Total Church 2

Beginning discussion of Chester and Timmis Total Church: a radical reshaping around gospel and community

The Introduction is actually central to the authors’ overall argument. After starting with some stories of frustrations and questions about church life, they propose two key principles that must shape how we do church. They are (as the book title suggests) GOSPEL and COMMUNITY. Christian identity is shaped by these two things: one the content of what we believe; the other the communal context for living out that belief.

GOSPEL: All that Christians do should be defined by the gospel. This means that the Christian life must be ‘word-centred’ since the gospel is a word or message. It also means that the Christian life must be ‘mission centred’ since the gospel is a missionary word to be shared.

COMMUNITY: for truth to be done well, we need authentic community that embodies and enfleshes that truth (my words).

Chester and Timmis want to hold both of these together. They note that some emerging churches seem to prioritise community and go soft on truth. Many conservatives are strong on truth but fail to live it out well in community. This book is an attempt to be enthusiastic about truth and mission, AND enthusiastic about community and relationships.

To hold these things together in practice will, they argue, likely lead to some fundamental shifts in how we do church. The title Total Church is about seeing church as our identity in Christ, not an organisation we join or a place we attend. The goal of the book is not just a collection of useful practical ideas for doing church better, but exploring the implications of making gospel and community the central organising principles for church life and practice.

Part 1 unpacks the theology behind Gospel and Community (chapters 1-2).

Part 2 then looks at implications for church life (chapters 3-13)

How do you see church? A place to go to on a Sunday? A life in community to be lived out every day? Or something else? What is church actually for?

3 thoughts on “Total Church 2

  1. BIG questions yet again Patrick!

    Her’s my favourite revamped version of Eddie Gibbs definition of ‘Church’:

    “An organic miracle of human diversity that exists visibly and invisibly, expressed locally and universally in a unity of purpose – the gospel”

    What is it for?

    Many reasons, I’d say, yet primarily, and ultimately, the Church is for glorifying God, together, as a group of cracked Eikons (thanks Scot McKnight/Augustine) who are also (paradoxically) redeemed, regenerated, set-free, and being made Holy. Their primary function, arguably, being worship (a natural expression of adoration) – in many forms – to Yahweh.

  2. All i have learnt about community over the last few years has excited and depressed me. Excited cause when ive experienced it, i,ve tasted heaven and known how powerful it is to change me and others for good. Depressed because ive mostly seen it work in artifical settings that have little to do with the man or woman who works has a family and gets to go to church and maybe one other church related thing a week. The community that i see held up in christian cirlces seems to suit singles, those without kids and those in ministry but for the rest of us.. We live lives apart from other christians and our can we put in the hours needed to foster community?

  3. I like that Norm. Great themes. I’d want to add in something on shaping church life in light of God’s redemptive purposes for the world.

    It would be a fascinating bit of research into Irish evangelicals to do a survey of the answers to that simple question of what is church for?.

    ICFMT (if I can abbreviate :)) – I’m with you. Modern life means that investing in community costs. If relationships are at the heart of church life AND at the heart of mission, I wonder as well how we can prioritise this. Maybe looking at what we don’t do to make more realistic space for community.

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