Review of Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis IVP
Currently my wife and I are “between churches”. We’re looking for a church. The usual reaction from our friends and acquaintances is, “You won’t find the perfect church.” And my usual tired rejoinder is, “If we do, it won’t be once we join.”
Currently a lot of Christians are dissatisfied with “church” and more than a few books have been written about it. George Barna’s “Revolution” and Michael Frost’s “Exiles” are just two excellent examples in this area.
Total Church is a worthwhile addition because it adds further Biblical understanding together with “how to” practicality. Chester and Timmis explore what church is, and then show how it can look in practice. It highlights the connection between a living, growing (in understanding and relationship with God) organic community and the task of being God’s witness to the world, and how the two are inseparable.
Coming from an evangelical/reformed perspective, they correctly, in my opinion, highlight the centrality of the Word of God in proclaiming the gospel. However, they emphasise that this needs to be done in community and relationship. That is why the organic church is such an important instrument of God in this world.
If anything, in their attempt to counter the wishy washy-ness of the social gospel they overstate the case. Psalm 19 is used as evidence for the centrality of the Word, but in the process they omit the first 6 verses in which the psalmist declares that the glory of God can be read in the heavens. We know that this is not a salvific Word but it is still God revealing Himself, and the apostle Paul reminds us that leaves us without excuse (Romans 1:20).
But why quibble! I found this book an encouragement as to what church could be in a church world of institutions, programmes, mega churches, church orders and constitutions. The irony is that their view of church is far less tangible as it is not about buildings and programmes but relationships and community, and yet, in an Acts/New Testament sense they have painted a picture of church that is far closer to the maker’s intentions.
They do not dismiss other models of church, but they do challenge them to be aware of the pitfalls and not to take their eye off the main game – the revelation of Christ.
If you are looking for a living, breathing community desiring to serve and proclaim God in this world, this book gives you some great ideas for your search. One the other hand, you may need to gather like-minded people to grow this living expression of God in this world. As for me, my view and expectation of “church” has been irreparably altered.