Sunday, October 23, 2011

"What Is the Mission of the Church?"

I'm always happy when a book that I hope will be good turns out to be good. That's the case with What is the Mission of the Church?, by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert.

In this text, DeYoung and Gilbert set out to define and explain what the mission of the church actually is. I agree with the authors that this is necessary because of the recent confusion surrounding this topic. Some Christians, with good intentions I'm sure, have begun to frame the mission of the church in terms of social justice and mercy ministries.

The authors define the church's mission this way, "The mission 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 and obey Jesus Christ now and in eternity to the glory of God the Father." (pg. 241) The authors continue, "In contrast to recent trends, we've tried to demonstrate that mission is not everything that God is doing in the world, nor the social transformation of the world or our societies, nor everything we do in obedience to Christ."

I was pleased to repeatedly read that the authors do, in fact, believe that doing all sorts of good works is extremely important for the church. However, they assert, this is not the core mission of the church. Rather, carrying out the Great Commission is.

DeYoung and Gilbert's work is very solid exegetically and thoroughly reasoned. They look at biblical passage after passage after passage, showing time and again that our prime responsibility as Christ-followers is to make disciples.

The high points of this book for me came in chapters 3-5. In chapter three, the authors look at the biblical narrative from a bird's eye view of the cross. Chapter four is an excellent discussion of what the gospel really is from both the "wide angle lens and zoom lens" perspectives. In chapter five, DeYoung and Gilbert provide a solid analysis of the Kingdom of God.

I'm always intrigued by Kevin DeYoung in particular. Sometimes I agree with him, while at other times I vehemently disagree. While he is an arch-defender of almost all things institutional church, in this particular book I agree with him in just about everything.

I highly recommend this book to all Christians.


Arthur Sido said...

I probably won't get around to reading this but I agree about DeYoung. When he is dealing with theology proper, he is usually right on the mark (except for infant baptism) but what I wonder is how he reconciles the disconnect between the stated purpose of the church, i.e. making disciples, and the reality that the very church form he champions hampers this mission.

Eric said...


DeYoung is an interesting case. He seems incapable of getting past his own church traditions. I guess that is a lesson for us all.

Aussie John said...


I think we make a serious mistake in separating making disciples from "mission/s".

We have a mission of making disciples of,"... ALL nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the END OF THE EARTH.”

"Make disciples" and "be my witness", in practice, are one and the same, and are the mission of the Body of Christ.

We often fail to understand that the good works are not an adjunct to teaching, but are part and parcel of the mission.

Teaching without good works is neutered, and sterile teaching. Good works without teaching is equally unable to reproduce.

Obeying the great commission, is, as Jesus demonstrated, caught as much as taught.

Eric said...


I think the purpose of the authors was to help the church focus on what we are called to do: make disciples. This book was written in part because of the proliferation of other books that have tried to make social justice, community restoration, even environmental protection the mission of the church. These groups often leave out gospel presentation.

DeYoung and Gilbert wrote repeatedly about the importance of good works. However, they showed that gospel proclamation is the primary mission.