Friday, March 28, 2014

Totally everyday church

I recently got around to reading Everyday Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis.  It is very much the sequel to their earlier Total Church, and so I'm bracketing them both together as 'Totally Everyday Church', or TEC.  They're both great books, and my reaction to both has been pretty much the same.  So this is not a summary or a review - if you  want to know what the books say, read them; Everyday Church in particular is very readable, and would give you a good feel for TEC.  This is my reaction to this particular attempt to rebuild the church from the gospel up.

Initially, TEC is enormously attractive to me.  It is without a doubt a radical proposal: essentially, what if we went back to basics, stripped the church back to just a community believing the gospel and living in response.  What if we cut out some of the programmes, the big ideas, the meetings - and just loved one another and the world instead?  (Again, this is not what Chester and Timmis have written, it's my response to what they've written).  How exciting would that be?  I love the idea of really sharing life with one another, really being available to one another, really reaching out and having an impact on people around us by showing and sharing Christ-like relationships.  Yes please.  Let's do it.  Let's tear the thing down and re-build.

Interestingly, not much of the enthusiasm extends to the particular way that Timmis and Chester suggest we should do and be church.  I'm not a fan of the Crowded House model, in so far as I understand it.  I've never been clear where the local church actually is in this structure - is it the small group, or the Sunday gathering?  And I worry about the lack of emphasis on church officers, which seems unBiblical to me.  And I am not sur preaching is getting the central role it deserves.  And a hundred and one other things.  But it doesn't matter, because the authors are clear that they are not really selling the model.  Totally Everyday Church doesn't need to look just like this, it just needs to look like radical living oriented around gospel, community, and mission - and in principle, I'm up for it.

Then I remember a few things.  Firstly, I remember that I'm a dyed-in-the-wool conservative.  Could I really stand to lose so much of the church tradition I love?  Then secondly, and much more importantly, I start to think about what it would really be like to have an open home in the way that is being talked about.  Now, I'm very definitely an introvert.  I love people, but I need alone time. If I don't get any over a prolonged period, I stop being able to engage with others and to give of myself in lots of ways.  How am I going to carve out that time from the totalising reality that is Total Everyday Church?  And then, I often only get ten minutes a day to really talk to my wife.  What if we're just settling down to our one dinner without children in the week when the doorbell rings?  And then thirdly, I remember that sometimes I just don't have it in me to be a Christian.  Sometimes I'm hanging on by fingernails, and it's all I can do to drag myself into the back of church and leave again as soon as it's over.  I suspect on any given Sunday that there are plenty of us in that situation.  At this stage, I can feel the burden, the huge unbearable burden, of TEC descending on me - it really is TOTAL, and I can't take it.

So I start to think, maybe Totally Everyday Church is not for me.  TEC sounds like it would work for activists, extroverts, and people who have it together.  But I can't see how I would fit in.  I think I'd ruin it.

In the end, I'm left feeling sad - thinking that there is better, more radical, more gospel-shaped church life out there which I will never be part of.  And I wonder how much of that is my temperament and character, and how much of it is my sin, and I can't unpick it.

But that's just my reaction.  Anyone out there doing it, following this sort of model, and finding that it works?  Anyone not following it got any pointers for how we take on board some of the passion and gospel priority without having to be people we're not?  Anyone just think I'm being daft and melodramatic?


  1. Time for a pint. You'd (maybe / maybe not) be surprised how many of us in CCC continue to struggle with those very questions.

    1. We really should get that pint at some point! It doesn't really surprise me, knowing some of the characters involved. I don't want to underplay the attraction of the model, though - I want to want to do it, if you follow me. It certainly appeals more than 'big church'. Still thinking.