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Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community (Re:Lit) Paperback – August 21, 2008

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Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community (Re:Lit) + Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission (Re:Lit) + A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table (Re:Lit)
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Product Details

  • Series: Re:Lit
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway (August 21, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1433502089
  • ISBN-13: 978-1433502088
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"In an age of ambiguity and apathy for the church, Total Church accurately and insightfully identifies the local church as a gospel community on mission with Jesus."
Mark Driscoll, Founding Pastor, Mars Hill Church, Seattle Washington; Founder, Resurgence; Co-founder, Acts 29; author, Death by Love  

"Challenging, passionate and insightful. Here is a vision of a whole-life, whole-mission 'Total Church' that embraces both gospel and community."
Chris Stoddart, Director, Reaching The Unchurched Network

"Here is radical, punchy teaching that provokes, stimulates, challenges, and inspires."
Vaughan Roberts, Rector of St Ebbe’s, Oxford, England; Director, The Proclamation Trust; author, God's Big Picture

"Total Church digs deep and provides a solid biblical foundation for what it advocates. The argument of the book is very compelling and at the same time very practical."
David W. Jones, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, Coordinator of ThM and Thesis Studies, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; author, Reforming the Morality of Usury

"Written not by armchair experts but by hands-on practitioners, Total Church explores what it means in practice to be both gospel-centered and community-centered. This would be an excellent book to give to your leaders, and to the wider church membership, to provoke discussion and prompt change."
Peter J. Grainger, Senior Minister, Charlotte Chapel, Edinburgh

"Reformed theology and new ways of being church are often regarded as incompatible notions. In this book Tim Chester and Steve Timmis aim to bring the two together in a way that they believe will help church leaders identify ways of relating a conservative theology to the culture, without compromising dearly held principles."
John Drane, Freelance Consultant to churches in the UK; Professor of Practical Theology, Fuller Seminary, California

About the Author

Tim Chester (PhD, University of Wales) is a pastor with the Crowded House in Sheffield, UK, and director of the Porterbrook Seminary, which provides integrated theological and missional training for church leaders. He is the coauthor (with Steve Timmis) of Total Church and is the author of over twenty books, including You Can ChangeA Meal with Jesus, and Good News to the Poor.

Steve Timmis is the executive director of Acts 29 and lead pastor in the Crowded House in the UK. He is the author of Gospel-Centred Leadership and I Wish Jesus Hadn’t Said That, and the co-author (with Tim Chester) of Total Church.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Read the book slow and soak it in.
Cody R. Dougless
Chester and Timmis' articulation of how the gospel can and should shape our life together has changed me, for the good.
C. Thomas
If I were a pastor, I would make this book mandatory reading for the leaders of the church.
Drew Miles

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Brian G Hedges on October 16, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Total Church is one of the best books I've read in a long time and may be THE best books I've read on church. As the subtitle suggests, the authors argue that church is to be radically reshaped around gospel and community. They argue for three things:

"Christian practice must be (1) gospel-centered in the sense of being word-centered, (2) gospel-centered in the sense of being mission-centered, and (3) community-centered." (p. 16)

The authors immediately nail their colors to the mast, distinguishing their perspective from both conservative evangelicals and the emerging church. With emerging church, they agree that conservatives are often bad at community. But with conservatives, they agree that the emerging church is sometimes soft on truth. This book proposes an alternative to both, churches that are both gospel-centered (with both a word-centered focus and a missional focus) and community-centered.

"Rigorously applying these principles has the potential to lead to some fundamental and thoroughgoing changes in the way we do church," warn the authors (p. 18). This is no entrenched defense of traditional church structures or practices. I found the book stimulating, eye-opening, paradigm-shifting, and sometimes personally-threatening.

Total Church is divided into two parts.

I. Part one is on "Gospel and Community in Principle" and argues for each in turn. Chapter one, "Why Gospel?" discusses both word and mission. "Christianity must be word-centered," the authors argue, because "God rules through his gospel word" (p. 24) and "mission-centered because God extends his rule through his gospel word" (p. 28).
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By C. Thomas on September 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
There are many people today who are talking about the major shifts that are occurring in culture and in the church in the West. Many are speaking of the return to a mission-centered approach to the Christian life. The problem is that many (myself included) tend to get bogged down in the talking and thinking phase.

Tim Chester and Steve Timmis live in the UK, which, culturally speaking, is further down the road of secularization than we are in America, but not by much. It's therefore very helpful to learn from them, as they have had more time to work out the implications of what this means for church life. What they've found is that we need to retool our conceptions of what it means to be the church, and once again learn to live deeply as the body of Christ in our local communities.

In Total Church Chester and Timmis propose that the two core components of church life are the gospel and community. They winsomely and compellingly show that the major responsibilities of the church, i.e. evangelism, discipleship, mercy ministry, pastoral care, etc. are all meant to be accomplished in community, specifically communities of Christians that commit themselves to living under the gospel together. So, for example, in the case of pastoral care--when a person is struggling with fear or anxiety the first place they should go is not to a professional, but to their community, where they can be reminded of the truth that they are secure in Christ and can find their rest in him.
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Trevin Wax on November 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
Total Church is a book born out of longing: If only there were a different way of doing church!

Authors Tim Chester and Steve Timmis seek to orient the Church around two main principles: gospel and community. The content of our message is the gospel. The context of our message is the Christian community.

Being gospel-centered means we will be word-centered and mission-centered. This book directly challenges the voices of some in the Emerging Church who downplay the Word in favor of community. But Total Church also challenges the traditional's church's failure to produce authentic community under the guise of "biblical faithfulness."

The authors chose Total Church as the title in order to stress that church is not a place we go. Church is an identity that shapes our whole lives. Our life and mission must become "total church." (18)

The book begins with the principles of gospel and community. I am glad the authors do not collapse these two principles into one. They rightly see the gospel as a proclamation. "The gospel is good news. It is a word to be proclaimed. You cannot be committed to the gospel without being committed to proclaiming that gospel."

Reshaping the church around gospel and community leads to a rethinking of all aspects of church life.

Evangelism? The centrality of the gospel word as proclamation is combined with the importance of the Christian community living with gospel-intentionality.

Social involvement? Loving the poor means we will not only help them with physical needs but proclaim to them the gospel of salvation. The church is not to focus on being a respectable club for the upper class. We form a community that believes all worldly divisions are nullified at the foot of the cross.
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