A Review of “Everyday Church” by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

everday-church-2What would it look like to be a part of a gospel community every day of the week? That question has prompted Tim Chester and Steve Timmis to think about church in a different form. The men, pastors within the Crowded House Network of churches in the UK, have been doing church differently for a while now and have sought in the last several years to communicate their vision to a wider audience. They did so first, in Total Church, a theological articulation of their new model of ministry. In their companion volume Everyday Church they seek to give a more practical unfolding of what this kind of church looks like. Everyday Church is a good book with quality content and some very helpful practical suggestions, but it lacks the same freshness that Total Church has. In fact, the greatest impediment to enjoying this book is that much of its content has already been discussed in the author’s previous book.

The book follows the outline of Peter’s first epistle in the New Testament. So the six chapters of the book cover, respectively, the 5 chapters of 1 Peter. The use of Peter as a guide for thinking about the contemporary church stems from the authors’ conviction that the setting of the church today parallels more closes the church to whom Peter was writing. Though the church enjoyed a season of being at the center of Western thought and life, it has now returned to “life at the margins” of society. We have entered a post-Christendom world, and as a result we need to rethink our strategies of mission, ministry, and church life. So they authors write:

We want to suggest that most of our current dominant models of church and evangelism are Christendom models. This needs to change as we move to a post-Christendom and post-Christian context. (23)

We can learn, then, from the example of the early church. Peter writes to a congregation that knew what it meant to live on the margins of society, so they serve as a good example for us. As the authors work their way through the text of 1 Peter they are directing us to see how this new model of “everyday church” can shape how we think about all of ministry. They cover the whole range of church related topics, including: community, pastoral care, church planting, and evangelism. Peter and the early church serve as our guide to rethinking the contemporary setting.

It’s not that the early church is prescriptive in all these areas, nor do the authors have some unhealthy romanticism about the early church. The early church was not perfect, nor should it inform everything we do at present. Rather, they believe that since our context has changed to such a degree that the church is no longer celebrated, submitted to, nor even tolerated then we have something to learn from early Christians. Their experience parallels ours now in many ways. So they set out to help us think about church within this new context.

The content of the book is very good. Chester and Timmis direct us to consider carefully what real Biblical community looks like. They assert that evangelism in a pluralistic context must reflect the challenges that such a context presents. They give us a captivating look at “everyday pastoral care” that seeks to de-professionalize discipleship – this chapter is my favorite in the whole book. But much of what they say is really a repeat from their previous book. Though some of the content is partially expanded, the truth is that Total Church was not nearly as theoretical as some have suggested. There is no sharp division between Total Church and Everyday Church. In some ways this particular volume felt a bit like reading an updated and slightly expanded version of Total Church. Not only did it not keep my attention as well, but having just finished Total Church the week before, Everyday Church felt like a redundancy.

Perhaps the one benefit of this volume over the previous is the language of “everyday church.” “Total church” always felt a bit vague and hyperbolic. Everyday church communicates so much more powerfully the point of both books: that church is not an event, a meeting, or a place. Rather it is the community of God’s people participating in ordinary life together with gospel-intentionality. So they write:

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 neighbors, “gospeling” one another and sharing the good news with unbelievers. The context for this gospel-centered community and mission is not events but ordinary, everyday life. (50)

The language of Everyday church directly challenges us to think about what it means to be part of the community of believers on Monday and Tuesday, not merely Wednesday and Sunday.

It’s not that Everyday Church is bad. The book is really quite good. The authors, however, simply didn’t need to write it. Total Church communicates many of the same points just fine. Everyday Church is a good book, but if feels unnecessary in light of its predecessor.

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