This week I want to review a book by Crossway that I recently finished reading called Total Church. There seems to be a rage these days writing books describing the church. Recent books include: Simple Church, The Intentional Church, Transformational Church, Sticky Church, The Connecting Church, Deep Church, and the list can keep going. All of them have their place and their view of how church is to operate or some nitch of how the church should operate. But this book, Total Church, was particularly appealing to me.
Overall, the book is really helpful and very insightful. There are a few parts of the book that I sort of wrinkled my nose, but they were very small theological differences. I really enjoyed it and think that it is a very helpful book for the church. They begin the book by explaining why the gospel and why community are so important that the church should be shaped around them.
For instance, in the chapter on the gospel, they very plainly show that without the gospel, we do not have a church. They say, "Christianity is word-centered because God rules through his gospel word" (24). That means the church needs to be speaking the gospel to people. But also, "Christianity is mission-centered because God extends his rule through his gospel word" (28). They make the argument that all Christians are missionaries, not just those who go to a cross-cultural part of the world. They end this chapter with these ringing words:
"The challenge for us is to make the gospel the center of our lives not just on Sunday mornings, but on Monday mornings . . . It means thinking of our workplaces, homes, neighborhoods as the location of mission. We need to plan and pray for gospel relationships. This means creating church cultures in which we see normal, celebrating day-to-day gospel living in the secular world and discussions of how we can use our daily routines for the gospel" (37).
Community seems to be a buzz word these days. They make the point in their chapter Why Community?, that we are not individuals, but part of a church body. They say, "to fail to live out our corporate identity in Christ is analogous to the act of adultery: we can be Christian and do it, but it is not what Christians should do" (41). They try to ask you to make decisions thinking corporately. We should not think it is my money, my life, my future, but to "make decisions with regard to the implications for the church and to make significant decision in consultation with the church" (45-46). What would that look like?
From there, they spend the bulk of the book working out these two themes in many areas of the church. They talk about the gospel and community in practice in Evangelism, Social Involvement, Church Planting, World Mission, Discipleship & Training, Pastoral Care, Spirituality, Theology, Apologetics, Children & Young People, and Success. Let me share only one highlight of all this. In the chapter on Discipleship & Training, they say:
"Word ministry takes place in a variety of ways, not simply for forty-five minutes on a Sunday morning. It takes place through group Bible studies. It takes place when two people meet to read the Bible. It takes place as people are mentored through the word. In our experience, most character formation and discipleship takes place through informal and ad hoc conversations. This kind of word ministry requires relationships, time, and gospel intentionality. But being word-centered is more than how you teach and disciple people. It means governing church life by God's word. It means every decision, formal and informal, is explored through explicit reference to God's word. We ask, and re-ask, what God's word teaches about the issues and problems we face" (115).
In the end, it is a good book. I would recommend you read it! It may be generally for church leaders, but I think many of you would benefit from it. However, I am afraid if I give this book away to those who comment about it, not many of you will comment. For that reason, I am NOT going to give it away this week. But what I am going to do is to give something else away. Ready for this? This week I am going to give away a $15 Amazon Gift Card (that is about the cost of this book plus shipping)! With this, you can buy whatever book you want, but I hope you pick this one!
Rules to be entered: you must comment on this blog post. But please read this closely. To be entered, I want you to tell someone about this blog and help me spread the word. All you have to do is make a post on your Facebook or twitter account or some other place. Then tell me in your post where you told someone. That's it and you will be entered to win a $15 Amazon Gift Card. Sound good? Then start telling others and comment away!