According to the authors Michael Moynagh & Michael Adam Beck, their new book The 21st Century Christian is a guide to following Jesus in a 21st century way. As readers, we’re asked to ‘reimagine the Christian life and become a little Christ in everyday life.’
So what is this book all about? In a nutshell, the authors consider how we can live as authentic disciples of Jesus in our contemporary world, looking for new and exciting ways to grow Christian Communities as we do so. They begin by describing what they believe to be a significant problem, namely, that for many Christians today there appears to be a gap between Christian teaching and everyday life. From personal experience, I can’t disagree with this. How much of what we hear on a Sunday actually helps us to live as followers of Jesus, in the places where we live and breathe between Monday and Friday?
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Throughout my own Christian life I have often pondered what it means for me to be a disciple of Christ in my everyday life; in my family context, at work alongside those who claim no faith, in the park playing football with friends, or simply sitting in a coffee shop sipping on a flat white whilst the world passes by in front of me. As we read the gospels, it is clear that Jesus taught his disciples in the midst of everyday life, using illustrations and examples that were right before them. With this in mind, our authors argue that ‘we all need practical support where life happens or our Christian discipleship will never take off.’
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Indeed, practical support is exactly what this book is about. Described as ‘a compass, a map, some food for the journey and an intended destination,’ The 21st Century Christian is a step by step guide written for anyone who is asking themselves how they might have more impact for Jesus in the place where God has planted them. I wholeheartedly agree with Moynagh and Beck when they state that we can all be learning, growing disciples of Jesus in our everyday lives. In short, here is their six-step guide for doing just that:
1. Find a friend (or more) who has the same sense of call to make a difference for Jesus in your local community. Mission and ministry is always better when we do it with others. Together, we can pray, encourage and complement each other with the different gifts and graces that God has given us.
2. Together, prayerfully consider how you could demonstrate the love of God in simple ways to those in your community. When Christians pray together, God starts to reveal His heart to them and shows them how they might love and serve others.
3. Consider how you might deepen your relationships with the people God leads you to through your practical acts of love and service. For example, have you noticed how often we start to see the beginnings of faith community as we share food with people? This is certainly what Jesus did – and it still works today!
4. Ask God to give you the opportunities and the words to tell people about Jesus and all that He means to you, as you get to know people better. We all came to faith because someone first told us about Jesus; who might you tell today?
5. Build Christian Community amongst these people. It’s clear that for many contemporary people, the bridge between their lives, their experiences, and a traditional church setting might be a stretch too far. But that’s OK! Church happens when people who are seeking to know more about God start to meet together, pray together and share life together, and today, it is really exciting to see so many new, small churches emerging in a variety of different settings.
6. Stay connected with the wider church, so that we might truly be that ‘body of Christ’ that Paul speaks of in his letter to the Ephesian believers, and importantly – do not forget to send people out from your own community, so that they might start other Christian Communities, with other groups of people!
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Some of the examples of new Christian Communities that I’m aware of include one that started from an allotment ministry, and another that emerged out of a Foodbank, both developing when the people who gathered around these activities started to wonder and ask what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
In Manchester during lockdown, a new community has developed through online gaming, as a group of Christians wanted to explore how their mutual love of gaming and their Christian lives could be intertwined. Some other local Christians have started to meet with parents and children in an after schools club, focusing on encouraging healthy and active lifestyles.
So, here’s a question… if a new faith community was to emerge in the place where you live, and amongst the people you spend time with, what might that look like?
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The 21st Century Christian is full of accessible, practical and deeply challenging ideas, to help you as you do this. It’s a very small book, but it’s packed full of wisdom, written by authors who have learnt from many years of missionary thinking and practical application. For any follower of Jesus who doesn’t know what they should be doing to reach people with God’s love or how they should start something new, I wholeheartedly recommend this book; it has the potential to be the catalyst for many new and exciting faith communities (as Moynagh himself writes) ‘in every ordinary nook and cranny of life.’
Let’s do it!
by Anthony Clowes