Thursday, 7 November 2013

What is the Mission of the Church?

There are many good things the Church could do, but when faced with limited resources and time, what would you say the mission of the Church is? Like another of Greg Gilbert's book (What is the Gospel?) this book sets out to answer this question, that on the one hand it should be obvious and on the other it can be hard to explain. Unlike, What is the Gospel?, this book is longer and more technical. I wonder if Kevin DeYoung as co author had something to do with that (that is meant to be a compliment as I really like DeYoung's books).

This was an interesting book as the first chapter offers one big caveat to what they are about to argue for. Yes social justice, looking after the poor and giving people meals is a good thing the church should be doing, but they then argue in the rest of the book that those things are not the mission of the church. So what is the mission? The great commission. There, you don't have to read the book now :)

Through most of the book the authors move in broad (but not shallow) strokes to show where the Church fits in to the whole story of the Bible. There is even a whole chapter on the Gospel where I think a sharper or clearer meaning of what the Gospel is than in Gilbert's previous book. Social justice, shalom, good deeds, the role of the individual Christian vs the corporate church are then all dealt with.

The most helpful thing I learnt from this book, and turned to a fair bit after reading it (as I am now reading Surprised by Hope by N. T. Wright), was their presentation of the New Heaven and the New Earth and our current role in "building the Kingdom of God" in the here and now. They point out that nowhere in the Bible are Christians called to "build" the Kingdom of God, instead they are to "announce", "proclaim", "invite", "be a witness to", etc... It is God who does the building, not the Christians/Church. Yes the Church is to live like a new outpost or colony of the New Kingdom, but that is only possible because of Christ.

If you are pressed for time, I would recommend just reading chapter 2 which is the guts of their point about what is (Matt. 28:16–20; Mark 13:10; 14:9; Luke 24:44–49; Acts 1:8) and what isn't (Genesis 12:1–3, Exodus 19:5–6, Luke 4:16–21) the mission of the Church. After that I think read the Epilogue. It is written as a fictional conversation between a new pastor and one that has seen a lot of fads in his time and sums up the book nicely in a practical way.

If you ever wanted to think hard on the Church's role in this world, or were staring up a new church or church service I think this book would be a good place to start.

Related Links
What is the Gospel? - A short book by Greg Gilbert
Why We're Not Emergent - Kevin co-authored this book on the emerging church
Why we Love the Church - Another book Kevin co-authored as kinda  sequel to the above book


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