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Decompartmentalizing the Mission: Extreme emphases

Posted by on Dec 1, 2011 in missional | Comments Off

Decompartmentalizing the Mission: Extreme emphases

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.

After looking at those three aspects of the mission of God, I started putting it all together. Then, I began to consider emphasizing certain aspects without neglecting any of them.

As I’ve suggested (and argued) throughout this series, the mission of God is composed of several aspects, specifically proclaiming the gospel, strengthening the church, and caring for the least. The mission of God is all of these things together, not just one or the other. Thus, if we are going to be missional people (that is, living out the mission of God) then we will be doing all of these things: proclaiming the gospel, strengthening the church, and caring for the least.

I’ve followed the missions of Jesus and Paul (certainly two great scriptural examples of living out the mission of God). In both cases, we see them carrying out all aspects of that mission.

Consider for a moment that even though there were people around them who had never heard the gospel, they still took time to teach disciples and to care for the least. Even though the disciples struggled to understand, they often stopped teaching them to evangelize and serve. Even though there were poor and needy people nearby, they stopped taking care of them to share the gospel and to strengthen believers.

From Scripture, it is difficult to make the case that all believers should be involved in one aspect (even evangelism) all the time. However, this case is often made, especially when it comes to evangelism. However, this type of extremism warps the mission of God. We do not see Jesus or Paul spending all of their time evangelizing. There is no indication in Scripture that we should spend all of our time evangelizing. Is proclaiming the gospel important? Absolutely! But, not to the exclusion of strengthening believers or caring for the least. (This same argument can be made about discipling and serving.)

At any time among any group of Jesus’ followers, there may be situations in which one or another aspect of the mission of God should be emphasized. However, we must ensure that we do not emphasize one aspect to the neglect of the others. If a group needs to emphasize evangelism, then by all means we should exhort and model proclaiming the gospel, and at the same time we should continue to exhort and model discipleship and service. The same is true of strengthening believers and caring for the least.

All aspects of the mission of God must remain integrated into the life of a follower of Jesus and into the life of a community of believers.

So, how do we know when to evangelize, when to disciple, and when to serve? That’s the question that I’ll tackle in the last post in this series.

Do you agree that there are dangers in emphasizing one aspect of the mission of God (i.e., proclaiming the gospel, strengthening believers, or caring for the least) to the neglect of the other aspects?

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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