community is a place where vastly diverse people love one another with a supernatural Christ-like love. So the simple, yet profound words in 1 John 4:19 ring with great veracity, “We love because he first loved us.”
But unfortunately, many times in the Church we employ strategies for building community that are built on the premises of the natural world. Concepts like shared hobbies, interests, age, and life experiences become not only our catalysts for building community but also our defaults for sustaining community in the church. When we rely on these things to manufacture and sustain our community in the church, we strip what is supernatural about our community. As Ephesians 2-3 explains, the church is to be a place where the wisdom of God is made known, a wisdom that is not reliant upon human wisdom, but is supernatural. The Gospel is what fosters the supernatural work of God in church community because it not only breaks the barriers between God and man, but also between man and man. As church is guided by this Gospel and the whole council of God, it strengthens the bonds of community in a way that is unexplainable to a natural world or supernatural.
The Compelling Community explains that the church is a community that is both deep, in the sense that it fosters loving, sacrificial commitment from its members, and wide, in the sense that it unifies members who have a broad diversity of ethnicity, culture, and sub-culture. The book also gives great biblical wisdom in how to foster this community through the multi-tiered ministry of the Word (Ephesians 4:11-16), prayer and discipleship relationships throughout the body. As the church community matures, it needs to be protected from discontentment and sin throughout its members. The book wisely points us to Scriptures that instruct how God is wise in how he instructs the church to handle these potential hazards (i.e. Matthew 18:15-20). Finally, we are left in awe at that powerful witness of the church as it is called to make disciples through evangelism that is not only personal but corporate. Evangelism is best done while showing the lost world a Gospel transformed community. As Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
If you are interested in a Gospel-centered, theologically grounded, awe inspiring, challenging and encouraging view of the church that is also extremely practical and wise, please read this book!