What is the mission of the church?

What is the mission of the church?

What is the mission of the church? Making sense of social justice, shalom and the great commission. Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert.

I picked this off the bookshelf at Capitol Hill Baptist church because I was intrigued by the title given the ‘culture wars’ that have broken out in the USA over these issues. If you don’t know what I am talking about at this point then I suggest you do some reading. Follow the footnotes to some reading material in this book and you should gain a broad (although by no means comprehensive) perspective on some of the more major issues.

Many reviewers will doubtless point to the ‘poor’ texts that are given due consideration in the book as the most helpful part but, for me at least, they were probably the most basic in terms of adding to my understanding. Where I appreciated this book was in how it dealt with this whole ‘people of God on mission with God’ dogma that has saturated much of modern evangelicalism today. They, helpfully, sought to help clarify some of the confusion around the ‘renewal of the city’ and ‘social justice’ concerns. Indeed, they rightly point out that whilst these issues are important, if they are allowed to hijack the agenda then they could undermine the real mission of the church as it relates to the gospel.

They look at several key areas in the book: an overview of the Bible, the gospel, understanding the ‘kingdom’, understanding the ‘Shalom’ and the new heavens and the new earth. What I really appreciated about the book was the high premium it placed on evangelism and discipleship as central to the role of the church without it feeling reductionist or overly critical of those who feel this is too narrow a definition.

“Ultimately, if the church does not preach Christ and him crucified, if the church does not plant, nurture, and establish more churches, if the church does not teach the nations to obey Christ, no one else and nothing else will.” (p126)

I think the strongest part of the book was the assertion that it is not the job of Christians to partner with God in everything He is doing on earth. We don’t slay the wicked, for example, nor do we die for the sins of the world. Also, the distinction between the renewal of the city as a consequence of our faith and the renewal of the city as being a gospel imperative was, again, helpful, balanced, and, for me anyway, overwhelmingly convincing. As they state, the church is not called to get involved in society the same way as the individual believer.

I really enjoyed this book. I was expecting some sort of polemic but ended up being happily surprised. Those involved in these discussions will probably not find anything new. Those looking to find some understanding on the whole issue of the Christian and his/her place in the renewal of culture will find it illuminating. Those opposed to its message will find it hard to be too damning given its conciliatory and respectful tone. And FYI, the question posed by the book is answered as follows:

“The mission of the church is to go into the world and make disciples by declaring the gospel of the Lord 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.”

I would suggest that every pastor and church planter buy this book and give it very careful consideration.