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Decompartmentalizing the Mission: Emphasizing without Neglecting

Posted by on Nov 30, 2011 in missional | 2 comments

Decompartmentalizing the Mission: Emphasizing without Neglecting

In the introduction to this series, I explained how I thought that people today tend to compartmentalize their lives. Because of this, we often compartmentalize what we consider the mission of God as well. In a previous post, I considered proclamation of the gospel as part of the mission of God as demonstrated and taught by Jesus and Paul. Next, I looked at their example of strengthening believers as part of their mission. Then I considered whether or not caring for the least was part of Jesus’ and Paul’s mission. In the previous post, I started putting it all together.

In this post, I want to think about how to emphasize one aspect of the mission of God without neglecting the integrated mission of God.

Let’s be honest… as far as I can tell, every follower of Jesus Christ tends to serve in one or two ways naturally. Someone may naturally tend to proclaim the gospel. Someone else may naturally tend to build up the church. Another person may naturally tend to serve and care for people.

These natural tendencies are probably super-natural (Holy Spirit inspired and gifted) tendencies, and they are not a bad thing. However, these tendencies can lead us to emphasize one aspect of the mission of God while neglecting other aspects.

The person who is supernaturally gifted in the area of evangelism and who is passionate about proclaiming the gospel will be drawn to passages such as 2 Timothy 4:1-5 –

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season;… As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV)

Someone who is supernaturally gifted in the areas of teaching or encouragement and who is passionate about helping people grow in maturity in Jesus Christ will immediately notice passages such as 2 Timothy 2:1-2 –

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV)

The follower of Christ who is supernaturally gifted in the areas of helping and serving and healing and who is passionate about caring for those who are in need will notice passages such as 2 Timothy 4:11-13 –

Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. (2 Timothy 4:11-13 ESV)

We must recognize that Paul wrote these instructions and encouragements to the same person. (And, from my perspective, Paul also wanted Timothy to share these instructions and encouragements with others.)

It is not wrong to participate in God’s mission primarily in one of the aspects of that mission. In fact, God has designed and gifted us and given us opportunities in ways that allow us to work within one of those aspects. However, this does not mean that we can neglect the other aspects of God’s mission. To participate in God’s mission, we should work within all of the aspects of that mission – proclaiming the gospel, strengthening believers, and caring for the least.

Let me give you another example. A person who is gifted in evangelism and naturally (even super-naturally) cares primarily about proclaiming the gospel, will jump at the following statement written by Paul:

I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation… (Romans 15:20 ESV)

If we take this at face value, then we might think that Paul was only concerned with proclaiming the gospel, and that he was not interested in working where the gospel had already been proclaimed. However, this would miss the fact that Paul was writing this very statement to a group of people who had already received the gospel and who he planned to visit. In fact, he told them earlier in the letter,

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you — that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. (Romans 1:11-12 ESV)

Was Paul concerned about proclaiming the gospel to those who had not yet heard or received the message? Yes, absolutely! Was Paul concerned with helping those who had already received the gospel to grow in their understanding of and life in Jesus Christ? Yes, absolutely! Was Paul concerned about serving and caring for those who were hungry, thirsty, or otherwise in need? Yes, absolutely!

Why was Paul concerned about all of these things? Because Jesus is concerned about all of these things, and all of these things are different aspects of the same mission: the mission of God.

In the next post in this series, I’m going to look into some extremes in emphasis and neglect of different aspects of the mission of God.


Decompartmentalizing the Mission of God Series:

  1. Introduction
  2. Proclaiming the Gospel
  3. Strengthening Believers
  4. Caring for the Least
  5. Putting it all Together
  6. Emphasizing without Neglecting
  7. Extreme Emphases
  8. What to do and when


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 11-30-2011


    I think that “caring for the least of these” is most certainly something we as individual Christians, and as the church, are supposed to do. However, there are certain aspects of “caring for the least of these” that people from other faith backgrounds, as well as atheists, can do just as well as Christians. It seems that, as Christians, though, we have a particular mission which is unique to us. It is different, for instance, to “give a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name” and to give a cup of cold water in your own name, or in the name of an organization, or a nation/state, or an ideology, a religion, etc.

    Also, it seems some would want to add a fourth aspect to mission: not only proclaiming the gospel, strengthening believers, and caring for the least, but also changing or “Christianizing” the world.

    I think it is at this point that the biggest divergences between Christian approaches to mission arise, and they center on eschatology, and expectations for the present age.

    Personally, I think we should be more focused on serving and showing love to needy individuals. Historically, when Christians have tried to use their corporate and institutional strength to “change the world,” the end results have not been so good. Better, in my opinion, to leave that part of the mission to Jesus himself when he comes back to set up his post-Second-Coming kingdom.

  2. 11-30-2011


    Thanks for the great comment. I think the question of what is or is not included as “proclaiming the gospel,” “strengthening the church,” and “caring for the least” would be another great subject to tackle. I agree with what you’ve said here about caring for the least.

    Yes, there have been some massive failure (in my opinion) when people have tried to set up God’s kingdom as a physical kingdom here on earth.