Do we need another book about the church? I searched Amazon and found over 400,000 books on the church. And, here’s one more. That’s what I was thinking when I followed the suggestion of a friend and bought this book, Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around the Gospel and Community, by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. After just a few pages I was captivated, in part, because I agree with one of their key principles: the Gospel isn’t just about saving individuals, but about creating a new humanity.
In this book I found a fresh new approach to thinking about church. The authors focus their discussion on two key principles they believe shape and define the meaning of church: Gospel and community. The discussion is divided into two parts. The first section of the book focuses on the Gospel and community in principle, and the second section on the Gospel and community in practice.
I was a little disappointed however, to find the lion’s share of their attention was on the practice of Gospel and community. Honestly, I prefer the theoretical and theological -but that’s me. Church planters and pastors will find the practice section to be most helpful. Although there is not a lot new, innovative material, by making Gospel and community the metric for everything else, the authors make a valuable contribution to the contemporary discussion on the nature of the Church.
I found this book to be a refreshing new approach to “being church.” It makes sense to me to build everything on the message of the Gospel and relationships within the community of faith. They strike a balance between the Gospel word and the Gospel community. I also appreciate the authors’ love and respect for the local church. As they say, “The church … is not something additional or optional. It is at the very heart of God’s purposes. Jesus came to create a people who would model what it means to live under his rule . . . This is where the world can see what it means to be truly human.” (p.50)
In Part II of the book, the authors “flesh out” in practical applications what it means to be Gospel-centered and community-centered. As I noted earlier, this section gets the majority of their attention. It is obvious the authors practice what they write about by referring to example after example of evangelism, social involvement, spirituality and pastoral care in their own church. Yet, they do no tell their stories to entice the reader to repeat what they did. They specifically state that the book is NOT a collection of ideas or methods about how to “do” church. They simply show how they are living out the principles of Gospel word and Gospel community in the context of their own church, the Crowded House.
While I didn’t agree with every conclusion and application, I found the authors’ approach to be challenging and inspiring. It made me examine how I am living out the Gospel message in my own community of faith. It helped me to focus more on “church identity” rather than “church activity.” And, that identity is found in the “word of the Gospel” we proclaim, and the community created by the proclamation of the Gospel.
Publisher: Crossway Books