Several of us at 9Marks recently spent a long afternoon with a wise old friend talking about the conversation evangelicals are having about the mission of the church. There are two basic mistakes people keep making in this conversation, said our friendly sage. On the one hand, some people pit good things against one another—bodies versus souls, this world versus the next, and so forth. This group needs to view human beings whole cloth.
On the other hand, some people fail to hold up eternal and temporal realities next to one another and ask which is more important. Everything is crammed under the label “equally important.” But that doesn’t make sense. We need to treat the weighty things as weighty, and the weightiest things as the weightiest.
Notice then what our friend was doing: he was avoiding the “either/or” as well as a simplistic “both/and.” He was instead going for what Tim Keller, referring to the relationship between evangelism and social justice, calls an “inseparable asymmetry.” Things can be stuck together, but still differ greatly in their importance.
Whatever you might think about our friend’s counsel, the conversation about the church’s mission is difficult, which is why we are devoting this eJournal to reviewing the books on the topic. That way, you don’t have to just hear from us, but from people who have thought about these issues longer and more carefully than we have.
Some of these books we would commend to you wholeheartedly, like VanDrunen’s, Hunter’s, and Keller’s, precisely because they discern the type of distinctions described above. Others we like for one reason or another, but would refrain from giving a full endorsement, as with Wright’s two books or Corbett and Fikkert’s.All of these books are deeply intelligent, Christian, and have something to teach each of us. I do want to call special attention to David VanDrunen’s two books. A number of neo-Calvinists and tranformationalists just might discover that their thinking is more amenable to aspects of the two-kingdoms view than they realize.
Finally, Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert kindly agreed to give us a sneak preview of their book What Is the Mission of the Church? to be released next year by Crossway. Through it all, we hope these reviews and excerpts will help you, pastor, discern which things in your church’s life are weighty and which things are the weightiest.