A book you should love

I panned a book from Crossway over in the meta of TeamPyro yesterday, and I have a small stack of books from them on my shelf which I have been trying to get reviewed for about 4 months now. So to offset the panning they got at the other blog, I'm going to gush a little about a book about house churches.

Tim Chester and Steve Timmis have written what I think is a fabulous book about the life of the local church called Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community. It's in the RE:LIT series co-branded with Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and I love it.

Before I get all gushy over this book -- which I think is ridiculously-easy to do -- let me point out some of its limitations. For example, in the chapter on "Theology", it takes a swipe at Protestant models of Scriptural authority and salutes the "Anabaptist" model of "Gospel in community" over that. Eh. I though the point needed more work to convince me than they gave it in the 4 paragraphs on pp 158-159, but at least their point of view is transparent.

Another shortcoming of this book is its radical focus on a church without walls. The idea that a church is a community and not a building is a great maxim, an excellent and transformative point when you really "get it", a great theological point. But I think that, truth be told, in Western Civilization, every significant local community with a particular common interest in the last 500 years at least has raised up a place where it can assemble and demonstrate whatever it is they have in common -- be it a love of a sport or a love of fine art or a love of beer. Our God does not live in a temple, as Paul would say, but I would add: His people need someplace to call home, at least for now.

But that said, there isn't anyone reading my blog who can't learn something significant, church-improving, and of Gospel-centered seriousness from Total Church. Chester & Timmis have really made a labor of love to advance for the church a practical theology of the church which advances beyond the core of the Gospel without for one second taking the Gospel for granted.

The first chapter, in fact, underscores their focus -- it is called "Why Gospel?" Their conclusion is that the Gospel is a word, therefore the church must be word-centered. But it is not to be word-encased -- the word is not a tomb or a bunker in which the church resides, but a place which calls people out of the world, and into community.

How that community ought to -- and can -- work is the case made in the rest of Total Church, and as is my habit I'm not going to poison it for you by trying to distill it for you. Go out and buy this book, read it, and apply directly to your church.