Total Church (i) – Whole life discipleship

I’m currently reading Tim Chester and Steve Timmis book, Total Church, so I thought I’d blog my way through it.

The first chapter mentions the role of the Word and the Spirit in the church. They quite rightly point out that not all that is remarkable is from the Spirit, but that the Spirit convicts through the Word. God has acted through Word and Spirit together  all throughout the Bible, from Genesis, to Jesus (the Word), on through Acts and the early church – the word continues to spread through the power of the Spirit. Even today, Christians are convicted through the words of Jesus brought to them by the Spirit through the Bible. One required the other. (Perhaps there is stuff here to say about Todd Bentley and Lakeland – is it word centred or is it entirely amazing spirit based show. – That is another topic)

At the end of the chapter, Chester and Timmis question the role of churches in enabling regular congregants to be a part of the mission of God. Oftenw e think of mission as an add on, only for the super keen. This, he claims, comes from a tendency for churches to convert and retain new members, rather than train and release. He cites the example of overseas missionaries. When they are sent, sometimes to be full time, but often to do secular jobs in other countries so that they can engage in mission in that place (this is often called tentmaking after Paul the apostle’s example), the church (rightly) makes a big deal of it. We test their vocation, pray and commission them before they go, expect regular updates so the prayer can continue. Sometimes groups from the church visit and encourage them in their new setting.

But what about the Christian teacher who is the sole Christian member of staff responsible for 40 mostly non-Christian children? What about the Christian electrician of plumber who spend every day in other peoples houses, fixing essential services and making conversation? What about the Christian lawyer who ends up counselling or defending victims or perpetrators of crime? Don’t they deserve prayer and attention from the church?

This is one of the big problems of western Christianity, Chester and Timmis say. We don’t train and equip people to live as Christians in their whole lives. We have a two tier heriarchy of what ‘Christian mission’ means – namely, those people in other countries or in full time paid Christian work. We are all Christian missionaries and the church must take ‘whole life’ discipleship seriously.

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