Sunday, December 4, 2011

Review - What is the Mission of the Church

I was very happy to get the chance to get a complimentary copy of a book from Amazon dealing with a question that is profoundly important:  "What is the Mission of the Church?: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission" by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert.

DeYoung and Gilbert do an outstanding job at addressing a question that is completely fundamental to the Christian faith, simultaneously profound and challenging, yet not often discussed in churches. What exactly IS the mission of the church? It's a question that is intimately associated with the question what is the gospel? Is the mission primarily or exclusively to proclaim the gospel of salvation in Christ and save souls? Is it, as some many recent authors and pastors suggest, much broader than that - including joining God in His mission to restore the world, to bring Shalom, and to labor hard for social justice? The answer to this question is not easy, but the authors have made a strong case for the Great Commission really providing the answer to the question of the mission of the church. They don't downplay the importance or value of seeking to do good and bring justice, especially when individual Christians feel a strong call to do so, but they don't see attempts to 'broaden' the gospel as fruitful or Biblical. They also don't steer away from touch questions: does "social justice" as the phrase commonly means today, have much to do with how the Bible looks at justice?!

The real strengths in the book are the careful examination of what Scripture has to say on this question, and on the respectful pastoral heart displayed by the authors, which seek to affirm those giving their lives to important causes carried out in the name of Christ, while saying true to their understanding of the Bible.

For the person strongly interested in this topic there are two must-read posts I will point out. One is a great review on this book by Ed Stetzer, and the other is this thoughtful response by the authors.

What is the Mission of the Church is definitely worth reading, especially along with supporting and contrasting books such as What Is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert and The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons.