Reading Reflection:

What is the Mission of the Church?, Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert (Crossway, 2011) The title of this book has been a cultural hot topic lately. Many believe the church should spend less time proclaiming, and more time getting their hands dirty in the more important business of cultural renewal. But the actual question is; what did Christ Commission his church to do? This book tackles that question in a very gregarious way. In looking graciously at all sides of the debate, Gilbert and DeYoung teach that Christ rules redemptively over his church, and has given them a specific commission to proclaim his gospel and make disciples. But they also acknowledge the “wide lens” picture of the gospel, encompassing all the benefits that will come to his people. However, they make the important distinction that you cannot emphasize the wide lens of Christ’s Kingdom without including the crux of his good news:
The gospel of the kingdom necessarily includes the gospel of the cross. You cannot proclaim the “full gospel” if you leave out the message of the cross, even if you talk for an hour about all the other blessings God has in store for the redeemed. To do that would be like picking up an armful of leaves and insisting that you’re holding a tree. Unless those leaves are connected to the trunk, you don’t have a tree; you just have an armful of dead leaves. In the same way, unless the blessings of the gospel of the kingdom are connected to the cross, you don’t have a gospel at all. Take a look again at those passages from Matthew and Mark where Jesus preaches the arrival of the kingdom. If you look closely, you’ll notice that Jesus never preaches simply, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He always preaches, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, “or, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand; therefore repent and believe the gospel.” That is a crucial thing to keep in mind; indeed it is the difference between preaching the gospel and preaching something that is not the gospel at all (107-108).
And here is one of the implications they give that stem from this mission of the church:
No one is a Christian simply because he or she is living a “kingdom life.” To be a Christian is to have come to the Christ in faith and repentance, trusting him as the only one with power and authority to forgive sins and secure a righteous verdict from God. It is never enough to simply recognize him as a good teacher or a wise rabbi, or to “follow him” as an example of moral, kingdom living. This would be to sell him short. Not only so, but it entirely misses the way into the blessings of the kingdom. If you have not come to the King in repentance and faith—recognizing him as the one who was crucified in your place and now reigns in resurrected life—then you are not a citizen of God’s kingdom, and you are not a Christian. The New Testament could not be clearer. The only way into the kingdom is through the blood of the King (111-112).
After all, it is Christ’s work that is the basis of our salvation, not the church’s. We are ambassadors of His good news. Like Paul, we should not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for all those who believe. No one is ashamed to say “help the poor and oppressed and strive for social justice.” These are wonderful things that we want to do as we live out the calling of God in our lives. But let’s not forget, the poor are not “those people over there.” We are the poorest of all without Christ. And the greatest thing we can do for someone, is to share the gospel—even the offensive part.