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Total Church: Interview with Steve Timmis - Part Two

Total Church: Interview with Steve Timmis - Part Two

By Pastor Scott Thomas

We are continuing an interview with my friend Steve Timmis the author of Total Church, co-authored by Tim Chester. Steve answered several questions from a group of men training to be church planters.

Total Church is published by Crossway through the Re:Lit line of books managed by Resurgence.

Read Part One...


PTP Member: Can you talk about the difficulty of reprogramming people to think in this new paradigm of Total Church, and how long that takes, and what you do to get people to walk that path?

Timmis: Basically it depends on how long they’ve been programmed within the other paradigm. Everything is a heart issue, a gospel issue. Every question has a gospel answer. What we need to do is gospel one another all the time – we really try to do that, not only in our formal teaching, but within our life-on-life, speaking the gospel to one another, in bringing the gospel to bear together.

We have a saying “the devil’s in the detail.” I know that I’ve made mistakes in my past in terms of understanding people and where they’re coming from by not appreciating the small things in life. Not keeping their word, always being late, things that seem fairly trivial or irrelevant, and yet seeing those as bits in which their heart issues that are exposed so bringing the gospel gently, graciously to bear upon those. To the extent that we are doing that we are seeing people effectively change their programming; their hearts are softer, they get a heart for God, his glory, the lost… but it’s a heart issue and we have to pastor them. That can take anything from people snapping it up instantaneously, and for some people it just takes a long time to seem to interact. But they’ve got to be loved, cared for and challenged anywhere from 6-months, a year, 18 months.


PTP Member: How is that different than a house-church model?

Timmis: It’s not fundamentally different; but because we have more of a shared leadership – we’ve always said we have to have two elders before we can plant. We never plant without recognized leadership in place.

With this model we are not so much leader-hungry because we do have a shared leadership, so all the leaders of the gospel communities come together every week and spend a couple hours together and talk about issues, pray together, etc. And so it’s in the integration of the gospel communities together that’s different than the house model which we’ve been pursuing today – which is more distant.


PTP Member: You said you meet in large groups from time to time – what does that look like? And how frequently is that?

Timmis: Our gospel communities meet every week for a teaching meeting; it happens every Sunday morning and honestly it looks pretty much like other church meetings in regular churches. We teach the bible, we sing together, we drink coffee together – we just enjoy being together – but the primary issue is teaching.


Scott: And then the gospel communities meet during the week?

Timmis: The gospel communities disperse, meet during the week, share life together, and do whatever they want to do during the week. That’s where the church goes on – in those gospel communities.


PTP Member: Regarding to social involvement, when you’re gathering together is there any kind of corporate mandate for a particular project to have everyone get involved in, or do you just encourage involvement on a community level and let them to be involved in making a difference for the gospel?

Timmis: Yes to both. We sort of have a shared commitment to social justice – we basically say we’re going to work hard together and make sure that is integral to each of the gospel communities.


Within our context and a few other communities, we are working with refugees and asylum seekers. So all the gospel communities – we try to encourage them to have some involvement with that in terms of housing, teaching English, getting involved in terms of representing them when their appeals come up, and all those issues. We want to make sure all the gospel communities have some involvement with that. But then they can get involved anything and everything else that they want to get involved with. My gospel community has been looking at the issue of prostitutes and drug addiction – but that’s only for us, not for all of the gospel communities as a whole.

Social justice is very important to us – and we work hard to bless the city and that is what we want to do. We don’t do that just for the marginalized, though that is a significant part. We’ve planted a gospel community in an area that’s notorious in the city – but we also run a live music café on a regular basis and a load of other things that people get involved with.

Part Three tomorrow…

Seattle Boot Camp, The Call of a Church Planter

Speakers: Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, PJ Smyth, Scott Thomas, Dave Bruskas