Monday, October 01, 2012

BookPastor >> "What Is the Mission of the Church?"

It is important to understand that while the Church is called to do good works, and be active in social help and justice, let it be clear that the mission of the Church is not limited to these things. All religious have social help initiatives. This book helps us focus on what is the core distinctiveness of Church witness. This review was first published on April 26th, 2012 at Panorama of a Book Saint.


TITLE: What Is the Mission of the Church?: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission
AUTHOR: Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert
PUBLISHER: Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011, (288 pages).

This book puts a laser-beam focus on a word that has become overused unto confusion, and misunderstood through careless use. The authors highlight the whole problem with Stephen Neill's provocative words: "If everything is mission, nothing is mission." What this brings up is that there is a great need for the Church and for Christians to understand what exactly is the nature of mission. Written in three parts, DeYoung and Gilbert first tries to put forth some definition of what exactly mission is. Secondly, they point out that mission is not to be confused with social justice, with peacemaking through shalom, and acts of mercy. Instead, the mission of the Church is exactly the Great Commission as pointed out in Matthew 28:18-20. It is the authors' conviction that Bible passages are not only to be understood, they need to be applied correctly. For example, the mandate to Abraham in Genesis 12 is not about being a blessing to the rest of the nations. It is about being the nation from which the Seed of God is eventually allowed to come and be among us. Another example is the use of Exodus 19 where Israel is often seen as playing the role of "kingdom of priests." Instead, the authors see the Exodus call to Israel as to be separated for God, be focused on being sanctified in God, and to keep the law. Each step of the way, the Scriptures remind us that we are to depend on God, and not to live so independently that we do not need God.

"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 Christ now and in eternity to the glory of God the Father." (241)

Why the Authors Emphasize "Great Commission = Mission?"

Five reasons are given. Firstly, The mission of the Church is not to be confused with the mission of God. Otherwise, the Church will be taking the entire Word of God as THEIR responsibility instead of God. God is more specific with regards to what He wants the Church to do. Secondly, the Church's theology of mission needs to come from the New Testament first because the Old Testament is more concerned with the nation of Israel. Thirdly, the mission of the Church needs to be tied to the person of Jesus Christ. Fourthly, the last words of Jesus are of significance as they are His parting message. Fifthly, the Great Commission conveniently sums up what the Church is to do.

The authors explain that the gospels, Acts and the Epistles describe the diversity of the GC. Matthew emphasizes discipleship, Luke-Acts emphasizes witnessing, John describes the theological nature of sending out, while Paul proclaims the gospel.

What About the Social Justice, Shalom, and the other Categories of Christian Witnessing?

The authors choose to tell the whole story of the Bible from Creation to the Fall, the Incarnation, the Redemption, Resurrection, right through to Revelation. One problem the Church falls into is that in trying to avoid making the gospel too small, they have made it too big until we miss out the true mission of the Church. Instead, proper categorization and priorities need to be established. Gospel can be used either in a narrow way or a broad way. No! There is only one gospel, and that is Christ. This is powerfully communicated through the unity of the message of the kingdom with the MEANS to enter the Kingdom, which is Jesus (110-113). The Mission of the Church will do both.

My Comments

This book is an important milestone resource for the Church to remember and to refocus on what is truly their mission. Too often, Christians confuse the things a Church should do vs what a Christian should be doing. Good works alone are not missions. Kind words and deeds are not mission. Teaching, baptizing, making disciples and teaching them to be more like Christ is the mission. Good works and deeds are to be part of the overall mission work, but not to be mistaken as a mission in themselves.

I appreciate the epilogue which puts together some basic advice for a young pastor who wants to start a missional movement. Some of the tips are priceless:
  • Things the Church do as a body collectively are different from what the body parts are doing individually.
  • Don't make a program out of every good deed. Instead equip people for ministry
  • Deal with people, not stereotypes
  • Major on the big principles, but minor on specifics
  • Don't use guilt to motivate. 
  • Doing justice and social help are but one part of the good work of the Church. They are not to be the main thing.
Sometimes, the problem readers may face is that the message is too simple to be true. How can the mission of the Church be reduced to only the Great Commission? As I read the book, I feel that this is not a reduction but a redemption of our understanding of what the Great Commission is. If we fail to see the GC in capital letters, and to give them major attention, that explains why the Church we are in are not missional enough. For the Word is life. This life needs to be shared (Go). It needs to be cultivated in the Church (Make Disciples) and outside the Church (Of All Nations). It needs to be affirmed in members (Baptizing), through understanding of the Triune God. It needs to be used in equipping (Teach), and in living (Obeying). Finally, it is to enable all of us to be aware of God's Presence. The Great Commission is one powerful verse. That is the mission of the Church, the mission of missions, the purpose of purposes for the Church. Miss that and we fail to be the Church God has called us to be.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Crossway Publishers and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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