Yesterday I posted the first part of an answer to the question many people have asked me (and the question I’ve, in turn, asked many other people: What Is The Gospel Coalition? In that article I answered a few of the what, where and why questions. Today I want to discuss how you and I can be involved in it.
Important to the ethos of The Gospel Coalition are the differences between an organization and a movement. The leadership of TGC wants it to be both. It is an organization in that it has leadership (through D.A. Carson, Tim Keller and the Council Members), in that it has charitable status, foundation documents and the like. The organization is important to provide structure and to provide a common vision. But primarily, TGC is (or its leaders hope it will become) a movement. Tim Keller says that a movement depends upon unity around a vision for the future that is carried on by those with shared beliefs. And he says that a movement depends on a level of grassroots spontaneity. There needs to be some control over the shared vision and belief and this, of course, is the job of the organization. But within that bit of structure comes great freedom and great ability for spontaneity.
The Gospel Coalition exists to create a network of like-minded believers who are committed to the gospel and are committed to working with other believers to further the gospel. One person compared TGC to a magnet that passes over iron filings in a box of sand, grabbing the filings and binding them together. Through networking, both online and offline, TGC hopes to find pockets of Christians who are committed to the gospel and to bring them together for that gospel, for missions, to change lives. Though such networking can happen through traditional means and undoubtedly will continue to happen through traditional means, TGC has launched a social media site, The Gospel Coalition Network, that they hope will serve as a means of bringing Christians together based on geography and common interest. If you are unfamiliar with the term “social media,” think of Facebook or MySpace or the like. It is software that fosters relationships and connections.
As networks grow, so too will opportunities for these like-minded Christians to work together in their regions or for their common interests. So as a network grows in the Greater Toronto Area (to use just one example), members, many of whom may never have met each other before finding one another through The Gospel Coalition Network, can begin to meet to discuss concerns common to Toronto or to inform one another of local events. They should be able to find many ways of working together to further the gospel. They may choose to begin a local chapter (explained below) to provide a more formal TGC presence in that area.
And so the best way for you to get a taste of The Gospel Coalition, and for you to get involved, is to begin to use that software. This software is absolutely free for anyone (men or women, pastors or laypersons, North American or European, etc). The TGC leadership is hoping that tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people will create accounts and begin to use it. As of this very moment there are 2874 people registered with many more registering every day.
There are four terms you should be familiar with as you begin to use the software and begin to get involved in TGC.
“Participants” need only fill out a few digital forms at which point they can join in the discussion. They do not have to agree with The Gospel Coalition; they do not have to be Christians. The “participants” level is for anyone wanting to engage in networking and in discussion of common themes with other people. These people can create an account and immediately begin participating in groups, discussions, and so on.
“Members” are asked to take a further step in the registration process: they are asked to read the Foundation Documents, all of which are available online–Preamble, Statement of Faith, and Theological Vision of Ministry–and signal their agreement with these documents, without mental reservation. Only members will be allowed to start new groups on the Network.
“Groups” are simply groupings of members and participants based around a common theme or common geography. Groups may be based around location (Greater Toronto Area), interest (Church History), occupation (Youth Pastors), church (First Baptist Church) and so on. Each Group has a leader who can moderate that group, determine who may be a part of it, and so on.
“Chapters” are regional centers for carrying on the work of The Gospel Coalition at local and regional levels. Already, for instance, TGC Bay Area (San Francisco) exists, and several other regional chapters are on the cusp of forming. TGC hopes and expects that such local leadership will be far more effective at the local level than a central Council can possibly be. For obvious reasons they insist that these local chapters share the vision and priorities enshrined in the Foundation Documents. They hope in due course to serve these local chapters with special web pages and the like.
Your sign-up page depends on your geographic location:
If you are interested in being involved in TGC, simply sign up and get involved. If you agree with the Foundation Documents, consider becoming a member. Find groups that interest you or, if no such group exists, create one. Find friends, find local interests, and join in the discussion. And then take the relationships offline and begin to get involved with other Christians in working together for the gospel in your region. This is not the entirety of what it means to participate in TGC, but it is the place to start.
In all of this talk about the Gospel Coalition Network, I do not want to neglect to mention all of the resources TGC offers through their web site. By visiting the thegospelcoalition.org you will find a large and fast-growing list of resources meant to serve both churches and individual Christians. You will find the theological journal themelios, information about the Christ on Campus Initiative, conference audio and video, interviews and much more. Some of the resources coming in the near future are going to be better still.
So there is your introduction to The Gospel Coalition. Feel free to ask questions and, if I can, I will answer them. If I do not know the answers, I will try to find someone who does.