The Mission of the Church

Having read Chris Wright’s Mission of God one or two folk have asked me if I’ve also read DeYoung and Gilbert’s What Is The Mission of the Church which in a number of ways seeks to correct Wright (and a good number of others) in their missional hermeneutic. Having just finished DeY/G here’s my thoughts.

  • I liked lots of it.
  • I agreed with lots of it.
  • I particularly liked the stuff about what we do and what God does (though we could have done with something on how God uses us as ordinary or instrumental means)
  • I particularly appreciated some of the finer distinctions made between church as organism and institution; wide-angle and zoom lens on the gospel
  • I particularly liked the little aside on economics and moral proximity

Here’s where I would want to sit down over coffee and work things through

  • There are some notable omissions in the discussion – particularly passages like Deut 4, 1 Kings 8, Zech 8, 1 Pet 2. Deut 4:6-8 is huge in terms of a constitutive and programmatic description of what the covenant people should be and do.  Similarly, 1 Kings 8:56-61; Zech 8:18-23; Matt 5:13-16; 1 Pet 2:11-12 all seem to link ethics and mission/testimony/witness together. Interestingly DeY/G do cite Matt 5 and use testimony language but don’t want to apply mission language to such things. Some of these omissions are surprising since they are key texts in the wider discussion.
  • There’s also, at times, a lack a sensitivity to the finer nuances of how Scripture speaks to us. For example, a sentence I had to read a number of times as I couldn’t quite believe it the first was: “If you’re looking for a picture of the early church giving itself to creation care, plans for societal renewal, and strategies to serve the community in Jesus’s name, you won’t find them in Acts.” What? Really? There is no evidence in Acts of the early church serving the community. Perhaps I’m reading a very different translation but I could find you loads (in pretty much every chapter between 2-16). But seeing some of these things requires more than just word searches; it requires an appreciation of narrative rhetoric, epitomization, intertextual echoes, and the like.

Having worked through Wright’s Mission of God and DeYoung and Gilbert’s What is the Mission of the Church I am more persuaded exegetically by Wright, but am thankful for some of the caveats provided by DeY/G.

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