Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Radical Reformission

Radical Reformission is a book by Mark Driscoll that was published in 2004.

I really, really liked this book. So much so that I not only ordered my own copy, but I didn't give back the one I borrowed, I gave it to someone else to read first. I hope I don't seem to gushing and overly positive about the books I've been reading lately, generally I am very critical, but this round of books is really touching a nerve with me.

Radical reformission is about a transformation of the church. Mark shares his philosophy regarding the church, and what it means for a church to be missional. This book combines powerful teaching with storytelling, and the typical driscoll humor.

I love the story of how he started in ministry. Mark accepted Christ, and then immediately decided to start a bible study (the same week!). He summarizes it like this "It then dawned on me that I had been a Christian for only a few days, had never been in a Bible study, and did not really know anything in the Bible other than the fact that I sucked and that Jesus is God." Mark offered to let anyone ask any question, as long as they would give him a week to try to figure it out.

Mark is very transparent in this book, sharing both success and failures. After one very entertaining story about going to a gay cowboy bar (gotta read the book!) in which he was afraid to tell people he was a pastor, he said "I cared more about how I appeared to people than about whether I shared the passion of Jesus for those who are lost"

But the chapter on reformissional evangelism really hit home with me. I struggle with the idea that we expect people to jump through hoops to be part of the church, and Mark writes an incredible analogy on this point:

"In reformission evangelism, people are called to come and see the transformed lives of God's people before they are called to repent of sin and trust in God. Taking a cue from dating is helpful on this point. If we desire people to be happily married to Jesus as his loving bride, it makes sense to let them go out on a few dates with him instead of just putting a shotgun to their heads and asking them to hurry up, put on a white dress, and try to look happy for the photos."

Mark then explains "In our church in Seattle, as lost people become friends with Christians, they often get connected to various ministries (for example, helping to run concerts, helping to guide a rock-climbing expedition, taking a class on biblical marriage, helping to develop a website, joining a Bible study, serving the needy) and participate in them before they possess saving faith."

This is a key difference between the emerging church and the traditional church. Traditionally churches require people to be members before they do things, which requires that they are already Christians. The emerging church is about exposing people to a life in Christ and using that to draw them in.

Mark challenges readers to engage culture rather than withdraw from it, but is careful to caution that engaging culture does not include sinning (e.g. things like fornication and drunkenness are not engaging culture, they are sin).

In a chapter entitled "the sin of light beer" Mark talks about the dangers of syncretism and sectarianism, and specifically utilizes the Christian church's demonization of something God created for the joy of His people, alcohol, to make his point. I really love Mark's conclusion in this chapter:

"Here's what I'd like you to remember from this chapter: reformission is not about abstention; it is about redemption. We must throw ourselves into the culture so that all that God made good is taken back and used in a way that glorifies him. Our goal is not to avoid drinking, singing, working, playing, eating, love-making, and the like. Instead, our goal must be to redeem those things through the power of the gospel so that they are used rightly according to Scripture, bringing God glory and his people a satisfied joy."

The conclusion of the book is profound in its own very post-modern way. Rather than wrap everything up into a neat little conclusion, Mark concludes the book by sharing his hopes and dreams for the city of Seattle and the ministry of Mars Hill. In essence, Mark shares what he prays will be the end result of putting into practice the things that he has been writing about through this book. That the world would be transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is one of the best books I have read in a long, long time.


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