Detroit Baptist Conference on Church, Kingdom, Mission

I've been working my way through the audio now available from the recent DBTS conference on “Church, Kingdom, Mission: Understanding and Assessing the Missional Church Movement.” I was surprised to hear my name pop up on Dave Doran’s general session 3 on “The Gospel and Mission” (56:12) in which he references an article I wrote on SharperIron where I talked about homelessness. In the same session Dave critiques Tim Keller so I find myself in good company, company I find refreshing and challenging. Since Dave didn't quote me I can only guess that this may be what he refers to: “We confront homelessness, poverty, exploitation, injustice, crime-ridden streets, and gang violence as inimical to God’s already inaugurated, not-yet-consummated reign.” One of his arguments is that since Jesus didn't do anything about homelessness neither should we. Framed that way there's probably a lot we shouldn't do. I'm not overly concerned about telling others what their churches should do to gain a hearing for the gospel or what others think we should be doing.


However, our encounters are with the homeless more than homelessness per se.  We are looking to gain a hearing for the gospel although that doesn't always happen. If God opens those doors we walk through. In our proclamation we make no promises of a home or redistribution of wealth. Our concern is that the homeless, homebound, and homeowners hear the bad news and the good news. We can speak of about God's love with words. We can also demonstrate it in deed. I don’t think Dave meant to connect me with “shell game moves” and other extremes – but I’ll leave it up to others to determine if he gives a fair and balanced assessment of missional movements. Frankly I hear few if any saying many of the things he claimed are associated with missional movements.Who is promising housing with the gospel or promising an end to poverty? Finally, if Dave meant to suggest that our preaching of the good news makes promises of a home for the homeless, that poverty will be ended, or that we are tinkering with or misrepresenting the gospel, then Dave needs to listen to our audio

3 Responses to “Detroit Baptist Conference on Church, Kingdom, Mission”

  1. Dr. Davis,
    You seem to shift the point of contention between your first paragraph and the second, and in so doing you move to an area in which there would be no disagreement.
    In your article, you say that you “confront homelessness…as inimical to God’s already inaugurated, not-yet-consummated reign” Doran questions that argument by asking if confronting homelessness was something Jesus did (in his announcement of the presence of the kingdom), which you more or less dismiss without any substantive argument.
    Then in the second paragraph, you move your position to seeking to establish connections with the homeless (and others) in the hopes of sharing the gospel. That is something different than “confronting homelessness…as inimical to God’s already inaugurated, not-yet-consummated reign.” Doran did not critique trying to share the gospel with homeless people, nor did he accuse people who share the gospel with homeless people of necessarily promising a home to the homeless. His critique was that if the gospel preached is the gospel of the kingdom, and bound in the idea of the present form of the kingdom is the confrontation of homelessness in this world, then wouldn’t that at least imply a home for the homeless in this world?
    His point is not necessarily that people are actually offering homes or an end to poverty in their preaching, but questioning why they are not if the current presence of the kingdom means a confrontation of homelessness and poverty. You may disagree with that assessment, but that’s the argument that must be addressed. Not whether or not churches should try to preach the gospel to the homeless. If your article had been about the need for churches to preach the gospel to the homeless, poor, exploited, victims, etc., then I don't think it would have received a critique. So your answer does not address the real issue raised.

  2. Ben:

    I imagine that views on the kingdom, and the real or imagined implications, will cause us to continue to talk in langauge of contention and disagreement. Be that as it may the discussion should continue. And I think our points of agreement  overshadow the disagreements. All manifestations of evil are inimical to God’s reign and will be dealt with in His time. Yet Christ's kingdom has been inaugurated there is no arena where evil exists to which the gospel cannot speak and bring transformation in some measure as we await the consummation.



  3. Dr. Davis,
    I think you are right that you and Doran are not significantly different on the main application of many of these issues. The difference primarily lies in the underlying philosophy/theology.
    However, I think your final sentence speaks to one area of possible disagreement in application: I think you both would agree that the gospel speaks to every area of life and brings transformation. The difference might be in the level of transformation (the "some measure"): is it individual or societal? Does the gospel transform individuals so that society is transformed through the transformation of individuals, or does the gospel attack/transform the structures of society directly? And then, what role, if any, does the church have in this societal transformation?
    I agree that the discussion needs to continue. What I was hoping to do with my comment was to focus (and further) the discussion on the actual issue.

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