Book Review: Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

What makes a church?  Is it better to be gospel-centered or community-centered?  In their book, Total Church, co-authors Tim Chester and Steve Timmis argue that in order for a church to thrive, it must be a total sum of both strong teaching and intentional community.
The main idea of the book is, “Whether we are thinking about evangelism, social involvement, pastoral care, apologetics, discipleship, or teaching, the content is consistently the Christian gospel, and the context is consistently the Christian community.”
The book is broken into two parts:
  • Part One: Gospel and Community in Principle
  • Part Two: Gospel and Community in Practice


Part one breaks down the principles of why we need to be gospel-centered, as well as community centered.  “Christianity is word-centered because God rules through His gospel word.  Christianity is mission-centered because God extends His rule through His gospel word.” 

“Our identity as human beings is found in community. Our identity as Christians is found in Christ’s new community.  And our mission takes place through communities of light.  Christianity is total church.”

Part two jumps into how we apply gospel-centered teaching with community-centered relationships in ten very important areas of church ministry with hopes of becoming “total church.”

The areas covered are:  evangelism, social involvement, church planting, world mission, discipleship and training, pastoral care, spirituality, theology, apologetics, and children and young people.

What I liked about the author’s approach was their ability to get their point across without over-complicating it.  The message of Chester and Timmis  was clear and precise.  They paired teachings with real life testimony and experiences to pull it all together.

The authors then take a look at what success looks like in the church.  In this chapter they compare competing models for:

  • Growth: large congregations versus more congregations
  • Leadership: as performance versus as enabling
  • Success: a church of glory versus a church of the cross

And finally, Tim and Steve bring it to conclusion, giving God all the glory.  Probably my favorite quote of the book states, “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.”

I appreciate the authors humility!  They have some great principles for growing in the word and community, but it is all meaningless if God is not at the center of everything.

Overall, Total Church was an easy read, full of great content and wisdom.  The authors approach the purpose of church with true humility and passion.



On The Shelf Rating: 4/5

4 stars


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Grab your own copy of Total Church from Amazon.


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