The Great Commission provides a foundational mission statement for every Christian. From it comes God’s will for the life of all believers. While the specific instructions of when and where are not quite as clear, the commission from our Commander is distinct and direct. Despite its clarity though, the Great Commission is transformed into the Great Omission through our lack of obedience. We can be thankful of God’s work through the Holy Spirit to not only convict us of our own deficiency in this area, but also in his ability to prompt others to bring forth Scripture as both teaching and conviction.
Prompting Christians to go forward in the mission that God has determined, Daniel Akin and Bruce Ashford have collaborated to release I Am Going. Built upon the concept that all are called to go in some form, the authors have put together seven chapters to describe the situations that require people to go, including with the church, to one’s neighbors and fellow employees, and into that nations. The end result, and ending chapters for the authors, is that everyone should be willing to serve anywhere. God places people in the mission field of their calling, and thus believers should take advantage of those opportunities in their service for the Lord. Recognizing that call to service, is this a book for to guide them in that?
To answer that question, we first note three exciting aspects about the book that compel readers to it:
- Practicality for the Christian: First is the book is very practical. As the authors proclaim to believers the need to be witnesses and make disciples in all situations and all locations (at work or at church, across the street or across the world). They do well at guiding readers through the need and ability to work for the Lord in those areas.
- Probing of the Christian: Second, both Daniel Akin and Bruce Ashford force readers to examine themselves and confront the reasons sometimes given for not serving.
- Pledge by the Christian: As each chapter closes with some very thoughtful questions for consideration and examination, they also close with a pledge based on the subject matter of the chapter (i.e. “I, (insert your name), will go to my neighborhood, to the nations, or with my church).
In those regards, readers will find themselves thankful for having read the book.
The book though has several deep flaws that require thorough examination. The book is about developing the theme of the Great Commission, but a teaching about our mission requires teaching about God’s mission, Christ’s mission, the church’s mission, and even Israel’s mission. Chapter one begins with a definition of God’s mission, which the authors claim is “to save us from our sins and to restore his good creation, which has been marred by sin.” More than anything this mission neglects the glory of God and centers upon man. Only later do we find a mention anything about glorifying God when the authors state the church’s mission is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping members to serve the body of Christ and fulfill the great commission. Interestingly, while Christ is the head of the church, strangely lacking in this mission though are the other parts of the Trinity (God the Father and God the Spirit). So the missions that the authors seeks to define seem to miss main aspects of God’s purposes.
These are not the only aspects of missions missing though. The book itself is missing a mission. Reading the book, it is hard to determine just what the authors are trying to accomplish. Are they concerned about our lack of involvement in the great commission and trying to prompt people to take a more active role or are they trying to compel people towards the mission field? Perhaps that could be more easily answered if we understood who the authors are writing to. It is uncertain if they are trying to reach the entire church body, or certain segmented groups, such as though seeking to be more ‘missions-oriented.’
The second area of concern is the authors’ portrayal of reasons to be engaged with the great commission. As a missionary (and missionary speaker) one of my greatest laments is how frequently guilt is used as a motivating factor. We get people to sign pledges, seek fields, and spend energy by making them feel guilty about not being a missionary. The reasoning is that people are dying without the gospel and if more people like ‘you’ or ‘them’ would simply do the work, this wouldn’t be the case. Certainly there is truth in needing more workers, but if guilt is the motivation, then we’ve missed some major aspects of God’s plan and the motivation will not last. Instead, it must be first found on a deep love of God that brings forth a deep love of people (lessons we learn in Matthew 22 and the Epistle of First John). Ultimately guilt is a motivation that is self-oriented not God-oriented.
The motivation of self is further seen through another example. The Lord Jesus Christ answers questions by summing up the law with two major points: love God, love others. These points are often repeated and referenced, and the authors point to Jesus Words, “Love your neighbor as yourself” to proclaim the need for believers to love themselves before they can love others. In fact, they go so far as to say “The more I truly love myself the more I will actually deny myself and love others” (see chapter 3 or location 457 in the ebook version). This is both a misunderstanding and a misapplication of that verse. I know the more I have loved myself has resulted in more love of myself. Never has it equated into more love for God or others. In fact, our Lord tells believers that they to truly follow Him, they must deny, not love, themselves.
The book has two major flaws: mission and motivation. These two themes flow throughout the book impacting every chapter and topic. Because of this reality, the book is not one that can merely be read and sifted through to find the good from the bad, but instead is a book that really adds little value to the discussion upon the Great Commission. As a result, it is not one that I give a recommendation. Instead, if you are interested in such a topic, I would recommend reading Let the Nations be Glad by John Piper and you could follow that one up with Finish the Mission (edited by John Piper and David Mathis, but with contributions from many people).
If you are interested in any of the books listed in this review, click the following links:
- I Am Going by Daniel Akin and Bruce Ashford
- Let the Nations be Glad by John Piper
- Finish the Mission Edited by John Piper and David Mathis
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book ‘I Am Going’ from the publisher at no cost to myself for the purposes of review. However that has no bearing on any recommendation I do or do not give and all opinions are derived from my reactions to reading the book.