Last month, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary hosted a conference that delved into the relationship between the Church, the Kingdom, and the Church's mission. Having listened now to all the general sessions and panel discussion, I thought it might be interesting (and perhaps helpful) to consider some questions it left me weighing.
Let me say first that I agree with Dave Doran's argument that the mission of the Church is not identical to the mission of God or the mission of Christ. Though I think we would disagree a bit over the present nature of the Kingdom, I don't see that as the watershed issue in the debate. For example, Doran seems to share a high level of agreement on this particular issue with Greg Gilbert and Kevin DeYoung. Both of those two pastor-authors would have radically different Kingdom views from Doran, but are much closer to him on the Church's mission than some who seem much closer to Doran on the Kingdom.
So here's my summary of some preliminary issues, which I think is consistent with Doran's conclusions:
1. Some aspects of Jesus' mission are not part of the church's mission (making atonement, destroying the wicked).
2. The church's mission is to display God's wisdom by making disciples.
3. Part of making disciples is shepherding individuals to obey the 2nd great commandment, "Love your neighbor . . ."
4. Loving one's neighbor necessarily involves proclaiming the gospel, but it also involves caring for their this-world needs, even if a "gospel opportunity" is not immediately present or created. It's unthinkable that loving my neighbor requires nothing more of me than sharing the gospel with him, even if sharing the gospel is the most important way for me to show love to him.
But those convictions lead me to some questions: How must the church pursue that obligation to disciple members to love their neighbors? And perhaps the more difficult question, how may the church do so? Here are some more specific ways to consider these issues:
1. Would a church be acting outside its mission if it encouraged/discipled members to love their neighbors by caring for the non-Christian poor, adopting schools, volunteering at homeless shelters, and engaging in other forms of "social action?
2. Would a church be acting outside its mission if it designated a particular individual in the church to coordinate members to do the things listed above?
3. If it designated a deacon to coordinate members?
4. If it paid a staff member to coordinate members?
5. Finally (if the answers of any of those questions are "yes"), does a church have freedom to act outside its mission?