Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community. Wheaton, IL: Re:Lit/Crossway, 2008. 224pp. $15.99.
Tim Chester and Steve Timmis believe that the gospel is a word that works. And this word works in church community. They state clearly in the introduction to Total Church that these two principles, gospel and community, must shape the way we “do church” (15).
Total Church‘s dual message of gospel and community addresses two major audiences. On the one hand, there is conservative evangelicalism, which places “a proper emphasis on the gospel or on the word” (16). On the other hand are proponents of the so-called emerging church, who “emphasize the importance of community” (16). Both groups suspect the other is weak where it is strong:
Conservatives worry that the emerging church is soft on truth, too influenced by postmodernism. The emerging church accuses traditional churches of being too institutional, too program-oriented, often loveless and sometimes harsh (16).
Chester and Timmis are clear that there is a need for change on both sides. They agree with the emerging church that conservatives often do not ‘do truth’ well because they neglect community: “Because people are not sharing their lives, truth is not applied and lived out” (17) They also agree with conservatives that emerging churches “can sometimes be bad at community because they neglect the truth” (17)
The result of this dual critique is a volume dedicated to understanding how both the truth of the gospel and the life of church community intersect in all of ministry–and all of life. Total Church has two major sections: (1) Gospel and Community in Principle, Chapters 1-2, and (2) Gospel and Community in Practice, Chapters 3-13.
Part 1, Gospel and Community in Principle.
The Gospel. For Chester and Timmis, being gospel-centered means being both word-centered, “because the gospel is a word–the gospel is news, a message,” and mission-centered, “because the gospel is a word to be proclaimed–the gospel is good news, a missionary message” (16): Continue Reading…