Check out the Patheos Book Club page for Godspeed here!
God is on a mission. This God invites humanity into the Trinitarian dance of being sent for the sake of the world and to the glory of God.
In Godspeed – Making Christ’s Mission Your Own, Britt Merrick invites evangelicals to reconsider the nature of living for God in the world. Building on the work of those who have done theological re-examination’s of the nature of what it means to be missional, he invites readers into the practicalities of living for Jesus in community each and every day. He states: “if God by nature is a missionary God, then Christians by their new nature, having been remade in the image of God, should live as missionary people” (28).
From the very beginning of this book, Merrick attempts to deconstruct common “disconnects” to how the church has understood its mission. To communicate this, he gives several areas of “reconnect.” 1) the goal is the renewal of the world and the worship of God by all peoples, 2) the church is the means through which God meets the needs of the world, 3) mission defines the church’s identity, and 4) mission takes place “right here” (29). Clearly, Merrick is a missional thinker and practitioner.
Throughout the book, some of the Merrick’s themes include: mission as a glory bringing activity for God’s sake, calling as a radical vocation in the world as followers of Jesus, ministry as the natural result of intimacy with God through the Spirit, the gospel as a summons into incarnated missional community in the postmodern context, judgment as the deterrent of Christlike love, mission as a messy lifestyle, and God’s story as the narrative of God bringing all things in creation into renewal. All are important areas to consider for Kingdom shaped people.
This book has the potential to motivate conservative evangelical Christians to re-examine the heart of missions, evangelism, and the general nature of the Christian life. It can serve as a much-needed bridge into the missional conversation for non-academic types. In my own experience in this sort of church environment, I gladly would recommend Godspeed! Not only does it have many of the “big rocks” of what it means to be a follower of Jesus joining God in mission for the sake of the world, but it does so without disrupting basic conservative theological values. If a person appreciated a book like Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love,” this book would serve as a great complement [Chan endorses this book].Some areas in which this book doesn’t go as far as I would include things like the radical peace witness of the church, how the church relates to power structures, and beyond the old binary categories of heaven and hell. Most of the areas that I would pushback on are those that come from a distinctively reformed/Calvinist impulse. A theme that comes through, for instance, is the emphasis in the young reformed movement of “God’s glory” – highly influenced by pastor and author John Piper. Although I believe bringing God’s glory is a major part of living as a Christian on mission, I’m not quite convinced that such is the central point of Scripture. With those things noted, I still think this book has lots of value to inspire conservative evangelicals into a fresh movement with the living God.
There are so many sections that I could quote that were powerful. Even though I do not consider myself a typical “conservative” I resonated with most of this book. On the topic of freedom in Christ, Merrick brought up an important point about American culture that has seeped into the Christian culture:
Twenty-first-century America is a merit-based culture… The American church today exist within this culture. The result is a valuation of people based upon their performances. The church makes up its own rules and rates people buy them, both outside church walls as well as within. We rank sins to decide which are forgivable and which are not, and throw around terms like good Christian and that Christian as though there is a difference between us and God site. As American Christians, if we fail to form our identity in God’s love for us, we will default to finding our identity by comparing ourselves to others. When we deploy these false moral and spiritual rating systems to credit and discredit the people around us, the result is a judgment told church. (149)
May we take Britt Merrick’s words to heart and become a church known for freedom that implores us to join in God’s revolutionary mission in the world.