4 Views on the Church’s Mission (a book review)

  1. Jonathan Leeman’s esssay focus primarily on sin as the biggest problem of the world, hence the church’s mission is about telling people about their fallenness and how they need to accept Christ as Lord and Saviour. Naturally, this perspective has more or less defined modern Christianity; anyone who’s been a Christian for more than a decade or so will recognise this as the baseline ‘purpose’ of the church i.e. to turn sinners back to Christ.
  2. Chris Wright’s essay, on the other hand (and he’s clearly the ‘big gun’ among the four writers IMO), proffers a full-spectrum Biblical approach to the church’s mission. He covers personal sin, social injustice, care of creation, Christian education, etc. and argues that this is part of what it means to be the people of God within God’s story as told from Old Testament to New. From a breadth and holistic-ness angle, his essay will without doubt appeal to most (younger? newer?) Christians in the community today, especially those looking for more than merely ‘sin and hellfire’ themes from our churches. There is an undeniably contemporary dimension to Wright’s thought (and he’s the only one using diagrams, whatever that implies haha) which, I reckon, will keep many churches engaged fruitfully with the world.
  3. John Franke is the post-modernist among the four. He views the Gospel as some absolute core from which cultural adaptations must and do flow. A big fan of Leslie Newbigin, for Franke, the mission of the church is about translating the Gospel into local cultures and contexts.
  4. Finally, Peter Leithart argues that the church is called to sacramental mission i.e. baptism and the Lord’s supper serve as the core and the power of the church towards producing unity and discipleship. Stricty speaking, if I read Leithart correctly, his objective was to frame social justice issues within sacramental categories i.e. his essay was more about constructing a sacramental theology of missional purpose rather than defining what that mission is (apart from bringing the sacraments to the world).

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Alwyn Lau

Alwyn Lau

Edu-trainer, Žižek studies, amateur theologian, columnist.