I want everyone in my church and everyone who loves the church to read Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community (Re:Lit) by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis.
I rarely recommend a book written in the last 5 years with this kind of support, but this 2008 book on "A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community" receives 5 out of 5 stars. In fact, other than a few disparaging remarks they make about solitude and silence in chapter 9 (did they forget that Jesus modeled these spiritual disciplines [Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16]?), I find 85% agreement on every page.
A quick review:
From the early pages to the end, Chester and Timmis breathe Gospel and community. They write, "Christians are called to a dual fidelity: fidelity to the core content of the gospel and fidelity to the primary context of the believing community." Without the centrality of knowing and proclaiming God's Word, the church does not grow and the Kingdom does not advance. Likewise, they write, "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." Christians must be united to a church family. It is possible to be a Christian and not be in community, but it is also possible to be married and not live with your spouse. Both are unnatural and unhealthy. Chester and Timmis are right on, when they argue, "Church is not another ball for me to juggle but that which defines who I am and gives Christlike shape to my life." The center of our life should be the Christ and the Church (wedded together) . . . out of a relationship with Christ and the church, I interact in my family, workplace, neighborhood, etc. Chapters 3-13 are what they describe as Gospel and Community in Practice. They discuss a key area of the church (theology, apologetics, evangelism, etc.) and apply it through the rubric of Gospel and Community.
In their closing chapter they give a helpful word:
But our proposals should not be viewed as a recipe for success nor a guarantee of authentic ministry. Christianity is not a strategy or a set of principles. It is a relationship of love with the Triune God. The gospel word and the gospel community must be central to Christian practice. But our hearts should be fixed on the grace of God, the love of God, and the glory of God. The only true center of Christian existence is God Himself.