This is to kick off a series on a book by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis called Total Church: a radical reshaping around gospel and community, published in 2007 by IVP.
In my view, the only really useful theology is theology that leads to ‘doxology and devotion’ – a phrase stolen from somewhere in J I Packer’s writings. In other words, it leads to a life shaped by the worship of God in every area of day to day living. One of my hopes in starting a blog is to provide a useful place for discussion and thinking about ‘real life’ theological issues that face us as we go about our daily lives at home, church, work, or wherever – and with an Irish context in focus.
What I like about Tim Chester’s many books is his concern to connect the world of theology with the everyday challenges that face Christians every week. You Can Change is a practical down to earth guide to growing in the Christian life. An upcoming book will deal with overcoming addiction to porn. But it is in his writings on the church and mission that he is probably best known. He is a leader in The Crowded House – (a network of missional church communities in Sheffield) and other missionally focused ministries.
I’ve found this book especially helpful in trying to think about missional church in an Irish context because – let’s face it – the UK cultural context is a lot nearer to Ireland than much of the USA where the vast majority of missional church writing originates. It is also refreshingly realistic and makes no claims that ‘this is how to do it’. Another thing I like is the authors’ determination to keep ‘gospel’ and ‘missional church’ together. In other words, Chester and Timmis are willing to be very radical in how to ‘do church’ in a post-Christendom context. They are also willing to deconstruct inadequate understanding of the gospel itself. But they are not willing, as some appear rather enthusiastic to be, to let ‘deconstruction’ turn into destruction – to a point where there is little clarity left on what the gospel actually is.
There is a good short foreward by Ian Coffey who describes this book as an attempt to help the church be more like the Bride of Christ and less like the Bride of Frankenstein 🙂 and so become, as Lesslie Newbigin put it, ‘the hermeneutic of the gospel’.