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?