Book Interaction: Total Church: Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community
By Taylor Lazenby
As secularism continues to expand across the face of the globe, and the importance of God within any sphere of life continues to diminish, the church must ask the question “How do we engage an increasingly secular culture with the Gospel?” InTotal Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community, Tim Chester and Steve Timmis do just that. Tim Chester is the pastor of Grace Church Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire and a faculty member of Crosslands Training and author.Steve Timmis serves as CEO of Acts29 and lives in Sheffield, England, where he is the Senior Elder in The Crowded House, an Acts29 church. He is married to Janet. They have 4 children and 10 grandchildren. Timmis has authored or co-authored an number of books.
Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community is a great read for anyone that is looking to understand a healthy church that operates in a totally secular context. It is thoroughly biblical regarding the teachings of the church. Chester and Timmis systematically present different aspects of a healthy church and make a case for them under biblical principles while at the same time drawing out the importance of the gospel and community within each aspect.
In thinking from a perspective outside of an American church lens, the way that Chester and Timmis present the church may actually be more biblical than current models in the United States. This could be the case because of two reasons. First, the biblical model of a church in the apostolic age was most likely organic and based around house churches. Secondly, because of the organic nature of the house churches of the apostolic age the catholic (universal) church was not formally institutionalized to the level that is seen in the United States.
This book has caused me to reconsider my own appreciation of church in a secular context. As the United States continues to shift toward a secular society, having an appreciation for principles that churches in secular contexts use as avenues for Gospel impact is important. Secondly, this book helped me to redefine my own personal definition of success in a church. In the American mindset, success is numbers driven. However, what is implied within this book is that the church is more about the development of disciples than attendance. Fruitfulness is the measure of success rather than sheer metrics.
The most helpful thought within Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community came from chapter 3 on evangelism. Chester and Timmis propose a three-strand-of-rope illustration to bring life to their evangelism strategy (61). They state that evangelism has three components: building relationships, sharing the Gospel, and introducing people to community. This approach combined with “Gospel ministry being ordinary people doing ordinary things with Gospel intentionality”, evangelism can be done in such a way in everyday life as to push the mission of the church forward (63). As a whole, the American church culture, myself included, have a propensity to leave evangelism, discipleship and “church things” to the professionals rather than being a benefit to the church as a Christian who has been saved for a purpose.
Overall, Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community is an informative read, especially to learn church organization, structure, principles and mission in a secular context. It may not be the most theological in nature, but it is helpful practically.
This information can be found at Tim Chester’s website https://timchester.wordpress.com
This information can be found at Steve Timmis author page at https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/profile/steve-timmis/