TITLE: Rebirth of the Church, The: Applying Paul's Vision for Ministry in Our Post-Christian World
AUTHOR: Eddie Gibbs
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013, (272 pages).
Gibbs begins with a no-holds-barred criticisms of the post-modern Church, calling them fragmented, reductionistic, and largely reflective of the culture around them, instead of being an influencer or them. He looks at the collapse of civil societies through the ages, and laments the similar plight of the Church at large. The few shining spots of Christianity are increasingly being threatened by postmodern influences like pluralism, secularism, relativism, and of course, acts of terrorism that create a negative backlash against any religion. A response is needed. So Gibbs relooks at the Early Church, eager to learn on the one hand, but also cautious about the different contexts involved. This is something that the Apostle Paul did. Although there were population centers throughout the Roman Empire at that time, what we learn is that instead of strategizing on the different approaches to the different cities, Paul was primarily led by the Holy Spirit. Gibbs then looks at the cultural backgrounds and the lifestyles of the people in the first century, noticing the rise of institutional power; increasing crowdedness and busyness; households the building blocks of society then. In terms of understanding and applying the idea of "oikos" (housing) then, Gibbs notes how the house meetings flourished then, and how many modern churches adopt that same idea into their home-based meetings like small groups. The difference is that first century "oikos" is more about bonding, obligatory protection, and subordination to authority; while our modern home meetings are more about independent lives coming and meeting together on the basis of convenience and independence, instead of community and co-dependence. In terms of the locations of Paul's ministry, Gibbs notes that while the population centers at Galatia, Ephesus, Philistia, Corinth, Rome, and many others are large, our modern cities are even larger. This is one reason why modern churches need to design their missional strategies from the ground up, instead of simply transplanting what Paul had done to our complex world. Three challenges need to be considered:
- The richness and treasure the gospel itself is and how to share this message;
- Our culture's historical and social baggage;
- Various economic and political powers that world-class cities exert on its citizens as well as outside.