‘Everyday church’

Mission by being good neighbours
By Tim Chester and Steve Timmis
IVP. 188 pages. £9.99
ISBN 978 1 844 745 203

If you only read one book this year, read this one!

Those who have read books by Steve and Tim before will expect to be challenged by a clear, straightforward application of the Bible and they will not be disappointed. Using 1 Peter, the authors show that the New Testament churches, and specifically those Peter addressed, faced a very similar challenge to churches in the West today. Christianity is increasingly marginalised and the vast majority of the population are unfamiliar with the claims of Christ and, indeed, prejudiced against them.

So how do we reach the UK where 70% of the population have no intention of going to church? The authors challenge the amount of time and effort that churches devote to putting on better and better services and events or simply expecting that people will come to church if we just pray enough. While at times the author’s generalisations about churches in the UK seem a little harsh, their outline of the false assumptions that many churches make is very timely and helpful.

Many books and courses speak of the need for ‘friendship evangelism’, so what is different about this one? Perhaps the most helpful thing is the way that the authors work through 1 Peter, allowing the text to set the agenda and the expectations. In keeping with Peter’s letter, the book is basically encouraging, pointing out that the 1st-century church flourished in the same context as our own. However, the book pulls no punches with its radical, yet helpful, challenge that the Bible views evangelism as a corporate activity and not merely the task of some gifted individuals in the church. The biblical model is not of attractive events but attractive communities. The need is not only for Christians to meet the unchurched where they are, in the context of everyday life, but to draw them into a community in which they will see as well hear the message of the gospel.

Read this book, pass it on to a few other Christians in your church and then set about putting it into action. Peter’s challenge is not merely that we know that we are ‘a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God’, but that we declare it, together, through our good deeds and hope-filled answers.

David Sprouse, 
Cuckfield Baptist Church, West Sussex