Thursday, June 09, 2011

Sloppy Talk About the Church's Mission

Previously, I've alluded to those who suggest that the Church's mission must be equivalent to Jesus' mission. Two primary concerns: 1) Often, they make the argument in a dismissive way, as if anyone who thinks the issue demands substantive discussion or nuance is obtuse. 2) They're wrong, and a sure implication of getting this one wrong is a redefinition of the Church's mission, often resulting in the marginalization of gospel proclamation.

I appreciate how Michael Horton addressed the issue, and I particularly appreciate that he addressed it in the context of a conference examining the implications of the gospel for all of life. Horton:
Our mission is qualitatively different from God's mission. God sends us on a mission, but it's a different mission than the mission he sent his Son on. It's different from the mission he sent his Spirit on. The Son could redeem the world. We can't. Again, loose talk—loose talk in the Church today about our redeeming activity in the world. WE should never, ever sully that wonderful word by saddling it to us as the subject of the verb. When it comes to redeeming anything, we are not the subject of the action. Jesus Christ is. Jesus is the unique, only, exclusive Redeemer of the world.

"Well, we're extending his redemption." No, we're not. There is no extension. He accomplished it once and for all. "Well, we are extensions of his incarnation." No, we're not. We're members of his body. I wasn't born of a virgin. I didn't suffer under Pontius Pilate. I wasn't crucified. I wasn't raised on the third day.

We preach not ourselves but Christ, and we are his ambassadors! Paul says, "Let's get that right. We are not the message. We're the messengers." So our mission is qualitatively different from God's. But because he finished his mission in his Son—his mission of redeeming—and he sent his Spirit to open the hearts of those to whom we speak, we have a mission that is guaranteed success.


BE said...

How would this apply to the discussion about redeeming culture (e.g., the Christian hip-hop movement)? I've often wondered in what way culture is being redeemed in these scenarios, besides not liking the terminology to begin with.


Ben said...

I don't think the terminology is appropriately applied to music of any form. The question is whether a musical form is capable of and appropriate for communicating Christian truth. If it is, then redemption isn't necessary. If it isn't, redemption isn't possible.

BE said...


Paul said...

I really appreciated listening to the audio from this conference. One of the panel discussions (can't remember if there was 1 or 2) was probably the most balanced and helpful conversation about the whole "gospel-centered" issue that I have ever heard. It will stay on my ipod for a while.