Thursday, November 24, 2011

What Is the Mission of the Church? – Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert

© 2011 Crossway, Wheaton, Illinois

There is a reason that I have to read what all the “thinkers” are writing about all the “big” issues involving the church. I’m a little slow in the thinking department, and it often takes me a little longer to digest the meat and potatoes of all the arguments. Consequently, I may “like” ideas being supported on two opposite ends of an argument—simply because the argument is well-presented. Aside from being behind the curve, another drawback to this approach is that others are finishing the books ahead of me and I may stumble upon someone else’s reaction to the work before completing my own assessment.

Having said that, I just finished this new book by my friend Greg Gilbert (pastor of Third Avenue BaptistChurch in Louisville, KY; author of What Is the Gospel?) and his friend Kevin DeYoung (pastor of UniversityReformed Church in East Lansing, MI; author of several books including Freedom & Boundaries, and Just Do Something). Their mission with this book is to define the mission of the church and address the fixation that many young church leaders have begun to place on Social Ministry and Shalom.

[I did get a glimpse at some of the links provided by Ed Stetzer while I still had a couple of chapters to go, and may have colored my view, but I’ll try not to let that affect my review.]

In their attempt to define mission for the church and to carry on the on-going conversation with some theological hiccups kept by the more social minded of our brethren the authors have a tendency to sound more like a high school debating team than burgeoning theologians. Statements that assure the reader that “as we can see” crop up periodically, regardless of whether the case has been truly made or not. One thing to remember when posing an argument is that just because something is clear in your mind does not mean that it has been made clear to your audience.

Another thing that gives me pause is the authors’ argument for “the law of moral proximity.” Understanding the premise behind their argument, I would readily agree with what they have to say on the matter. The problem comes in when one carries the argument to a logical end—which would lead the Christian to be only concerned with those with whom they have a vested interest—such as a brother-in-law or local community.

Now, having touched on those matters, let me get to the meat of the book—Biblically-based approach to what the church should do. That hearkens us back to their final analysis: that Christ Himself issued the mission of the church to the church in the form of the Great Commission. The exegesis is well done (we would expect no less), and the dogged commitment to approaching the world from a biblical view are second to none.

[Since I’m writing this review on Thanksgiving Day, let me say] I am thankful that these two young ministers have released this book. If we can reach beyond some of the stylistic quirks in the presentation of the material, we have an excellent study that challenges us to make disciples and teach them. Part of doing this is doing good in and around our world, but it cannot be done without addressing the spiritual needs of those with whom we come in contact. I have to give DeYoung and Gilbert 4out of 5 reading glasses.

—Benjamin Potter, November 24, 2011

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