About This Blog

Thursday, September 6, 2012

"Everyday Church" (Tim Chester and Steve Timmis)

TITLE: Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission (Re: Lit Books)
AUTHOR: Tim Chester and Steve Timmis
PUBLISHER: Wheaton, IL: Crossway Publishers, 2012, (192 pages).

The current church model needs to be re-tooled. New vocabulary needs to be introduced. Old models of Christendom need to be changed. For Christianity to survive in a post-Christendom culture, it needs to wake up to three realities. Firstly, it must wake up to the new reality that Christianity is no longer in any privileged position. Secondly, the Church and Christians, especially in the West are to assume themselves as marginalized and dis-empowered by the world as a starting point. Thirdly, there is hope, in that the formation of a post-Christendom gospel community is going to be the new shape of things to come, as far as the Church of Jesus Christ is concerned. The key thesis of the previous book, "Total Church" is that the gospel and the Christian community needs to be central in both one's life and mission. In "Everyday Church," the thesis builds on this idea, that church is not simply one day a week in a four-walled religious environment, but to be central everyday each week, in all environments. The authors in this book make a passionate call for Christians and the Church communities they represent to learn to witness for God, regardless of positions of privilege or marginalization. Using the first epistle of Peter as a framework for the book, the authors describe how the modern church has become increasingly marginalized, just like the early church. They make a case of how the modern culture has become more religious rather than secular. They describe the church's critical need to move away from a Christendom worldview toward a post-Christian context. Using research from Peter Berger, Barna group, Stuart Murray, Philip Richter and Leslie Francis' "Mission-Shaped Church" reports, and many others, the authors make two observations.

  1. Church growth models in the US cannot be assumed to work in Europe
  2. Parts of the US are becoming more like parts of Europe.
The faster Christians move away from the presumptions of a privileged status or rights to political influence the better it is for building credible and effective gospel communities. For the authors, they argue that the new face of mission is not in terms of "attractional events" but incarnational living everyday. This can be done even when Christian are living at the margins. 

Chapter Two explains further how applicable 1 Peter is to our modern world, that the post-Christian church needs to live as "missionaries in a foreign land." What is needed is for the Church to rediscover the culture.

Chapter Three goes to the core of self-identity, that caring for one another, and caring for the people in the communities we live in, provides opportunities for witnessing and living through pastoral care. They provide "five principles of community-based, gospel-centered, mutual pastoral care."
  1. Pastoring one another daily
  2. Pastoring one another in community
  3. Pastoring one another over a lifetime
  4. Pastoring one another in grace
  5. Pastoring one another with the gospel.
Four liberating truths are used to weave in what it means to be an everyday Church. This is based on the 4Gs, that God is great, God is glorious, God is good, and God is gracious. Knowing these attributes of God helps us toward spiritual formation through pastoral caring, everyday mission, and everyday evangelism. At the end, the authors propose many different ways of doing everyday church. Some of these ideas include understanding the four points of intersection, proclaiming the four liberating truths, questions to ask ourselves or our hearers, and the four modes of conversations we can adopt. Finally, just like Peter, the authors encourage readers in a post-Christian world that there is hope even when living in the margins. 

My Thoughts

This is a really good book to read and to put into practice. The wake-up call for the Church to move away from its Christendom presumptions toward a post-Christian world reminds me of Craig Carter's critique of Richard Niebuhr's classic book on Church and Culture. In "Rethinking Christ and Culture," Carter essentially lumps Niebuhr's work as a work laced with Christendom images. In this book, Chester and Timmis puts in more practical pointers, not just in recognizing the shift, but in adapting and living in a way that makes the best opportunities of this shift. The three big reasons why I like this book is this. First, it is a wake up call for the Church to arrest its decline by recognizing that old paradigms of Christendom need to be dropped as soon as possible. Otherwise, church programs and efforts will only be targeted at a shrinking audience. Moreover, it will be good money being thrown foolishly at the non-existent! Second, it acknowledges that the Church is not marginalized, just like the communities that Peter was writing to in his epistle. This is not necessary a bad thing. Chester and Timmis encourage readers through their call to hope. Witness is possible on an everyday basis. Third, it provides lots of practical tips on everyday mission and evangelism.

"It is not simply that ordinary Christians live good lives that enable them to invite friends to evangelistic events. Our lives are the evangelistic events. Our life together is the apologetic. There is a place for meetings at which the gospel is clearly proclaimed, but let us affirm and celebrate ordinary Christians living ordinary life in Christ’s name. This is the frontline of mission." (89)
I like that. Thoughtful and practical. Well-researched and readable. This book is poised to become a must-read for anyone keen on missional living, building gospel communities, and caring for people with or without a church building. I savour each page. You probably will too.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Crossway Publishers and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

No comments:

Post a Comment