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Social justice and mission are hot topics today: there’s a wonderful resurgence of motivated Christians passionate about spreading the gospel and caring for the needs of others. But in our zeal to get sharing and serving, many are unclear on gospel and mission. Yes, we are called to spend ourselves for the sake of others, but what is the church’s unique priority as it engages the world?
DeYoung and Gilbert write to help Christians “articulate and live out their views on the mission of the church in ways that are theologically faithful, exegetically careful, and personally sustainable.” Looking at the Bible’s teaching on evangelism, social justice, and shalom, they explore the what, why, and how of the church’s mission. From defining “mission”, to examining key passages on social justice and their application, to setting our efforts in the context of God’s rule, DeYoung and Gilbert bring a wise, studied perspective to the missional conversation.
Readers in all spheres of ministry will grow in their understanding of the mission of the church and gain a renewed sense of urgency for Jesus’ call to preach the Word and make disciples.
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Helpful Check on Missions
As a church leader I found this book a good check on where I was, and where we were as a church on our outreach programme. With much social action being commended, and so it should be, it was helpful to read both an exegetical and practical anaylsis on this subject. We are ultimately here for proclamation of the gospel, the great commission, and we shouldn't let other good things deviate us from great things.
What is the mission of the Church?
If you could read only one book this year I recommend that this should be the one especially if you have leadership responsibility in the church because this addresses such a live issue. Increasingly conflict rages in churches and between churches about just how much social action the church should be involved in. This is an area in which Christians are often very judgemental towards those who take an opposing view. Some are caught up in incarnational theology without even realising it; they have a heart for a suffering world and seek to ‘be Jesus’ to people. Others see the error in this and faithfully continue to proclaim the gospel message but fail to reach out in compassion towards those who are struggling around them. The division between ‘evangelical’ churches in my area is expressed in positions they take on this issue. Some consider a certain church dogmatic and unloving whilst others consider themselves as the only ones with a true heart for the gospel. Some are involved in a lot of action but do not proclaim the gospel message and others proclaim but are not involved in the community at all.
This book speaks into this increasingly polarised debate tackling both positions and leaving all its readers with a challenge to live more in line with God’s purposes in scripture. It addresses the subject through a biblical overview whilst providing detailed exegesis of some much quoted and often misused passages. It contains a very helpful clear historical, and theological framework. The book itself is a wonderful example of how to read the bible with a biblical theology. If the issue is not one that is pertinent to you then the book is still worth reading purely as a model of how to read and understand God’s purposes in the bible.
This book is ultimately very practical. It is a call to all those in leadership to remember what God’s mission is and ‘to resist the urge to make the church body do everything you want the parts to be doing’. This distinction draws together both the need for clear gospel proclamation and faithful living by members of the community of believers which is an essential message for our church today.