Yesterday I wrote that I was looking forward to reading Deep Church when my copy arrives from Amazon. In the meantime, I started another ecclesiologically-flavored book called Total Church, by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester. I imagine that if we take all of the ideas from each book we’d end up with a totally deep church. Sorry, I have a weakness for corny humor.
The whole premise of Total Church is that we need churches that are both gospel-centered and community-centered. Gospel-centered means word-centered and mission-centered. So we are called to a “dual fidelity,” to the core content of the gospel and the primary context of the believing community. Their list of suggestions about what this might mean really got me thinking. Take a look at this list and tell me what kinds of ideas starting popping for you. Being gospel-centered and community-centered might mean (and I quote):
- seeing church as an identity instead of a responsibility to be juggled alongside other commitments
- celebrating ordinary life as the context in which the word of God is proclaimed with “God-talk” as a normal feature of everyday conversation
- running fewer evangelistic events, youth clubs, and social projects and spending more time sharing our lives with unbelievers
- starting new congregations instead of growing existing ones
- preparing Bible talks with other people instead of just studying alone at a desk
- adopting a 24-7 approach to mission and pastoral care instead of starting ministry programs
- switching the emphasis from Bible teaching to Bible learning and action
- spending more time with people on the margins of society
- learning to disciple one another-and to be discipled-day by day
- having churches that are messy instead of churches that pretend
What are your thoughts? What are some of the implications of these suggestions?
I think this list seems great. Here is one immediate, and not well-thought-out reaction: It seems that if the church went after this “gospel/community” centered goal, then it would naturally lead away from the type of church “services” that we have now. Which to me, seems fundamentally contradictory to what every church is and why they exist, namely to have a “meeting” or “service” or “gathering” where the leader/s “do” certain things, and people primarily watch.
So I guess I”m just confused – I can imagine a church putting in their literature that they want to be all the things you listed here, but in reality they would be having several meetings on the weekends which people would attend. If our *main* purpose is to be gospel/community centered, then WHY do I even attend church on a Sunday morning at all?
IMHO, if we are truly going to go after a gospel/community centered church experience, then we have to break away from the standard understanding of church altogether, which is much easier said than done.