Every now and then I read a book that resonates so deeply with me that I feel like I’m reading my own thoughts. This was the case as I read Total Church by Steve Timmons and Tim Chester. The subtitle of the book is “A radical reshaping around gospel and community.” As we begin River City Church in Pittsburgh, we have the opportunity to form a church around these two values. The first half of the book explains gospel and community in principle and the second half looks at them in practice.
God is at work today drawing people to himself through the proclamation of the gospel. Therefore, there are two parts to the gospel. There is the message of the word itself and there is the act of proclaiming that word. The authors summarize it like this: The gospel is a word; so the church must be word-centered. The gospel is a missionary word; so the church must be mission-centered. Gospel proclamation must be the center of who we are as a church because we are a creature of the word.
God is a missionary God, and God’s primary missionary method is his covenant people.
Our identity as human beings is found in community. Our identity as Christians is found in Christ’s new community. We are not just called to be followers of Christ. We are called to be a group of followers of Christ who have been restored to a right relationship with God and with each other.
Gospel and Community in Practice
These two things can be seen in all areas of the life of the church. A few of the chapters especially stood out to me: evangelism, discipleship, social involvement, spirituality, and pastoral care. These things are not left up to a pastor or evangelist, or even a small group of people. They are the work of every believer who is part of a Christian community of faith.
Three Pillars of River City Church
I couldn’t help but think of the three pillars of River City Church as I read this book. Our three goals are to make disciples, mature disciples, and multiply disciples through the three pillars of worship, community, and service. The authors of the book operate from a house church model in the UK. In our context we see these areas best fulfilled through regularly corporate gatherings and in smaller discipleship relationships and gospel community groups. In any environment, though, the goal remains the same: The growth of God’s Kingdom through the spread of God’s Word.