Nagging Questions on the Mission of the Church

I’ve just finished reading Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert’s latest offering, What Is the Mission of the Church?, which is a thought-provoking book on subjects like cultural engagement, social justice and the great commission. And to be honest it left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I wanted to applaud their commitment to thinking carefully about these important subjects and putting them in their correct biblical categories; language is important, especially when we claim a Scriptural warrant for our terminology. On the other hand, sometimes I felt that precision gave way to pedantry and just left me feeling a little cold about subjects that really should be firing me up.

So someone asked me the other day what I thought of the book, and my answer went something like this: “Um… well… I… er… I think it was… um… good, perhaps… important… yes… but I’m not sure I er… well, it just left me feeling a bit… er… I dunno!

Strange that I’ve never been quoted on a dust jacket. I’m certain my concise and incisive critique will elicit a job offer from The London Review of Books any day now!

For the past few days I’ve struggled to express quite why I’ve felt a little uneasy about the book, but thankfully Trevin Wax has proven himself, as ever, to be more articulate than I. In this blog post he really hits the nail on the head, as he raises ‘Five Nagging Questions about DeYoung/Gilbert’s “Mission of the Church”’, which sum up brilliantly my own lingering feelings. The whole post is concise and worth a read, but in short the questions with which he was left were:

1. Can we reduce “making disciples” and “teaching Christ’s commands” to the delivery of information?

2. If we agree that there is a zoom-lens and wide-lens view of the gospel, can we also agree that there is a zoom-lens and wide-lens view of the mission?

3. Isn’t there a sense in which worship is expressed through our life in the world, not just our corporate worship services?

4. Even if we recognize that the verbs related to the kingdom are passive (receiving, bearing witness to, etc.), does this necessarily preclude us from speaking of “work for the kingdom”?

5. Is our representation of Christ not part of the mission?

I hope and imagine that Kevin may respond to some of Trevin’s nagging questions in the coming days. It at least highlights that this is a conversation worth having and worth having well.

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