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Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community (Re: Lit Books) Kindle Edition
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"Challenging, passionate and insightful. Here is a vision of a whole-life, whole-mission 'Total Church' that embraces both gospel and community."
―Chris Stoddard, Director, Reaching The Unchurched Network
"Here is radical, punchy teaching that provokes, stimulates, challenges, and inspires."
―Vaughan Roberts, Rector, 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 faculty member of Crosslands and a pastor with Grace Church, Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire. He is an author or coauthor of over forty books, including A Meal with Jesus; Reforming Joy; and, with Michael Reeves, Why the Reformation Still Matters.
Steve Timmis (MA, University of Sheffield) is the executive director of Acts 29 and lead pastor at the Crowded House in Sheffield, United Kingdom. He is the author or coauthor of several books. Steve and his wife, Janet, have four adult children and multiple grandchildren.--This text refers to the paperback edition.
- ASIN : B00IFG1TJW
- Publisher : Crossway; Illustrated edition (August 21, 2008)
- Publication date : August 21, 2008
- Language: : English
- File size : 1276 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 226 pages
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #310,540 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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"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). These assertions are fleshed out with close, but non-technical, attention to the text of Scripture, and real-life stories that show how the principles work out in practice. In fact, two of the strengths of this book are the pervasive use of Scripture and the multiple stories and examples of application. Chapter 2, "Why Community?" argues that "The Christian community is central to Christian Identity" (p. 39) and "Christian mission" (p. 47).
II. Part Two of the book focuses on "Gospel and Community in Practice," by applying the principles of part one (being word-centered, mission-centered, and community-centered) to the following areas:
*Evangelism (chapter 3)
*Social Involvement (4)
*Church Planting (5)
*World Mission (6)
*Discipleship and Training (7)
*Pastoral Care (8)
*Children and Young People (12)
There are too many helpful insights from these chapters to share in a brief review. But here are some examples from the chapter on evangelism. The authors argue that there are "three strands of evangelism" (1) building relationships, (2) introducing people to community, and (3) sharing the gospel (p. 60-61). Their approach is holistic, relational, and driven by genuine concern for both the gospel and people. You won't find gimmicks or techniques here. In their words, "most gospel ministry involves ordinary people doing ordinary things with gospel intentionality" (p. 63).
Evangelism is to be a community project, which means that "our different gifts and personalities can complement one another. Some people are good at building relationships with new people. Some are socialites - the ones who will organize a trip or an activity. Some people are great at hospitality. Some are good at initiating gospel conversations. Some are good at confronting heart issues" (p. 62). A team approach combines the various gifts, which helps counter the guilt and despondency so many people feel when thinking about evangelism. "By making evangelism a community project, [we] take seriously the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit . . . Everyone has a part to play - the new Christian, the introvert, the extrovert, the eloquent, the stuttering, the intelligent, the awkward. I may be the one who has begun to build a relationship with my neighbor, but in introducing him to community, it is someone else who shares the gospel with him. That is not only legitimate - it is positively thrilling!" (p. 62).
As you can see, this approach focuses on all three priorities: the word, mission, and community. This is how the authors approach each of the eleven topics listed above.
I can hardly recommend this book highly enough. I will be sharing it with my staff, elders, and other church leaders (I'm a pastor). I'll also be talking about this book with friends, exploring how to apply it in our congregational life, and referencing it often. If you want a fresh approach to church and mission that doesn't lose sight of the gospel and isn't just a plug-n-play program, get this book. You'll be glad you did.
On a different note, I would like to point out a recurring error that distracted me until I figured out what was going on. (I have the Kindle edition of the book so it may not be relevant to those who have the print edition.) The recurring error is that the word "first" has been consistently replaced by the word "Initial". I would like to see this error corrected.
Daniel G McKenney
The key to the entire book is the idea of Gospel witness and Gospel community. There can be no genuine Christian community unless the Gospel word is the central authority, a community where the Bible is taught as authoritative. The community of believers is likewise vital to living out the Gospel witness to the world. The key is that a Gospel community is more than a couple of weekly meetings where Christians come from all around to pick up their religious fix for the week and then go about their lives. It is a whole life commitment. Scattered throughout the book are examples of people involved in a ministry called The Crowded House and they are a mix bag of people who minister in various ways. None of them as I recall are professional ministers but many of them have made substantial lifestyle changes to be able to spend more time in ministry (several work at secular jobs part-time so they can minister more often). The disconnect between Gospel and community is crippling the church and Her witness and urgently needs to be addressed.
I also appreciated the perspective. This is the second book in a row I have read on the church written by Christians in the U.K. and it strikes me as a "sneak peek" of what we might see happening here in the near future. How do we minister in America when Christianity is no longer the default, when it is not nearly as cultural accepted, when being a Christian is not assumed? This book answers some of those questions.
The chapter titled "Success" was worth the price of the book by itself and really gets at the core of what is wrong with so much of the Western church. When I read the section regarding Ephesians 4: 11-16 calling on leaders to equip others for ministry, I almost leapt out of my chair to cheer! Elsewhere in the chapter they dealt with the erroneous notions of success in the church. We equate large congregations with success. Growth is internal, big churches get bigger. Total Church suggests that the better model is growth through replication, instead of building bigger and bigger churches the church grows by planting more churches. A lot of what appears in this chapter is going to rub people the wrong way because it bumps up against their traditions but perhaps it will also shake some people up.
Chester and Timmis "get it" when it comes to ministry. Not perfectly for sure but there was very little I had a problem with in the book. My only concern is in application, because it seems that we have a long way to go before we can get to this model of ministry. I do think that the collapse of institutional Christianity has a silver lining in that as the forms and structures that stifle ministry collapse it will free Christians up to form Gospel centered communities that will be a witness to the world. It might just be that the paradigm shift we are seeing in Western Christianity, lamented by so many, is actually going to the be the healthiest thing to happen to the church since the Reformation.
Top reviews from other countries
Some churches, they say, typified (or you might say stereotypified) by larger conservative evangelical churches, have been strong on truth but weak on community. Others (typified by recent 'emerging church' trends) have been strong on creating community, but weak on teaching truth.
But, the book pleads, the bible insists that truth will only really engage society when it is lived out in community as God intended. As Jesus said at the Last Supper: "By this will everyone know that you are my disciples: if you love each other." So the churches that think they 'do truth' well may not actually be using it in a way that bites effectively. Likewise, 'community' will have little real transforming effect unless it is a community where people are constantly discussing and living out God's message, as in Deuteronomy 6: "Teach these words to your children...talk about them at home and on the road..." So the churches which count themselves 'strong on community' may not actually be creating much in the way of genuine, effective Christian community.
The first part of the book develops these principles more fully; the second part seeks to apply them to subjects such as evangelism, church planting, pastoral care, theology, apologetics, and children & young people. These applications are strongly based on the authors' experience in leading The Crowded House church network which has spread out from Sheffield over recent years.
There is much stinging wisdom in these pages. They critique the 'compartmentalised' nature of modern western life (work time / family time/ leisure time) and the way that for many "God time" has become just another compartment. They critique the way churches can easily move from 'mission mode' to 'maintenance mode'; the problem of professionalism and a purely middle-class leadership culture; and of thinking that being sermon-centred makes a church Word-centred. They talk about how we must teach a morality of positives as well as a morality of negatives. There is a great analysis of youthwork which will make you think hard over the conventional wisdom that entertaining meetings and a peer group are what's most important for teenagers. There is plea that the traditional 'spiritual disciplines' of contemplation, silence and solitude are barely biblical. Instead we should seek the converse spiritual disciplines of scripture meditation, petition to God, and community.
So, there is much good and much that made me think.
My main criticism of the book would be that the authors are unduly scathing of (1) larger churches, and (2) the idea of an 'established' church (such as the Church of England). The latter never gets a mention as being a context in which any serious missioner would be operating. And the former really get sharp shrift. Though the authors several times say that, of course, large churches are not necessarily bloated and ineffective, this comes across simply as a concession to the general rule that they will be. And that ignores the way many larger evangelical churches have recently been effective in building gospel through truth and community, along the lines of Rick Warren's dictum that 'the church must always be growing larger and smaller' ('larger' through celebrations, and 'smaller' through cell groups). This is a shame; because as far as I can see the 'gospel=church+community' thesis has nothing as a matter of principle which excludes either larger congregations or an established church.
The authors clearly have a particular view of the relationship between church and state, and are surely too dismissive of other approaches. It is assumed (p100) that 'so-called evangelical groups' who 'campaign to defend Christian influence in state education or a distinctly Christian coronation oath' have fallen into the trap of thinking that 'the cause of Christ...should be pursued through political means' and of seeking to extend Christ's kingdom 'through the sword...rather than through the word'. This is naive, simplistic, and unfair to others who sincerely, biblically and fruitfully hold a slightly different view.
To that extent the authors have perhaps been just slightly blinkered by their own experiences and context. And, along those lines, finally, I would be fascinated to know if they would write any of this differently, in the light of 5 further years' experience of leading The Crowded House (the book was published in 2007). For example, having read a paragraph in which they are fairly dismissive of 'a 45 minute monologue delivered from a pulpit', saying that 'there is little New Testament evidence for the sermon as we understand it today' (p112), I was interested to find on The Crowded House website a recent Sunday talk from one of the authors lasting around...45 minutes!
Their more recent book Everyday Church has already gone on my wish list.