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Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community (RE:LIT) [Paperback]

By Tim Chester (Author) & Steve Timmis (Author)
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Item description for Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community (RE:LIT) by Tim Chester & Steve Timmis...

Overview
Two pastors outline and apply a pair of overarching biblical principles that call the current body of Christ to a deep restructuring of its life and mission.

"Church is not a meeting you attend or a place you enter," write pastors Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. "It's an identity that is ours in Christ. An identity that shapes the whole of life so that life and mission become 'total church.'" With that as their premise, they emphasize two overarching principles to govern the practice of church and mission: being gospel-centered and being community-centered. When these principles take precedence, say the authors, the truth of the Word is upheld, the mission of the gospel is carried out, and the priority of relationships is practiced in radical ways. The church becomes not just another commitment to juggle but a 24/7 lifestyle where programs, big events, and teaching from one person take a backseat to sharing lives, reaching out, and learning about God together.

In Total Church, Chester and Timmis first outline the biblical case for making gospel and community central and then apply this dual focus to evangelism, social involvement, church planting, world missions, discipleship, pastoral care, spirituality, theology, apologetics, youth and children's work. As this insightful book calls the body of Christ to rethink its perspective and practice of church, it charts a middle path between the emerging church movement and conservative evangelicalism that all believers will find helpful.

Publishers Description

"Church is not a meeting you attend or a place you enter," write pastors Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. "It's an identity that is ours in Christ. An identity that shapes the whole of life so that life and mission become 'total church.'" With that as their premise, they emphasize two overarching principles to govern the practice of church and mission: being gospel-centered and being community-centered. When these principles take precedence, say the authors, the truth of the Word is upheld, the mission of the gospel is carried out, and the priority of relationships is practiced in radical ways. The church becomes not just another commitment to juggle but a 24/7 lifestyle where programs, big events, and teaching from one person take a backseat to sharing lives, reaching out, and learning about God together.

In Total Church, Chester and Timmis first outline the biblical case for making gospel and community central and then apply this dual focus to evangelism, social involvement, church planting, world missions, discipleship, pastoral care, spirituality, theology, apologetics, youth and children's work. As this insightful book calls the body of Christ to rethink its perspective and practice of church, it charts a middle path between the emerging church movement and conservative evangelicalism that all believers will find helpful.

Citations And Professional Reviews
Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community (RE:LIT) by Tim Chester & Steve Timmis has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -

  • Christian Century - 10/20/2009 page 27


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Item Specifications...


Studio: Crossway Books
Pages   224
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.46" Width: 5.58" Height: 0.51"
Weight:   0.6 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Sep 1, 2008
Publisher   Crossway Books/Good News
Series  RE:LIT  
ISBN  1433502089  
ISBN13  9781433502088  


Availability  20 units.
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More About Tim Chester & Steve Timmis


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Tim Chester (PhD, University of Wales) is a pastor of Grace Church, Boroughbridge, and curriculum director of the Acts 29-Oak Hill Academy, which provides integrated theological and missional training for church leaders. He is the coauthor of Total Church and is the author of over thirty books, including You Can Change, A Meal with Jesus, and Good News to the Poor.



Tim Chester has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Focus on the Bible Commentaries
  2. Good Book Guide
  3. Paternoster Theological Monographs
  4. Questions Christians Ask
  5. Re: Lit Books


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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Ecclesiology


Christian Product Categories
Books > Theology > Systematic Theology > Ecclesiology & Church
Books > Church & Ministry > Pastoral Help > General



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Reviews - What do customers think about Total Church (Re:Lit)?

Basically solid ecclesiology, but not anything all that special  May 18, 2010
I'm going to stop reading ecclesiology books for a while. This book may be quite good on its own. It emphasizes the importance of intimate gospel communtiies, with a strong focus on Biblical fidelity and authentic relationships, which is good, but not anything that isn't in all of the other ecclesiology I've read in the last two years. The level of commitment to small communities is remarkably high, so there is value in that, but I don't know if I'm ready to really apply it to my life and my church.

Chester and Timmis make some pretty controversial statements in this book. For example, there's a passage about preaching that essentially says, "Look, we're not saying sermons are bad, we're just saying they're not in the Bible and they don't work and the only one who learns is the preacher." Which doesn't seem to me like an accurate reading of Acts. Also, there is an assumption in the book that people who go to college are inherently unable to connect with uneducated people. The authors may have something there, but I have a variety of friends with different educational backgrounds, and I don't think that the problem is as large in the United States as it is in the U.K. (the authors' location), but in all fairness, the authors have a fascinating discussion of how classism is the U.K.'s equivalent to slavery and the resulting racism in the U.S.

Overall, this is a generally solid book. It is clear in its points, and the authors generally have legitimate Biblical support for their proposals (I disagree with some of their interpretations and applications, but I think they reach them fairly). It is not significantly better than any other book that recommends treating small groups as the focus of a church, though, and I would not necessarily recommend this book over another.
 
What if there were a different kind of church?  Mar 20, 2010
For a kid who didn't grow up in the church, I'm certainly becoming extremely passionate about it. I love learning about what makes the church the church and how Christians can improve how we "do church" in order to better reflect the character of Jesus.

My daughter (via my lovely wife) gave me this book for Christmas and I was pleasantly surprised. I'd been reading a similar work earlier in the year that made me want to slap myself in the face for reading such a stupid book (that's the nicest critique I can give).

Total Church combines a deep love for Scripture and the Gospel, with a strong desire to see people come to know and love Jesus in intimate community. It's truly a rare thing when you see people advocating for both strong, biblical teaching alongside building relationship, but Steve Timmis and Tim Chester do exactly that.

The premise is that a biblical church must be gospel-centered (meaning, both word-centered and mission-centered) and community-centered. "Christianity is word-centered because God rules through his gospel word," say the authors. "Christianity is mission-centered because God extends his rule through his gospel word." The gospel is good news -- it is a message, as succinct as "Jesus is Lord," but as comprehensive as the entirety of Scripture, which all centers around the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus. Because the gospel is good news--our sins can be forgiven thanks to the finished work of Jesus--it is a message that must be proclaimed. "You cannot be committed to the gospel without being committed to proclaiming the gospel" (pg 32, emphasis added).

This is exceedingly refreshing in a time when many (specifically well-known) churches rarely proclaim the gospel--if ever.

Further, because our identities are not formed in a void, but within community, we must also understand that our identity as Christians is found in Christ's new community. This is, in essence, what it means to be a "total church." You love the word of God, you proclaim it, and you discover your new identity in community with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

The second half of the book (chapters 3 on) deal with the practical implications of this philosophy. I won't cover all of them, but just a few of the stand-out items:

Evangelism takes on a three-strand approach, wherein we build relationships, share the gospel, and introduce people into community simultaneously. In some ways, this is similar to the Alpha approach, but less programmatic. It allows evangelism to happen naturally through relationship. "It's ordinary people, doing ordinary things with gospel intentionality...The ordinary needs to be saturated with a commitment to living and proclaiming the gospel," say the authors. It's about de-compartmentalizing our lives and being "authentic" (to use an oft-coined buzzword).

Social involvement is not simply social action. It is a cohesive blend of action and evangelism. If our social actions don't point to the gospel, they "are like a signpost pointing nowhere" (p 78).

Church-planting is where mission and community intersect: A biblical church is one that replicates, planting new churches.

Total Church, as great a book as it is, is not without it's problems. First, it wrongly argues that the apostolic church only met in homes, whereas Scripture says that the early church met both in homes and gathered together for corporate worship. Acts 2, for example, shows that the 128 believers gathered together to worship Jesus. The Spirit fell, Peter preached and three thousand were added to their number. Secondly, it supports the view that sermon as monologue rose after Constantine's "conversion" and it was no longer possible to teach in a dialogue setting due to sheer numbers. This ignores the more likely origin of the sermon as monologue: the Jewish synagogue & religion. Thirdly, the authors' view is that the disciplines of "contemplation, silence and solitude" are not biblical, whereas Jesus on numerous occasions went to be alone with the Father (Luke 6:12, 9:18, 22:41 are but three examples). Spirituality within community is extremely important, but we cannot overlook the importance of private spirituality as well.

Steve Timmis and Tim Chester have done an excellent job presenting a comprehensive and compelling vision of a biblical church in Total Church. If you've ever asked the question, "What if there were a different kind of church?" you will find this book an encouraging and challenging read.
 
A "how to do" church book with good theology  Feb 27, 2010
There seems to be no end these days to the production of books attempting to help the church get back to what it is supposed to be. The title Total Church suggests (correctly) that this is another such book. But this one deserves special attention not because of the hype surrounding it but because the authors have done an excellent job of showing what the "bottom line" of "church" is and how that bottom line affects everything we associate with church life.

The book's layout is simple. The first two chapters spell out the two principles around which every other chapter in the book is based. These two principles are gospel and community. In the rest of the book, the authors consider various aspects of church ministry--things like evangelism, world mission, discipleship, and ministry to children--and show how gospel and community impact and inform these ministries. The result is, as the subtitle explains, a "radical reshaping" of how to do church. The authors contend that "whether we are thinking about evangelism, social involvement, pastoral care, apologetics, discipleship, or teaching, the content is consistently the Christian gospel, and the context is consistently the Christian community" (p. 16). But unless understands what the authors mean by gospel and community, this book will be just another "how to" manual for doing church.

GOSPEL. The reason the gospel is so important is because it is by the gospel, by the proclamation of Jesus, that God rules. It is God's "great work" to "bring people to eternal life through our proclamation of the gospel." This means that God's people must be word-centered. And since this word is a missionary word, the church must also be mission-centered. The church has been spent out into Satan's kingdom as God's people live their everyday lives. This means that we need to view all of life as gospel-centered wherever we live, work, or play. Until the Church understands this, we will continue to be mere "Sunday morning" Christians, and the impact of the Church on our communities will be minimal.

COMMUNITY. The Christian community is central to Christian identity, and "this is perhaps the most significant `culture gap' that the church has to bridge (p. 41). Being a Christian means not only that we belong to God but also that we belong to the others who are in Christ. "To fail to live out our corporate identity in Christ is analogous to the act of adultery: we can be Christian and do it, but it is not what Christians should do" (p. 41). Being in community means we must make decisions with regard to how it impacts the community. Chester and Timmis sound quite radical in their explanation of community, but they are also as thoroughly biblical on this topic as anyone else I've ever read on the subject of Christian community.

So how do gospel and community affect the total church? Evangelism, for example, involves the proclamation of Christ of course, but it also necessitates introducing non-Christians to the gospel community. It is not enough, the authors say, to build a relationship between one believer and one unbeliever. This does not mean getting the unbeliever to a church service but rather introducing them to a community of Christians in action. The authors are not talking about an event but about "ordinary people doing ordinary things with gospel intentionality" (p. 63).

Consider also the authors' views on spirituality. They react to proponents of "contemplation, silence and solitude" as the pathway to spiritual maturity arguing that such is "the exact opposite of biblical spirituality" (p. 141). Instead the authors' demonstrate that biblical spirituality is word-centered rather than contemplative; mission-centered rather than silence; and community-centered rather than solitude. Why? Because "union with Christ is not the goal of spirituality; it is the foundation of spirituality" (p. 143). And what we need to practice our spirituality is a passionate engagement with the world not a quiet retreat from it. We also need "church culture sin which it is normal and expected for everyone lovingly to confront and persuade everyone" (p. 151).

The authors of Total Church have persuasively argued their point that for the Christian the whole of life must be shaped around gospel and community. They have not just argued the point, however; they have also offered practical suggestions for followers of Jesus to live out their faith in this way. The authors' model is a "house church" structure, but they do not push that structure exclusively. Instead they have done the whole church a great service in demonstrating how doable it is for anyone who is serious about their Christian faith to live intentionally on mission for the gospel.
 
Recommend It With A Dose Of Careful Guidance  Jan 30, 2010
This book, front to back, keeps saying the same thing over and over again:

"These things are not just for the offices of Christ. These are the things for the saints!"

Things like Gospel and Community are a given but what about things like Evangelism, Pastoral Care, Apologetics or even Theology? Yes, these things are for all the saints.

Most of the chapters are dead on and the authors work really hard to try to get the mindset switched from "oh, that is for those who are called" to "I am called to the Great Commission."

The ONLY beef I would have is with the Spirituality and Theology chapters.

Spirituality - Authors prooftexts (an all too common mistake in the Evangelical world) Matthews 18:19-20

Theology - While otherwise very solid, it is the way that the authors put theology into practice at their own church. Each of the house churches come up with their own theology and... that is it. No verification by elders. No checking for heresy. No emphasis on clarification. Certainly, we cannot follow suit.

I would wholeheartedly recommend this for any small group. Open it up to discussion and see what your people would push back on. But if you do so, you have to walk with them and guide them along.
 
Great resource  Jan 23, 2010
This is an excellent book to read if you're in ministry or not. It will help you to re-evaluate your ministry and mission and will help you evaluate what it means to live ordinarily with gospel intentionality.
 

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