Three Principles for Total Church

Over the course of a couple of days back in the spring, as I was perusing church planting blogs, I came across several comments about and references to a book entitled Total Church – A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community. As I read the blog entries about Total Church I thought that the book would be of interest and benefit to me so I purchased it through Amazon.

The authors of Total Church, Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, are involved in a church planting movement in Sheffield, England, called The Crowded House. The movement now includes several churches in the United States. Tim and Steve state in the introduction to the book that Total Church is not about the ministry of The Crowded House per se; it is about the principles that shape the way that they “do church.”

The authors make two statements in the book’s opening pages that helped set the stage for me for the reading of the book.

The first statement is:

“What we do is always defined by the gospel, and the context is always our belonging in the church. Our identity as Christians is defined by the gospel and the community.”

“Being gospel-centered actually involves two things. First, it means being word-centered because the gospel is a word – the gospel is news, a message. Second, it means being mission-centered because the gospel is a word to be proclaimed – the gospel is good news, a missionary message.” (p.16)

The second statement is:

“We need to be enthusiastic about truth and mission and we need to be enthusistic about relationships and community.” (p.17)

Most of us agree with these ministry statements and would say that they are statements of the obvious. But sometimes the obvious needs to be restated.

So, the three principles for church practice presented in the book are 1) to be word-centered, 2) to be mission-centered, and 3) to be community-centered.

The body of the book is then divided into two parts. In Part 1, the authors do an excellent job of defining and discussing the gospel and community. In Part 2 of the book, the three principles that guide the life and ministry of The Crowed House are then applied to topics that every Christian and church should be concerned about, topics such as evangelism, social involvement, church planting, world mission, theology, and success in ministry.

Through the reading of the book it becomes clear that the church ministry principles set forth by Chester and Timmis are important and relevant to all churches that want to reach their communities for Christ.

As I was coming to the close of the book, I read a paragraph that I thought would make a great concluding statement for Total Church. In the chapter on apologetics, the authors say,

“What will commend the gospel are lives lived in obedience to the gospel and community life that reflects God’s triune community of love. People will not believe until they are genuinely open to exploring the truth about God. They become open as they see that it is good to know God. And they see that it is good to know God as they see the love of the Christian community. As Francis Schaeffer said, ‘Our relationship  with each other is the criterion the world uses to judge whether our message is truthful. Christian community is the ultimate apologetic.’ “

I want to recommend Total Church to you for your encouragement. And check out the Total Church website and Tim Chester’s blog that can be accessed on the sidebar on the right.

Let me know what you think.

Total Church will be published and available in the US on Septemeber 30, 2008, through Crossway Books.

(Originally posted on the internationalbiblefellowship blog, July 31, 2008.)

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