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Wichita Falls, Tx
5 Stars Out Of 5
November 3, 2012
Wichita Falls, Tx
How does the church reach the unchurched is the question that Tim Chester and Steve Timmis ask in their latest book, Everyday Church. Gone are the day when people darken the door of the church just because it is there. Most churches have people who are not under the age of 50. People find themselves doing other things on Sunday morning other than attend a worship service. Chester and Timmis write:
Christians today increasingly find themselves on the margins of the culture. We live in a post-Christian culture. The majority of people in the West today have no intention of ever attending church. Most name the name of Christ only as a swearword. Some prominent churches are growing, but much of this is transfer growth rather than true evangelistic growth.
The goal of this book is based on the foundation of their previous book, Total Church, which talks about "the Christian gospel and the Christian community should be central to every aspect of our life and mission." Everyday Church seeks to call the church "to be an everyday church with an everyday mission" and to shift from attractional activities to creating more attractional communities.
Chester and Timmis use the book of 1 Peter to offer practical ways that the church can be the everyday church to be on mission 24/7. This everyday mission includes being in the community the church is called to be and not just on the weekends. Also to be caring for one another which to be in pastoral care for one another even when we do not have a pastor title in the church. All members in the church have a pastoral ministry of some form or fashion. Also Chester and Timmis writes about the church being in evangelism everyday as they go in their jobs and daily life to share Jesus with people.
Having read Total Church earlier this year, I knew this book would be as good as that one. Everyone in the church needs to pick up a copy of this book. I hope that community groups and/or Sunday School classes will read this book together and truly understand that the church is on call 24/7.
Everyday Church had its peaks and valleys. What I really appreciated first. Chester and Timmis write out of a great love for the church and Jesus which comes through in their writing. They are concerned that if we don't open our eyes to the changing climate towards Christianity then we may find ourselves lost and without a compass. They say,
It is a call for us to be an everyday church with an everyday mission.We need to shift our focus from putting on attractional events to creating attractional communities. (p. 10).
They also see an opportunity because it's now less advantageous to be "Christian" which allows the church to work with those who are committed to the mission of Jesus (p. 13). I also appreciated that the entire book was strucutred around Scripture. They take 1 Peter and work their way through what Peter says to the dispersed and marginalized church of his day. That is so rare today especially for books which have the level of practical impetus that Everday Church has.
As someone who doesn't naturally create evangelistic opportunities, Chester & Timmis had some great instruction and wisdom in how to gospel in our everyday life. That's the thrust of the book. Gospeling is not just the pastor's job; it's the Christian's everday living. And now more than ever as the secularization of our formerly Christian cultures are at an all time high, we must gospel organically. We must meet people where they are--at the coffee shop, grocery store, work, civic groups, etc.--then we must share the gospel but not in the 1-2-3 steps that much of modern evangelicalism has preferred. This passage struck home for me,
At the heart of our vision is not a new way of doing events but the creation of word-centered gospel communities in which people are sharing life with one another and with unbelievers, seeking to bless their neighborhoods, "gospeling" one another and sharing the good news with unbelievers. The context for this gospel-centered commu- nity and mission is not events but ordinary, everyday life.
Programs are what we create when Christians are not doing what they are supposed to do in everyday life. Because we are not pastoring one another in everyday life, we create accountability groups. Because we are not sharing the gospel in everyday life, we create guest services. Because we are not joining social groups to witness to Jesus, we create our own church social groups. Please do not misunderstand. We are not against meetings or events or programs. The regular meeting of the church around God's Word is vital for the health of everything else. This is where God's people are prepared for works of service. But the works of service take place in the context of everyday life. (p. 50)
Our gospel proclamation must place our own story and lives within the larger gospel narrative. It's that context that safe guards our gospeling from sounding like a used car pitch. They recommend engaging people within the framework of (1) creation, (2) fall, (3) redemption, & (4) consummation (see Chapter 5 Everyday Evangelism). This emphasis already has me thinking and making application. We need this emphasis in our day of easy 1-2-3 evangelism. They emphatically state,
Indeed a weakness of some approaches to evangelism is that they present ideas for intellectual assent. People can sign up to a set of ideas (they believe Jesus died for their sins and rose again), but the idolatrous desires of their heart remain untouched. Their motivational framework is unchanged, and true repentance has not taken place. (p. 122)
Yes, yes, and yes. We need exactly this kind of evangelism that penetrates to the darkness gutters of our hearts.
However, throughout the book I started noticing shards of glass on the floor. I saw, "The gospel is a word, but the primary context in which that word is proclaimed is everyday life" (p. 89 italics mine) or
It is not simply that ordinary Christians lived good lives that enables them to invite good friends to evangelistic events. Our lives are the evangelistic events. Our life together is the apologetic. There is a place for meetings at which the gospel is clearly proclaimed, but let us affirm and celebrate ordinary Christians living ordinary life in Christ's name" (p. 89; see p. 140 preaching contrasted with missional living)
The spoken word in church is minimized in favor of deeds (justice, mercy, private gospeling, etc). Those statements though were just a few shards of the broken stained-glass window. I agree we must have missional living, good neighboring, and everyday gospel but not at the expanse of the primacy of preaching.
In the conclusion, they say,
We also find ourselves accused of being against monologue preaching. Again, it is not true. Our gatherings typically involve a sermon. What we question is the privleged status of the monologue. It is a good way to teach the Bible, but it is not the only way or a necessary way. The Bible itself describes the Word being taugh through a variety of methods without privileging one above another. What matters is that the Word is central to our lives and our life together. (pp. 156-57 italics mine)
I agree that making the Word central is of utmost importance but I disagree strongly that preaching is not a central activity of the church. As a matter of fact, I would argue that you do not have a church if you do not have the preaching of the Word. It seems they would see missional living as the mark of the true church. I agree that living in obedience to Jesus is part of the great commission and so it's massively important but how does this happen? How do people learn to obey? By preaching of the Word. The Reformers saw the primacy of preaching in the church as a major battelground. We must not lose or make fallacious either/or's--as if we cannot highly value and recognize preaching as necessary and primary and also live missionally.