“What is the Mission of the Church?” by Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert

Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan. He is the author of several books, including Just Do Something, editor of Don’t Call it a Comeback, and coauthor of Why We Love the Church.

Greg Gilbert is senior pastor of Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the author of What Is The Gospel? and often writes for 9Marks Ministries.

Recommended. The Christian mission has been much maligned by the diluted definition of the term, “mission.” Some Christians believe that local disciple-making is the mission of the church; others devote their lives to social justice and worldwide missions as an answer to the Great Commission. People are confused and preachers don’t always clarify things for us. In fact, churches often have us pulled one way or the other, passively acknowledging one aspect of the Christian mission, but emphasizing the other. Christians are confused, wondering, “how are we supposed to live in this world?” Because of this, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to answer the very question that titles this book: What is the Mission of the Church? Fortunately, DeYoung and Gilbert have taken it upon themselves to not only answer the question they propose, but to go lengths beyond the simple conclusion to look at the holistic mission of the church.

DeYoung and Gilbert biblically answer the question of the church’s mission, showing that the divine imperative extends beyond the Great Commission passages. And beyond the biblical response they give pastoral insight into the oft misled or incomplete effort of fulfilling the “missional” goal. Their treatment of the subject is cautious yet balanced and they give clear juxtapositions of the different positions that are held within the church. Overall, it’s an encouraging sign that these men are calling us to think carefully about how the Lord has called believers to live in this world.

One of the most helpful aspects of the book were the two chapters DeYoung and Gilbert devoted to the issue of social justice. A subject that has kept me on my proverbial toes, the Christian participation in social justice has taken our society (namely the college and young adult age) by storm. So when they addressed social justice in this book, I listened. They began by recognizing the contemporary movement among young people, but realize the downfalls of the missional zeal. They write, “with all the buzz and energy surrounding social justice, there have been few efforts to look at actual texts. Little time has been spend walking through the main ‘social justice’ passages to see what they really say.” So they do just that, thankfully.

While not underselling what the bible says about the poor and social justice, they temper that with not overselling it either. They give many helpful insights for how to deal with the issue of social justice, but for that information, you’ll have to read the book. I’ll just say that I now have a better, more biblical perspective of the Christian call toward social justice.

I would definitely recommend this book to new believers or curious believers in general. It would be particularly helpful to the new believer who is still trying to wrap his or her head around the idea of living out the mission of the church, or how to respond in obedience to the Great Commission passages. It is an edifying book and one that will help clear the mess of confusion that surrounds the mission of the church within the church.

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