This is something I've been thinking about and increasingly challenged about for a while. The challenge has come most recently in the form of my church in Bournville, who are being community in a way which is most, well, challenging to me. There's the challenge of the odd hours I work. There's the challenge of being involved in community as a single just moved to the area when I've never really done it before. There's the challenge which accompanies my conviction that much as I love mulling over theology, it is actually a church activity: i.e. to be done as a community of the word. Underlying it all (or undermining it, perhaps), there's the challenge of being in church as a community of the word when naturally my heart is selfish with its time and energy, proud of its own knowledge and seeking to be served ('have my needs met') rather than to serve. To this, Total Church honed the challenge I was pondering regarding sharing the gospel - not just to be involved in communities outside of church (work, other activities, sports) individually seeking to witness, but actually witnessing as a community. Not so much putting on programmes and activities, but living as a gospel community and inviting others to join in as we hang out together, talk about Jesus, study the Bible, meet for worship...
I didn't agree with everything in Total Church. [Edit: I had written that the authors may need to engage with a wider constituency, but that is perhaps unfair - it's not a one-stop book on church and I need to continue my study in a wider constituency!] I thought they were overly denigrating of Christian theologians in theological institutions, seemingly presuming that none of them could possibly be doing theology with a love for the church and in service of her, engaging with church-building, gospel-furthering issues. Having said that, all too often I meet young men who are studying theology perhaps more to satisfy their own potential idol of knowledge than to serve God's people (I know I have the same temptation with knowledge in general). But as Coffey also says, where you don't agree with the authors, you are made to engage with them, and even answer back out loud. And overall, I reached the end and cried to our Father in heaven for grace to be a part of his church more honouring to him.
Highly recommended - get it from IVP.
Married for God, by Christopher Ash, is an excellent new book, again IVP, on marriage. I had a quicker read through this than the above, as I've a friend in Belgium to send it to, and happily it seems excellent. Ash's practical theology means it's just as helpful a read for those currently single as for those married or engaged, and he also deals pastorally with those who are married and childless. For those who've read Pure, I'd say it's the next thing to read. Where Pure leaves some things up to the course to flesh out, Ash talks through them, and generally spends the greater amount of time and pastoral input that you'd expect from the larger book. Also provides questions at the end of each chapter which I'd think would be especially helpful for an engaged couple - but are generally helpful. Pity about the cheesy cover (have IVP employed an American in the design department?) but there have been worse! Albeit from a speed read, recommended!