The Highest of All Missionary Motives

John Stott comments on Romans 1:5, “through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.”

If, therefore, God desires every knee to bow to Jesus and every tongue to confess Him, so should we. We should be ‘jealous’ (as Scripture sometimes puts it) for the honor of His name—troubled when it remains unknown, hurt when it is ignored, indignant when it is blasphemed, and all the time anxious and determined that it shall be given the honor and glory which are due to it.  The highest of all missionary motives is neither obedience to the Great Commission (important as that is), nor love for sinners who are alienated and perishing (strong as that incentive is, especially when we contemplate the wrath of God, verse 18), but rather zeal—burning and passionate zeal—for the glory of Jesus Christ.

Some evangelism, to be sure, is no better than a thinly disguised form of imperialism, whenever our real ambition is for the honor of our nation, church, organization, or ourselves.  Only one imperialism is Christian, and that is concern for His Imperial Majesty Jesus Christ, and for the glory of his empire or kingdom . . . Before this supreme goal of the Christian mission, all unworthy motives wither and die (John Stott, The Message of Romans (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 53.

Missional Calibration

I’m enjoying What is the Mission of the Church? by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert (author of What is the Gospel?).  They offer a clear and concise statement on what mission looks like in Acts.  While this statement needs elaboration (and they do develop it), it provides a helpful calibration of what the church’s mission does and doesn’t include in Acts.  Insofar as this statement accurately reflects the scope and nature of mission in Acts, it helps us better understand what defines the church’s mission in the 21st century.  

The book of Acts is especially important because in it we can actually see the scope and nature of the earliest Christian mission.  If you are looking for a picture of the early church giving itself to creation care, plans for societal renewal, and strategies to serve the community in Jesus’ name, you won’t find them in Acts.  But if you are looking for preaching, teaching, and the centrality of the Word, this is your book.  The story of Acts is the story of the earliest Christians’ efforts to carry out the commission given to them in Acts 1:8 (Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert, What is the Mission of the Church?  Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission [Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011], 49).

A Gracious Disturbance

So Michael Horton expresses it in the introduction to his new book, The Gospel Commission.  It has piqued my interest.

A gracious disturbance is at work in the world today. With the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the age to come has broken into this present evil age. It’s not business as usual.  God isn’t coming alongside us to empower us for our projects of personal and social transformation.  God did not become flesh and suffer an ignominious death at our hands so that we could have sprawling church campuses, programs, and budgets. There’s something more profound–more radical–going on.  But what is it? . . . It is a profound disturbance of our lives and our world: disorienting, dividing, and delivering us from the supposed givens of what we thought were reality (Michael Horton, The Gospel Commission [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011], 7).