On one shelf in my basement office, four potent books sit side-by-side. They were written by Howard Snyder between the mid-1970s and the early 1980s. All of them were published by IVP, where I worked from 1981 to 1985. All of them liberated me from institutional Christianity. The books are:
* The Problem of Wineskins (1975)
* The Community of the King (1977)
* The Radical Wesley (1980)
* Liberating the Church (1983)
Ironically, these four sit right next to Friedrich Schleiermacher’s The Christian Faith, which is as soft-headed and accommodating as Snyder’s books were clear-eyed and iconoclastic. Howard is a great thinker in his own right. But the contrast with Schleiermacher makes him look even better.
Tonight I was perusing phrases I had highlighted in The Community of the King. Here are a few that still jump out at me three decades later.
The genuine demonstration of Christian community is the first step toward accomplishing God’s cosmic plan. This is miracle, and miracle attracts.
The Church most transforms society when it is itself growing and being perfected in the love of Christ.
The task of the Church … and its place in God’s cosmic design is first of all genuinely to be the redeemed, messianic community, and secondly to do the works of God and carry on the works of Jesus. In truly being the community of Jesus’ disciples the Church commits itself to a pattern of corporate life and a way of relating to one another which is a rejection of, and therefore a challenge to, the social and political structures of the world. In this way the Church’s very existence becomes both prophetic and evangelistic.
Evangelism [in the book of Acts] was not merely something that individual Christians did; rather it was the natural result of the presence and influence of the Christian community in the world. The community gave credibility to the verbal proclamation.
The first task of every Christian is the edification of the community of believers. If we say that evangelism or soul winning is the first task of the believer, we do violence to the New Testament and place a burden on the backs of some believers that they are not able to bear. … [It] ignores the biblical teachings
[B]iblical evangelism must be church-based evangelism. … [T]he Church is both the agent and the goal of evangelism.
Howard’s books from that period were radical. Being intensely scriptural, they cut to the root. They liberated from false consciousness encouraged by institutional Christianity. They were--they still are--empowering.
Remember that Howard Snyder is speaking at October’s Ancient Evangelical Future conference. The theme is the church. You really ought to be there.