Saturday, April 30, 2011

Book Review: "The Gospel Commission"

TITLE: THE GOSPEL COMMISSION - Recovering God's Strategy for Making Disciples
AUTHOR: Michael Horton
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011, (320 pages).

Gospel Commission, The: Recovering God's Strategy for Making DisciplesIs there anything new in this book? No. Is there a more jazzy message in there? No. Is there something hip and clever in the book? No. Horton shows us that we do not need these things to dress up the gospel message and mission. The pure gospel and mission can stand on its own.

Do not let this book's simple innocent title fool you. True to its message, the author base his ideas on biblical foundation. True to the gospel message, he makes the reader more attentive to the gospel itself. True to the gospel mission, Horton exemplifies in this book the words of the great missionary to China who famously says:
"God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply." (James Hudson Taylor)
What the Book is About
Simply put, the book continues where the author's two previous books have left off. In Christless Christianity and The Gospel-Driven Life, Horton talks about the need to take the gospel seriously, calling on believers toward the gospel MESSAGE. In this book, Horton continues with a renewed focus on taking the MISSION of the gospel seriously. He has several concerns. Firstly, he urges Christians NOT to take the Great Commission for granted. Secondly, he is arguing for a shift away from the tendency in many churches toward 'mission creep.' Such 'mission creep' tends to puff up church mission and strategies instead of sharing God's mission and kingdom. The former is more man-centered while the latter is God-centered. Thirdly, and most importantly, Horton writes:

"There is no mission without the church and no church without the mission." (14)

He announces:

"The Great Commission begins not with an imperative, a plan, a strategy for our victory in the world, but with the announcement that Christ has conquered sin and death." (89)

This is followed by a reminder that the Church need not invent new mission or strategies. Tying together the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, Horton says that Jesus himself has given us the mission and the strategic approaches. Horton interacts widely with leaders of the Emerging Church Movement, like Brian McLaren, as well as the spiritual contemplative writers like Dallas Willard and Richard Foster. He is not afraid to disagree with them when he feels they are out of sync with the Great Commission. Yet, he is respectful of the teachings from these esteemed authors. I appreciate the sensitivity and balanced manner, as well as the measured criticism from the author.

My Comments
One stark observation is that Horton does not lace this book with fancy titles or colourful glossy covers. Neither are there any big name endorsements on the inner and outer flaps that we have gotten so used to, especially for authors desperate to attract more readers to buy their books. If a book is good, the message alone suffices. If a book is no good, no amount of who's who on the covers helps. Horton does not need nice packaging. He lets the message be the message.

Kudos to the author, who is not interested in chasing after the latest fad in spiritual matters but stick to ancient truths that are theological sound, and biblically faithful. I find myself highlighting many powerful statements that hits home. I enjoy the way the author weaves together biblical theology and the mission emphasis of God's love. It is an important book that deserves a wider readership.

One critique I have is that such a book may not appeal as much to the general reader. Leaders and concerned church members who have some kind of theological training will benefit most. Apart from this, I think Horton is very passionate about the Gospel Commission, and sees all manner of Church and Christian Living from this perspective. I am glad to see Horton applying the mission focus on the fundamentals of Matthew 28:18-20. He exhorts the reader to put a renewed energy back into preaching, teaching, baptizing, and making disciples of all nations. Calling these as means of grace, the GC is not something that Christian 'have' to do, but is one that true disciples will love and long to do.

Did Michael Horton do a good job in 'recovering God's strategy for Making Disciples?' The answer is a resounding YES!

I strongly recommend this book.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group".

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