Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Mission of the church is the Great Commission, period.

Several years ago Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert co-wrote a great book on the Great Commission, arguing that the mission of the church is the Great Commission– the making of disciples in all nations. Anything a church spends its time and resources on is secondary to that mission.

Surprisingly, to me, there was a lot of pushback and debate surrounding the thesis of that book. A lot of the debate had to do with things like whether or not caring for the poor and loving thy neighbor was a part of the Great Commission. DeYoung and Gilbert argued that though loving your neighbor is a distinctly Christian thing to do, it is not distinctly Great Commission. They distinguished between the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. The argument from the other side goes something like this: “The church must care for the poor in order to fulfill the Great Commission. When you lead someone to Christ, don’t you teach them that one of the things followers of Christ do is care for the poor? Therefore, caring for the poor is the Great Commission, just as preaching the gospel is the Great Commission.”

There actually is something compelling to this line of reasoning. Christ’s followers should not just preach Christ, but live like Christ. If we preach Christ and him crucified, but live like Christ has not been raised, then our mission efforts will be weakened.

However, we must distinguish between the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. There is an eternal difference between, “Repent and believe in Jesus” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” Once you say, “love your neighbor” is the mission of the church, all of a sudden it gets hard to decide what the best way the church should spend her money. Do we spend it on missions or on being a good steward of our building? What’s the difference? All of a sudden it gets hard to decide how to use your property (if you have one). All of a sudden it gets harder to see the difference between a Christian church and a Christian hospital. All of a sudden it gets hard to see the difference between “Trust in Christ” and “Do good works.” If you do not guard that distinction passionately, it will not necessarily lead you to liberalism, but it might with the people you influence.

Stop loving certain people groups

I will be the first to say I am thankful for missionaries who feel “called” to a certain people group. Our church has chosen currently to go to one specific people group to reach in Asia. I get it. Some of it is practical: none of us have time to reach every people group in the world, so we should focus our efforts in order to be more effective. Praise God. That is how every nation that has been reached with the gospel has been reached with the gospel.

Now to balance that out, let’s be careful:

  • sometimes “I feel called” is just an excuse to make a decision that might not be supported by the leaders of your church
  • “I have a heart for” this people group is not God’s heart, who has a heart for all nations
  • “I have a heart for” this people group sounds unloving toward anyone who is not in that people group

And let’ s just all agree that these are terrible:

  • “I have a heart for the city”- as if people in the suburbs and rural areas don’t matter
  • “I have a heart for young people” (or old people or young families or singles or bikers or surfers, or you name it)- imagine how that sounds to anyone who might visit your church who is not in that group that you “have a heart” for.

The church is meant to display God’s wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (Eph 3.9-10), and one of the main ways she does that is through her diversity, being a people made of Jew and Gentile, young and old, men and women, singles and families, and when possible, people of every color. The best way to pursue this is to NOT focus on any one particular people, but to focus on proclaiming the one Christ who bought all of them.