When you pick up a book with a title such as this one and the strapline, "A radical reshaping around gospel and community," you will probably approach it either with great suspicion or with the expectation that it is the answer to all your problems. After reading it, I can assure you that it is not not an off the wall book, but where the authors are seeking to be firmly rooted in scripture. Similarly, while it will get you thinking, it won't solve all the questions you might have about how we should 'do church'.
The authors, Chester & Timmis, set out their stall in the introduction. They want to express a model of church that gives priority to both the gospel word and the gospel community. The book begins by pointing out from the Bible that both of these are important if we are to grow as churches and reach out to the community around us. I found their arguments helpful and convincing. The rest of the chapters are set aside to show what this dual emphasis would look like in these various areas of church life: Evangelism, Social involvement, Church planting, World mission, Discipleship & training, Pastoral care, Spirituality, Theology, Apologetics, Children & young people and success.
This is not a ivory tower book - all theory and no practice. As the authors paint the picture of what 'total church' might look like they draw heavily on their own experience and examples. This serves to earth their thoughts in reality, but it also brings tension and moments of, "I wouldn't do it that way". I am not sure that community has to mean communal living, or that being part of the community means getting a part time job so that you have more time to give. To be fair to Chester & Timmis, they don't set out to say this is the only way of doing it, but you might get that impression from the illustrations. This being said, the principles they advocate, I would say, are rooted in scripture and the application they made of them I found stimulating and challenging.
It is good to be made to think, this book does that. It is good to be made to think differently, this book achieves this without leaving a firm anchorage in the word of God. It is good to be made to think practically, you may not agree with every application made, I didn't, but it makes your mind run in useful channels.