The word “manifesto” strikes me as an odd one to attach to the idea of evangelism and missions, but the Missional Manifesto has now entered the parlance of our times, alphabetized several lines below the Communist Manifesto. I myself don’t have the energy to devote to the latest of Keller-sponsored cooperative endeavors – I have a hard enough time keeping up with all the doings of the Gospel Coalition. But I do wonder if our brothers and sisters in the PCA take notice of the liabilities of Keller’s efforts as much as they applaud his obvious assets. (Tim Bayly, David Bayly, Hello?)
Helping out on this score is Wes White who noted the publication of the Missional Manifesto and gave his readers the chance to discuss its merits. One comment by Bill Schweitzer was particularly astute:
Another worrying aspect of the missional movement would be the holistic nature of the gospel. This involves a rejection of the “modernist” concept of individual salvation of sinners in favour of a comprehensive gospel of cultural transformation. This is articulated in the manifesto in point 8:
8. Duality: We believe the mission and responsibility of the church includes both the proclamation of the Gospel and its demonstration. From Jesus, we learn the truth is to be proclaimed with authority and lived with grace. The church must constantly evangelize, respond lovingly to human needs, as well as ”seek the welfare of the city” (Jeremiah 29:7).
The idea is that the verbal proclamation alone is only half the picture. But here the movement verges a little too close to an old enemy of the verbal proclamation, the Social Gospel. Listen as the editor of an essay collection on “The Social Gospel Today” summarizes the thought of the “Father of the Social Gospel,” Walter Rauschenbusch:
…he argued that a gospel of individual salvation is a half gospel, for the gospel had social dimensions as well. He pointed out that Jesus continued the call of the prophets for justice and mercy by proclaiming the coming kingdom of God in which unconditional love would eventually triumph over all obstacles in society. Rauschenbusch called on the church to respond to Jesus’ call for bringing in the kingdom of God and to struggle for its realization.” (Christopher H. Evans, The Social Gospel Today xiii)
As far as I know, Rauschenbusch never called for an end to the verbal proclamation of the gospel for individual salvation. Rather, he simply sought to restore what he thought to be the “other half” of the gospel, which is social action (in terms of justice and mercy.) Yet we know how that story ended. Dual mandates do not typically remain equal partners for long, and the call to include social action soon enough became a practical exclusion of the verbal proclamation. Perhaps, therefore, we should think more carefully before we define the Great Commission as a dual mandate involving both word and deed. In conclusion, I can only agree with Frank: however much other things might be lawful or even commanded by Scripture, the Great Commission itself is a single mandate for making disciples through the ordinary means of grace. (Mat 28:18-19)
Chances are that little will come of this manifesto. Does anyone actually remember the Evangelical Manifesto? But I’m glad to know some folks in the PCA are alert.