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17 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A vital subject but a narrow perspective, 29 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Unreached (Paperback)
Tim Chester and his group of collaborators are to be praised for the work they do in living incarnationally in some of the toughest neighbourhoods in Britain and in seeking to bring the Good News of Jesus to local residents and to plant culturally relevant churches among them. The book draws on this experience and is a clarion call to comfortable Christians to move out of their suburban ghettos and fulfill the Great Commission where making disciples is hardest. Chester argues rightly that contextualisation of the gospel offer is necessary in cross cultural mission and understands the value of informality, of story telling of food sharing.

The author and his colleagues are happy to be involved in compassionate social action and to some extent in community development but for them the priority, indeed the point is the proclamation of the gospel. So far so good.. evangelism and church planting is clearly his vocation.

It's not meant to be an academic book but one would have thought that there should be many more references to the urban mission literature of which there is a plethora available, both in the UK and globally. However the main source book cited is Roy Joslin's 1982 book "Urban Harvest" which, though useful, is hardly the last or only word on the topic. Apart from that there is one reference to an article by Jim Hart in the 2004 collection of short papers "Urban Church" (eds Latham & Eastman) and one to Tim Keller's church planting manual. The problem it seems to me with the book and the "Reaching the Unreached Network" is that they live in the ghetto of highly conservative reformed evangelical churches and that their thinking is largely "within the box". The gospel is already a given, and effectively that means patterns of discipleship, spirituality and church life are also tightly constrained, thus implicitly preventing the level and modes of contextualisation that may be appropriate, indeed that the Spirit may be working to produce.

There is certainly in Chester's thought litle room for the experimental or the emergent church, salvation is primarily from sin and eternal damnation, and there seems to be scant enthusiasm for the Kingdom of God breaking even partially into the present age. Indeed, if like me, you do not share Chester's high Calvinist theology you will probably be offended by his suggestion that our sovereign God has arranged the multiple deprivation of some of our sink estates as a means of opening the minds of some of the elect to the need for salvation. It is here that the closed system of Calvinistic logic seems to rotate around itself and eventually disappears down the plughole. There is arguably more Biblical foundation for an understanding that the worst of urban deprivation is the result of human sin, of greed and inequality, of prejudice and exclusion, of neglect and even oppression of the poor, and that it is a challenge for Christians and others of goodwill to struggle with the powers that be (on earth and in the heavenlies) to bring about both personal and social transformation.

All this said I still would encourage you to read and engage with this book. There is a great shortage of contemporary writing about efective evangelism in deprived urban areas. And an even greater shortage of urban missionaries, and indigenous working class Christians who are prayerfully and sacrifically committed to being there, and living and speaking the Good News of Jesus.. Despite his peculiar theology Tim Chester will have my blessing and prayers in the work he undertakes.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 3 Dec 2012 20:56:41 GMT
I think this review gives an unfairly jaundiced view of the content of the book. Mr Chester is not among the 'frozen chosen', nor does he advocate luring the locals by exclusive psalmody! The lack of space for experimental or emergent church movements is entirely reasonable due to questionable theology and motives; I don't think his aim is to critique different theologies for urban mission, but to teach from an orthodox reformed position, in a scriptural fashion, with good solid application for people who are engaged, or wish to be engaged in this sort of work.

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Aug 2013 12:26:09 BDT
Any plan and advice on reaching the lost must be taken from the Word of God and the principles found there. A book which seeks to emphasise the Bible's teaching on evangelism, both in terms of message and method must be rooted in Scripture. If God has spoken then He must dictate how things are to be done to reach His people with His gospel of grace and mercy through the Lord Jesus Christ. We do need to be reminded of the needs of our localities. True churches do have a variety of different groups and sections of society in them- maybe not exactly in the proportions we would like but they are there. The message and going out must be to all groups and classes of society and this is what Dr Chester is attempting to encourage in a Biblical framework.

Posted on 31 May 2014 09:05:29 BDT
Jon Mason says:
Tim Chester has written extensively about "The Kingdom", and engaged with a plethora of emergent, liberal and evangelical writers in another of his books. Have a read of "Good News for the Poor".
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