I’ve been sharpened and instructed by the conversation about the mission of the church taking place the past few days. Here is a lengthy response from Greg Gilbert and Kevin DeYoung to Ed Stetzer’s review of their book. The dialogue has been honest, helpful, and charitable:
Just to reiterate, our book is not about whether good deeds commend the preaching of the gospel, and whether therefore they are vitally important to the mission. It’s a question of whether it’s the church’s mission—its Christ-given orders—to improve the world and make it more livable. That’s what large numbers of evangelicals seem to think these days…
In the end, I think DeYoung and Gilbert’s blog posts are better than their book. I now understand better the kind of missiological thinking they think is wrongheaded, and I get their reason for putting such a strong emphasis on proclamation. I still think they downplay the non-didactic elements of making disciples, but I have a greater understanding for why they do so.
At the end of the day, I wonder if DeYoung and Gilbert’s kids are going to be the ones who push for the view of mission they are critiquing. Could it be that the next generation is going to say, “Dad reduced the mission. Look here in the Scriptures and you can see what we missed!”?
One of the reasons evangelicalism has moved so far in the “everything is mission” direction is because the early evangelicals/fundamentalists narrowed what we are called to do in the world. You don’t fix one extreme by going to the other. You fix both extremes by devoting more attention to the Scriptures and to other believers who love and submit to those same Scriptures.
Here is a helpful excerpt from Michael Horton’s take on the book and the recent reviews:
The confusion of the church as a divine institution with the church as the people of God leads to statements today like, “We can’t go to church, because we are the church!” But this is a false choice—as bad as the nominal “Sunday Christianity” that treats formal membership in the church as fire insurance. The truth is, if we don’t go to church, we can’t be the church. We need to be made Christians or we cannot be Christians. Before we can be active doers of the Word, we have to be grateful receivers.
And here is a convicting word from Ed Stetzer’s review that has challenged me personally:
Those who read and share the book may very well be those who most need a stronger missional focus—the theologically minded who think deeply but engage weakly.
I don’t want to think deeply while engaging weakly. Neither do I want to settle for shallow thinking as I seek to engage deeply. Instead, I hope this discussion pushes us all back to the Scriptures and renews our passion to think deeply and engage deeply as we seek to accomplish the mission God has for us.