Just over a week ago, in a post called “Total Church Principles“, I mentioned that I am reading the book Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. In that post, I discussed the first part of the book in which the authors discuss the principles behind the church as both gospel-centered and community-centered. In the second section of the book, they discuss practical implications of the church as centered on both the gospel and community. In this post, I will discuss the first four chapters in this section: Evangelism, Social Involvement, Church Planting, and World Mission.
I’ve decided to discuss these four chapters together because they all share something in common: they all focus on how the gospel-centered and community-centered church must reach beyond itself to impact the world. To begin, here are a few quotes that stood out to me:
Major events have a role to play in church life, but the bedrock of gospel ministry is low-key, ordinary, day-to-day work that often goes unseen. Most gospel ministry involves ordinary people doing ordinary things with gospel intentionality. Whether it is helping a friend, working at the office, or going to the movies, there is a commitment to building relationships, modeling the Christian faith, and talking about the gospel as a natural part of conversation. People often ask if they can come see our ministry at The Crowded House [the group of churches with which the authors are involved]. But all there is to see is ordinary people doing ordinary things. There are no projects, no programs, no “ministries”. (pg. 63)
We want to make three assertions about the relationship between evangelism and social action:
1) Evangelism and social action are distinct activities…
2) Proclamation is central…
3) Evangelism and social action are inseparable… (pg. 78-79)
There need be no second-generation churches if the church is constantly reconfiguring itself through church planting. Second-generation “Christians” are those without their own living experience of the gospel. Second-generation churches are those who have lost their gospel cutting edge. It may be that a fiftieth church anniversary is not an occasion to celebrate the faithfulness of God but to lament the stagnation of his people. (pg. 96)
There are two main things that I take from these chapters… two things that I have not thought much about before, but that I’m thinking seriously about now.
1) Evangelism should be a community activity. This doesn’t mean that groups should go door-to-door. Instead, it means that as I meet someone and begin introducing them to Jesus Christ, I also begin introducing them to the community. As the authors say, recognizing evangelism as a community activity takes seriously how the Holy Spirit uses and gifts people differently.
2) A church – as a Christian community – may not be intended to remain “together” forever. In fact, if it is our responsible to proclaim the gospel, and if that gospel includes community, then we must be willing to share both our words about the gospel and to share our gospel community. This may mean (and probably does mean) that our community will need to divide into multiple communities in order to reproduce itself.
I’m still enjoying this book very much. I’m especially enjoying thinking through the practical implications of the church being both gospel-centered and community-centered.
What do you think?