Second Reformed Church

Monday, August 24, 2015

Review: "Gaining By Losing"

I like the title:  Gaining by Losing – not so much the subtitle:  Why the Future Belongs to Churches That Send.   I was suspicious of J. D. Greear’s new book.

Greear argues through his book that the churches that God blesses and uses are those churches that intentionally help their people understand that Christians are all missionaries and then sends them out to the next door neighbor and throughout the world.

Greear argues against the idea that churches should – first and foremost – be concerned about growing their numbers, but, rather, in fulfilling “the Great Commission.”

The majority of the book is a presentation of ten “plumb lines” or principles under which every Christian is sent out as a missionary.

I applaud Greear’s passion and desire to have every Christian engaged in being a witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ –as we are so plainly called to be throughout the Scripture:  Jesus said, “Go into all the world and proclaim that gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15b, ESV).  And Paul explains that the power of the Gospel is witness through us and obviously not of us – or caused by us:  “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that they surpassing power belongs to God, and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7, ESV).

Yet, there are theological problems for which I cannot recommend this book:

First, Greear argues that we are not to be building our kingdom (true!); we are to be building God’s Kingdom (false!) (44ff).

Paul explains that the Kingdom of God is something that is inherited (I Corinthians 15:50), and Jesus says it is given to the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3).  We do not building the Kingdom of God.  Our work is to respond to God’s salvation of us through faith and obedience.

Even if Greear means that we are to disciple people (which he comes close to equating as “saving people”), we do not cause a person to be saved, and we do not “win” people to salvation (in the popular sense).  In “the Great Commission,” we are sent to preach – or proclaim – the Gospel – what God does with that is according to His Will.  Then, those who respond by receiving the Gospel, after being regenerated, these we are to disciple – to continue to teach to grow in faith and obedience.

Second, Greear confuses the Gospel (apparently with Keller) with growth in faith and obedience:  “the gospel is not just the A-B-Cs of Christianity; it is the A through Z.  Every virtue of the Christian life grows out of the deeper experience in the gospel” (60).

On the other hand, Paul says that the Gospel is the set of historical facts of the Incarnation Life, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:3-11, ESV).  The Gospel we are to preach is Who Jesus is and what He did – not everything that is involved in the Christian life, per se.

Third, Greear rightly argues that all Christians are “priests” – called to proclaim the Gospel.  But he pushes hard against their being anything unique about the call to the ordained ministry of Word and Sacrament – which is to the opposite detriment (69-ff).

The Westminster Shorter Catechism rightly begins:  “What is the chief end of man?  To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

Greear – in his good passion to save the lost – seems to be arguing that the chief end of man is to save the lost and build the Kingdom of God.  That is just not right.

Skip this book.

[This review appears on my blog and  I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.]

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