We can’t win them all …

Apparently Steve and I have not won everyone over with our book Total Church! This from ‘the Virtual Methodist‘ …

Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis: This is a book in which the authors write as if they have just invented fire, or rather recieved it express delivery from heaven… they completely disregard historic, and contemporary precedent for their “gospel & community” approach, falling into the trap of some of the “back to the New Testament Church” brigade, who forget that those NT models sat within a specific time and culture. Their approach to the poor is patronising. Their attitude to other forms of ecclesiology is arrogant. Their dismissal of academic theology is disengenuous, given the level of theological content within the book. Their comments on worship within a less literate society is shallow, again especially so given the high view of written scripture espoused here. And as for their introduction to the section on pastoral care, rarely has any book left me so angry … They are clearly tapping into the post-modernist zeitgeist, whilst remaining rigorously, and self-righteously orthodox (or should I say conservative evangelical) in their theology, unlike more emergent community/house churches. There is something to be said for their critique of a lack of community within many established churches, the lack of scriptural orthodoxy/rigour within many emergent communities, and the subjective individuality of much modern “spirituality” … But the whole book left me with a sense of frustration at the “we know best” mentality … They have NOTHING good to say about anyone else or any other Christian tradition… This may not be a fair representation of the actual church community associated with Crowded House, but on the basis of this book, they needn’t bother making any room for me …

PS. Don’t worry I’m not too crushed so there’s no need to leave comments assuring me that you liked Total Church.


11 thoughts on “We can’t win them all …

  1. Brother Tim, I think his title betrays his angst. I guess he won’t be joining TPN. Keep up the good work anyway, and per your request, I won’t tell you how much I liked the book.

  2. Hi Tim,

    Thanks for posting this… when reading Total Church I have to say I was left with a similar sense that there was a “we know best” mentality. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and found the critique of the general lack of genuine community within our churches both challenging and helpful. However, the overall feeling I was left with was one that the only solution being offered was a very rigid model of planting house churches that fits with the Crowded House methodology; instead of encouraging a broader rethink of how to encourage this within our existing church communities. I guess there’s always a danger of over-selling a particular model or methodology when we see it bearing fruit and for Godly reasons desire to share this with others. But at root it’s the gospel taking effect in our lives that will produce the genuine unity of community in Christ – whether that be by planting house churches or taking community seriously within a larger gathering of God’s people.



  3. I feel like I read a different book! I almost want to go read Total Church again just to find out what he is talking about.

    But sometimes I wonder if the reaction is not more symtomatic of where your heart is when you read something you disagree with…

    My impression of reading the book, listening to the audio and talking with both you and Steve is definitely that of much generosity to differences but yet strength and conviction in what how you best believe the gospel is worked out in your community. And principally in other communities…

  4. Its seems your post is causing lots of people to read the virtual methodist. It gets too much traffic – my browser does not receive a response from it ;-)

  5. My favourite bit:

    ” But the whole book left me with a sense of frustration at the “we know best” mentality … They have NOTHING good to say about anyone else or any other Christian tradition…”.

    Pots and kettles?

  6. Hi Chris, thanks for your comment. The interesting thing is that most TCH churches are not house churches. So we don’t have ‘a model’ (let alone ‘a very rigid model’). We have a variety of models that reflect (or rather aspire to reflect) shared principles and values. Of course that may mean we failed spectacularly in writing Total Church if people think it is an argument for house churches – which is not what we intended. Tim

  7. Hi Tim,

    Thanks for your reply. It’s good to hear that your intention behind Total Church was not to over-emphasise the “house-church” model but instead to encourage a broader application of gospel principles. I think where there is potential for misunderstanding on this whilst reading Total Church is the emphasis on the “small” rather than the “big” that seems to flow throughout the book. At times it can feel that you are saying that big church gatherings are bad. I know that TCH has a larger gathering on a Sunday where your gospel communities come together, so your own practice does not reflect this principle. However, in rightly wanting to highlight the importance of smaller gatherings of God’s people for practical community, the larger church gathering (read “more traditional model”) has at times been caricatured by implication as bad, unhelpful and to be avoided at all costs.

    Yours in Christ

  8. Hi Tim
    feel duly humbled by your willingness to post my “review” on your own site… It was originally posted as a kneejerk response immediately after reading it for my very limited readership and it is probably more negative than I would be on further reflection (although to be honest it did reflect the feelings of most of our bookgroup), indeed I was going to post something in the main body of the blog, but got caught up in other things…
    Won’t get into any sort of a debate here about it… but do want to say that if you are as welcoming of diverse/cantankerous opinions within Crowded House as you have been in flagging up this, then I can see why the house might be crowded…
    When you are next over in NI feel free to give me a shout and we can meet up and talk about some of this stuff face to face… More edifying than long-drawn out slagging matches online.
    David (VM)

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