The next book I am reading is Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis.
I read through the introduction last night and already am intrigued. I like what Chester and Timmis laid out right at the beginning, the idea that we can do church in a different way and yet still maintain theological orthodoxy. Orthodoxy and orthopraxy are not enemies! The groundwork right up front is that the church must have as her focus Gospel (Word and mission) and community. I would say a lot of churches, especially in the Reformed streams, get the Gospel right but community is woefully lacking. In many other churches there is all sorts of community but the Gospel is diminished or watered down or even neglected entirely.
Based on the reviews I have read and the introduction to Total Church, I am very encouraged. It seems that more and more we are seeing a realization in the church that we have lost our sense of community, that we are so concerned with telling people how to get saved and how they got saved that we have no idea what to do with them after they are saved except…talk to them about how they got saved. They key will be for the church to let go of the traditions that interfere with community while holding firmly to the Gospel. I am hopeful that this book will be a great step along that path, more like Hellerman's When The Church Was a Family and Belcher’s Deep Church and less of a “keep doing the same thing, just do more of it and quit griping” book like Why We Love the Church. I will post snippets as I go.
This will also be the last “church book” I read for a while. I have been ingesting a steady diet of them, from The Anabaptist View of the Church to Deep Church to When the Church Was a Family and now to Total Church, so I am going to look at something more doctrinal to give me time to digest what I have read. Probably Jerry Bridges Respectable Sins will be next, a book I was given this weekend and that I have wanted to read for a while. I am also intrigued by Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt, which is in my shopping cart and will be the next book I buy when I get another Amazon gift card. There is an interesting exchange on the webpage of the Gospel Coalition where Kevin DeYoung reviews Radical and David Platt responds to his review. Predictably Radical troubles DeYoung because it sounds like it calls out traditional Christianity for its lack of radicalism and our unhealthy focus on what takes place within the four walls of "our church" to the detriment of the rest of the world. Platt seems willing to take on the affluence we see as our birthright as Americans while DeYoung seems afraid to offend the wealthy who put the most money in the plate. You can guess which side I come down on.