Steve Timmis on communities of grace

Here are my notes on Steve’s second talk at the Dwell London conference. (Dwell London was co-hosted by the Porterbrook Network and the Acts 29 Network with around 200 church planters or aspiring church planters.) Remember they are my notes so they may not be a true reflection of what he said.

In the 1960s Dr Bruce Tuckman, Professor of Educational Psychology at Ohio State University,  identified four now widely recognised phases of group development: forming, storming, norming and performing.

You can avoid some of the problems and trauma of the storming and norming phases by building in the dynamic of grace at the forming phase. Make grace the DNA of your church plant. That’s what Paul is trying to do in 1 Timothy.

1. The need of a stand out godliness (3:1-14)

The false teachers in Ephesus were trying to lead people away from the gospel of grace. There was a strong Jewish element in their heresy (with a focus on the Law of Moses). It was also a world-denying philosophy. In other words, it was a law-based, performance-related ethic of works. Therefore, by definition, it was bad news.

So one of Paul’s strategies is to appoint people who have real-life, street-level, tangible holiness.

There’s no mention of charisma. Paul is interested godliness in the mundane. They should know how to manage their budgets, husband their wives, father their children, master their emotions. Godliness gets played out in the kitchen, workplace, bedroom. This is grace with clothes on.

Consider the requirement of hospitality. It is literally ‘love of strangers’ (2). This is not inviting friends to dinner parties. This means inviting strangers, difficult people, messy people.

We are to be the neighbours that everyone wants to have as neighbours.

2. The means of a stand out godliness (3:16)

The false teachers were offering specialist knowledge to the privileged few. Paul uses two of their code words: ‘mystery’ and ‘godliness’. But Paul’s mystery was a mystery no more. It was as if Paul was lowering his voice, inviting them in, offering them a mystery and then shouting ‘Jesus’ at them very loudly. ‘Godliness’ for the false teachers a series of regulations. But gospel godliness is all about relationships – loving God and others.

Much ink has been spilt on the hymn of 3:16, but one thing is clear: It’s all about Jesus. This godliness, this true godliness, is great because it is not about me and my achievements. It’s all about Jesus. I’m not there in 3:16.

3. The place where it all comes together (3:15)

‘Support’. The church keeps the truth steady in stormy times. In other words, 3:16 is the truth we sing in times of change. We sing this in any generation to every generation.

‘Pillar’. In Ephesus was the temple of Diana with 18-metre high pillars upholding a marble roof for all to see. It was one of the great wonders of the world. But here in Ephesus, it is the little household churches who elevate the truth for all to see. We elevate the truth so that other are drawn to it. And that truth is the gospel of grace. We are to litter to the world with communities of grace: not with lighthouses on the edge of town, but hundreds of communities that mean the light penetrates into the back streets. If we are people of grace then we will place communities of grace.

Ten years after first formulating his four stages of group development Dr Tuckman added a fifth: adjourning. This is important for church planting. We need to be church plants who plant churches. So we are regularly beginning again.


5 thoughts on “Steve Timmis on communities of grace

  1. Tim, I don’t know if it’s appropriate to ask, but my understanding of Driscoll’s ecclesiology is that it has no room for house church models, and I suspect that is reflected in the Acts 29 network.

    Is there discussion on this topic at the conference? Is it an issue or is it a total non-issue?

  2. It’s true Driscoll is pursuing a different mo del of church (albeit with a common commitment to be missional). But there are Acts 29 churches in which the focus is on house-based missional communities. Acts 29 are very warm towards us and we are looking at greater level of partnership.

  3. Tim, thanks for posting these, I forgot a pen to the conference (idiot that I am) and so was eagerly waiting other people’s notes or the mp3 files. Also, unless I really misheard Steve, your notes should probably not read “father their wives”.

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