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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.

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7 thoughts on “Worth a Look 11.16.11 – More Mission of the Church”

  1. Arthur Sido says:

    This is blogging at its best! Who would have imagined just a few years ago that a book would be publsihed and then discussed around the world online. I appreciate the conversation that has taken place on a topic that is so often assumed by too much of the church.

  2. Nick S says:

    Trevin, I’d be curious what you think about this thought from Horton’s piece: “…This older pietist bifurcation between personal salvation and the church has widened with each generation to the point now where the Great Commission itself can be described implicitly as narrow and confining.” (4th para). I’m assuming Horton thinks this isn’t a good thing (perhaps I misread him?)….thinking of the Great Commission as too narrow…

    I keep seeing people use the term “narrow” when referring to the Mission book….it seems to me that the authors tried to show exegetically that the NT understanding of the church’s mission is specifically the GC. Are you saying this definition is too narrow (mission = GC), or are you saying that the authors of the book were too narrow in their definition of the GC?

  3. Trevin Wax says:

    Nick, I’m saying the second. The definition of the GC, particularly disciple-making seems too narrow to me. That’s why I like their definition of the mission of the church; I just pack more into what that definition entails.

  4. Nick S says:

    Thanks Trevin, that’s helpful to me. I’m sure most everyone already knew that! :) With all the reviews, I was getting confused on what exactly you were pushing against.

  5. Taylor says:


    Could you explain why you view mission as making disciples and not being disciples as well?

    It seems like making disciples may appear to relegate the mission of the church to the mature, or to individualize our sanctification more than the NT does.

  6. Trevin Wax says:


    I do believe being disciples is part of the mission, only that part of being a disciple is the desire to give of oneself in proclaiming the gospel.

  7. Taylor says:

    agreed. very agreed.

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Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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