I have had the opportunity courtesy of Crossway to review the book What is the Mission of the Church by Kevin Deyoung and Greg Gilbert.
Both Kevin and Greg have a reputation that precedes this book as two who “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” In a world where young leadership is typically found in MBA’s and tech gurus who make it big, or young leadership means standing for a social cause or political movement, these two gentlemen and brothers of the faith have stood and delivered a well-balanced volume. In the midst of the shifting trends in Christian culture there are broad swings from “neo-Calvinism” to the “emergent church”, Great Commission resurgence among Southern Baptists to the social justice causes of liberal mainline denominations, these two became increasingly concerned in the midst all of the chatter and causes that the Mission of the Church was being lost, confused or misrepresented.
Deyoung and Gilbert present a well balanced discussion and historical and orthodox explanation of the Gospel and ultimately the Mission of the Church.
I find this discussion extremely compelling as a Board Member of Jefferson Street Baptist Center, a local Gospel Mission, and as a seminary student coming from a business background, here is why: Project Managers typically get called into a project when one of two things occur, the project is beginning some preliminary discussions or it is well underway and the project itself is virtually unrecognizable when compared to its original intent. I by no means believe the church is by any stretch of the imagination a business or a project, but I couldn’t help but find the similarity. What happens when the mission isn’t clearly defined? it grows, just like the scope of a project. Why does this happen? Because the mission isn’t clearly defined or adhered to or because the organization doesn’t really know its own identity and therefore it’s mission.
Through careful study, and a exegesis from a hermeneutic that is solidly redemptive, historical and canonical, the authors define what the church is, as the body of redeemed believers, what the church as the institution is organizationally, consisting of the pulpit and ministries that equip and serve, and conclude the mission of the church as this:
“The mission of the church is to go into the world and make disciples by declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit and gathering these disciples into churches, that they might worship and obey Jesus’ commands now and in eternity to the glory of God the Father.”
I could not agree more. They do an outstanding job of keeping an encouraging tone as they look at the various issues in American Christianity and address others in a humble yet biblically authoritative way. They surmise that The Church is absolutely called to cause of the Great Commission, but not for the sake of decisions or soul-winning. We are not soul-winners, God Is! And we would be neglecting the largest majority of that call and the rest of the biblical evidence in Pauline epistles if we did not take it as part of our mission to gather these new saints into church’s and disciple them to repeat the process in their context and culture and have compassion for their physical needs and issues in society along the way.
Furthermore, they clarify what the mission of the church is not. We are not called as the church to solve society’s problems. It’s irresponsible and bad theology to assume we have the call, command, or power to do so. Our sin brings enough guilt without the additional burden of the church solving the issues of social and political causes.
Rightly, they go on to elaborate and balance it in its proper place that fighting hunger, health and other means of social issues and oppression are not things we as Christians shouldn’t be concerned with. Their ultimate problem is they only address the human in the here and now, and not eternity.
The Church has the call to extend the Gospel and God’s glory as the primary mission of the church. We are not to confuse our mission with the mission of Christ. We can’t and never should assume we have the same mission nor the ability to accomplish it, The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the mission not a byproduct. I found it quite interesting that they pointed out that in all of Jesus’s miracles and acts of compassion were only done while he was already on mission to teach and preach, and out of his compassion and love he addressed the physical needs as well along the way.
As they recently elaborated on in an interview, it is put, theologically speaking, as the church having a mission to build God’s kingdom in the world, or to gather the building materials of the kingdom, or to join God in his work of making a better world or bringing shalom. Practically speaking, that can mean all kinds of things. We’ve read books calling for local churches to take as their mission everything from improving housing in their cities, to providing health care, to doing biological research against disease, to advocating for global environmental policies. Now, you may very well think all those are good things; you may even see reasons in Scripture to say that every Christian should see them as good things and work for them. But that’s quite different from saying that those are the things which define the church’s mission in the world.
I Highly recommend this book to all of us, laypersons, future ministers and those in ministry now to step back, read this book along side the Bible and pause to reflect theologically on what Scripture commands us to do. We need to get this right. This is the ultimate WHY of what we do outside of Sunday morning worship. This is why we do not live in monasteries, convents and compounds. There is a lost and dying world out there in the bedroom right next to us, the house down the road, the cubicle next to ours, and a culture around the globe.
Read inside (PDFs): Sample Pages
The Mission of the Church from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.
“A very timely and eminently engaging book for all those who care deeply
about the church’s mission in our day. Again and again, I found myself
nodding in agreement as the authors made a key point from Scripture
or noted the missional relevance of a given biblical passage.
I highly recommend this book, not just as food for thought,
but more importantly,as a call to obedient, biblically informed action.”
—Andreas Köstenberger, Senior Professor of New Testament
and Biblical Theology, Director of PhD Studies,
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
“In what appears to be a growing tension over what the mission of the
church encompasses, DeYoung and Gilbert bring a remarkably balanced
book that can correct, restore, and help regardless of which way you lean
or land on all things ‘missional.’ I found the chapters on social justice
and our motivation in good works to be especially helpful. Whether you
are actively engaging the people around you with the gospel and serving
the least of these or you are hesitant of anything ‘missional,’ this book will
help you rest in God’s plan to reconcile all things to himself in Christ.”
—Matt Chandler, Lead Pastor, The Village Church,
Highland Village, Texas
“Christ is the greatest message in the world, and delivering it is the greatest
mission. But are we losing our focus? Are we being distracted, sometimes even
by good things? Zealous Christians disagree sharply today over the church’s
proper ministry and mission. Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert bring us back
to first things in an age of mission creep and distraction. Offering balanced
wisdom, this book will give us not only encouragement but discomfort exactly
where we all need it. It’s the kind of biblical sanity we need at this moment.”
—Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic
Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California
“Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert have written an important book on
an important topic. Fair, keenly observant, startlingly honest, this book is
replete with careful exegetical work. Verses are not merely cited; they are
considered in context. The length of an idea is considered, all the way from
its expression in the local church back to its source in Scripture. The result
is a book that is nuanced and clear, useful and enjoyable to read, and that is
no small gift from two young pastor-theologians who have already become
reliable voices. Open this book and you’ll want to open your Bible and open
your mind on everything from justice to capitalism, from mercy to love.”
—Mark Dever, Senior Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC
My critique is this. Come out with some discussion guide, or leader/study materials fast! I certainly wish I had more time to dig into the details but, honestly I just to encourage others to read the book!
I received the pre-pub galley free from Crossway and was not required to post a positive review