Friday, March 9, 2012

What is the Mission of the Church by Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert

Have you ever wondered if the church should primarily be about helping the poor? Have you considered whether the church should make its focus the adoption of children? Or have you thought that the focus of the church should only be the gospel? If you have ever thought any of these questions, or ones like them, What is the Mission of the Church by DeYoung and Gilbert is a book that you MUST read. I intentionally used capital letters on that one. I normally recommend books, but this is one that should be a MUST for those who lead the church and care for their community. It is a MUST for those who lead missions committees that are praying over who to support. And it is certainly a MUST for those who care for the mission of the church.

The focus of DeYoung and Gilbert is to drill down to core issues. They are less concerned about the things that the church could do or even should do. They are primarily concerned with what a church must do, so that, if the church fails to do it, she has failed to fulfill her primary mission. And their answer? Its not really that profound, for it is everywhere in the Scriptures. And they repeat it over and over in the book. The primary mission, or the central calling, 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 the Lord and obey his commands now and in eternity to the glory of God the Father." (62)
But what I love most about this book is that it is balanced. While they say that the primary mission of the church is the gospel and making disciples, they are not unconcerned about the poor, the hungry, the hurting, or the waterless. In fact, they repeatedly say that it would be wise for a church to be actively involved in these sort of activities. It is wise for a church to serve its community. It is good for the church to do things for the betterment of their community. It is what a redeemed human desires to do as he or she lives out the good works of their faith. It is just not the primary thing the church is called to do. They say,
"If we improve our schools, get people off welfare, clean up the park, and plant trees in the neighborhood, but aren't seeking to make disciples, we may 'bless' our communities, but we're not accomplishing the church's mission. 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." (238)
And I will add. Even if you transform your community and never introduce them to Christ, what have you really gained? A good community of people that will spend eternity in hell away from God? What ultimate good (or love for them) is that? They say it like this:
"Since hell is real, we must help each other die well even more than we strive to help our neighbors live comfortably. Since hell is real, we must never think alleviating earthly suffering is the most loving thing we can do. Since hell is real, evangelism and discipleship are not simply good options or commendable ministries, but are literally a matter of life and death." (245)
It is a helpful read for there are many in our culture today that are seeking to be missional (especially in the younger generation). They want to live among the people like Jesus and alleviate their pain and suffering like Jesus. I think DeYoung and Gilbert would applaud them, but also remind them not to forget the main thing: the gospel is priority, not secondary.

It is helpful read for there are many in our culture today that do not care for meeting pressing needs of their community. They only want to preach the gospel and expect people to respond. I think DeYoung and Gilbert would applaud them for standing firm in the gospel and remind them that a proper response to the gospel is a sensitivity to the needs of others.

The book is well-written. It is easy to read. They do a very good job of dealing with the key Scripture passages that need to be dealt with; and at certain points, they are not afraid to dig deep into them, asking well thought-out questions. I greatly enjoyed this book! I will probably pass some out, which is probably the best recommendation I could ever give.

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