There is a summary of the gospel message which runs like this: ‘God made you to know him, but your sin cuts you off from God. God sent his Son to die in your place and reconcile you to God. Now you can know God and look forward to being with him after death.’ It is the story of an individual out of relationship with God brought back into relationship with God. This version of the story is true. But it is not the whole truth. At the heart of the Bible story is the story of a community. The foundation of missional church is an understanding of the Bible story. The Bible is the story of God saving not individuals, but a people, a community, a new humanity. The Christian community is not an add-on. It is integral to the gospel.
Creation We are made in the image of the communal God as relational beings to live in community. (Genesis 1:26-27)
Fall Our rebellion creates conflict both between us and God and between one another.
Abraham The promise to Abraham is ‘the gospel announced in advance’ (Galatians 3:8), setting the agenda for the while Bible story and at its heart is God’s promise of a people (Genesis 12:1-3).
Exodus Because of his promise to Abraham, God sets his people free to know him. Through Moses he says: ‘I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God’ (Exodus 6:7). God lives among his people (the pillars of cloud and fire and the tabernacle), but the people keep their distance and offers sacrifices because of their sin and God’s holiness.
Israel ‘The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy’ (1 Kings 4:20; see Genesis 22:17; 32:12). But the people turn from God and the nation divides.
Prophecy God promises a new people: ‘I will be their God, and they will be my people’ (Jeremiah 31:31). He promises a faithful remnant (Zechariah 13:7-9).
Jesus Jesus is God with us (Matthew 1:23; John 1:18; Colossians 2:9-10). But he is also the faithful people of God, the true vine who bears fruit for God (Isaiah 5:1-7; John 15:1).
The church In Christ we are God’s faithful people and the true children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7, 27). The cross reconciles us to God (Mark 15:38) and to one another (Ephesians 2:11-3:13). Christ did not die for ad hoc individuals, but for his people, his bride (Ephesians 5:25-27).
New creation ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God …’ (Revelation 21:1-4)
The individualistic version of the gospel makes the church a useful help to individual Christians, but not an identity. But community is central to the Bible story. People are invited to not simply to an individual relationship with God (though that is one implication), but to become part of the new people of God, the bride of Christ. You become a Christian when by faith you become part of the people for whom Christ died.