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Thanks to Crossway for the review copy!
It’s been a while since I read Total Church, but I thought it was a very practical book for church life, so I expected about the same from Chester and Timmis’ latest, Everyday Church. Though I wasn’t disappointed, this book didn’t grab me in quite the same way.
The book is a loose exposition of 1 Peter, with each of the 6 chapters focusing on a section of the book:
- Living At The Margins (1 Peter 1:1-12)
- Everyday Community (1 Peter 1:13-2:8)
- Everyday Pastoral Care (1 Peter 1:22-2:3)
- Everyday Mission (1 Peter 2:9-3:16)
- Everyday Evangelism (1 Peter 3:15-16)
- Hope At The Margins (1 Peter 3:8-5:14)
As you can see there is some overlap from chapter to chapter, but the general idea should be clear. Chester and Timmis, speaking from their post-Christian British context, see the church moved to the margins of society and think that our ecclesiology needs to shift to accomodate that position.
The major shift they advocate is moving from church programs to church people who are on mission in their everyday ordinary lives. They detail the reasons for making this shift in the introduction and chapter 1. Then, chapters 2-5 unpack how things like community, pastoral care/counseling look in an everyday, deprogrammed context.
Rather than dread this shift to a post-Christian, deprogrammed context for the church, Chester and Timmis think we should embrace it since it is how Jesus conducted his ministry. There is much to applaud in their approach and they do a good job of explaining how it works, both from their own ministerial experience and from 1 Peter.
Overall, this book is a good contribution to the Re:Lit series. It continues the trajectory in the authors’ previous book, Total Church and presents a concise guide for churches facing a post-Christian context. It is perhaps less helpful for churches that haven’t seen that culture shift yet.
The part of the book that I actually found most helpful is actually in another book by Tim Chester called You Can Change. In it, and in here as well, we are presented with a “4G” rubric for “targeting nearly all our sinful behavior and negative emotions”:
- God is great, so we don’t have to be in control
- God is glorious, so we do not have to fear others
- God is good, so we don’t have to look elsewhere
- God is gracious, so we do not have to prove ourselves
I remember when I first read these in You Can Change. It is amazing how many pastoral issues can be dealt with simply by focusing on the biblical teaching under each of these theological affirmations. That’s not to say they will solve everything, but there are probably few issues that surface that are not somehow connected to forgetting one of the 4G’s about God.
One caveat though before I conclude. Given the drastic difference between my ministry context and the authors ministry context, I didn’t quite find the overall approach as helpful as others might. I could see their missiology working quite well in the pacific Northwest and New England. Not to say it can’t work in the South or in Florida, but just to say, I don’t think we’re quite as post-Christian, and one of my primary avenues for ministry is currently in a Christian school. I highlighted the 4G’s because they transcend particular contexts as a useful tool. Though they weren’t the only one, they were what I thought was the best one, and if you interested in more on them, check these videos out. Other aspects of the everyday church approach might not work as well as it does in the authors’ particular context.
All that being said, this book is a great fit for someone looking for missional ideas for a small and growing church. It is probably only of interest to pastors and those directly involved in ministry leadership (small group leaders for instance). If you found the 4G’s interesting and want to read more, and you’re not a pastor, then you should probably pick up a copy of You Can Change instead of Everyday Church. If you are a pastor, you should probably do the same, but if your ministry context verges more on the post-Christian end of the specturm, or you just really want to push into your community, then you should pick up both.