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Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community Paperback – 15 Jun 2007


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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Inter-Varsity Press (15 Jun. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844741915
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844741915
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 1.6 x 21.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 189,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Total Church pleads for two key principles for church and mission. First, the gospel as content: being word centred (for the gospel is truth) and being mission centred (for the gospel is truth to be proclaimed). Secondly, the community as context: sharing our lives as Christians and offering a place of belonging to unbelievers. The authors apply these principles to church planting, evangelism, apologetics, social involvement, leadership, discipleship, pastoral care, world mission and notions of success; and also critique current trends within the church.

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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Brian G Hedges on 24 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback
Total Church is one of the best books I've read in a long time and may be THE best books I've read on church. As the subtitle suggests, the authors argue that church is to be radically reshaped around gospel and community. They argue for three things:

"Christian practice must be (1) gospel-centered in the sense of being word-centered, (2) gospel-centered in the sense of being mission-centered, and (3) community-centered." (p. 16)

The authors immediately nail their colors to the mast, distinguishing their perspective from both conservative evangelicals and the emerging church. With emerging church, they agree that conservatives are often bad at community. But with conservatives, they agree that the emerging church is sometimes soft on truth. This book proposes an alternative to both, churches that are both gospel-centered (with both a word-centered focus and a missional focus) and community-centered.

"Rigorously applying these principles has the potential to lead to some fundamental and thoroughgoing changes in the way we do church," warn the authors (p. 18). This is no entrenched defense of traditional church structures or practices. I found the book stimulating, eye-opening, paradigm-shifting, and sometimes personally-threatening.

Total Church is divided into two parts.

I. Part one is on "Gospel and Community in Principle" and argues for each in turn. Chapter one, "Why Gospel?" discusses both word and mission. "Christianity must be word-centered," the authors argue, because "God rules through his gospel word" (p. 24) and "mission-centered because God extends his rule through his gospel word" (p. 28).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Edwards on 16 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This challenging book has one simple thesis at its heart: Church = Gospel + Community.

Some churches, they say, typified (or you might say stereotypified) by larger conservative evangelical churches, have been strong on truth but weak on community. Others (typified by recent 'emerging church' trends) have been strong on creating community, but weak on teaching truth.

But, the book pleads, the bible insists that truth will only really engage society when it is lived out in community as God intended. As Jesus said at the Last Supper: "By this will everyone know that you are my disciples: if you love each other." So the churches that think they 'do truth' well may not actually be using it in a way that bites effectively. Likewise, 'community' will have little real transforming effect unless it is a community where people are constantly discussing and living out God's message, as in Deuteronomy 6: "Teach these words to your children...talk about them at home and on the road..." So the churches which count themselves 'strong on community' may not actually be creating much in the way of genuine, effective Christian community.

The first part of the book develops these principles more fully; the second part seeks to apply them to subjects such as evangelism, church planting, pastoral care, theology, apologetics, and children & young people. These applications are strongly based on the authors' experience in leading The Crowded House church network which has spread out from Sheffield over recent years.

There is much stinging wisdom in these pages. They critique the 'compartmentalised' nature of modern western life (work time / family time/ leisure time) and the way that for many "God time" has become just another compartment.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Pieter Stok on 31 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
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!
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