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Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community (Re: Lit Books) Paperback – August 21, 2008
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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 pastor of Grace Church, Boroughbridge, and curriculum director of the Acts 29-Oak Hill Academy, which provides integrated theological and missional training for church leaders. He is the coauthor of Total Church and is the author of over thirty books, including You Can Change, A Meal with Jesus, and Good News to the Poor.
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.
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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.
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.