Posts Tagged reformission
Launching into tonight’s review of Radical Reformission, I’ve got some classic U2 in the background with The Joshua Tree and October. I apologize for the delay on getting chapter 2 out, but I took a part-time job at Fidelity Investments and it is taking up my normal blogging time. I’m not going to complain because it will help me pay some bills and thus far I have made absolutely no money blogging.
So, let’s start with a quote from Mark Driscoll:
Reformission is about the old gospel answering without blushing the new questions that emerge from new cultures…Every age is filled with sin, sinners, God’s love and work to be done. Each generation has its resistance to the gospel, and each culture is equally far from God because of sin and equally close to God because of his love.
One of the things I really enjoy about Driscoll and Mars Hill Church is their understanding of a sovereign God. They are not foolishness enough to think of God as some distant, spiritual being nor are they so academic as to think of his sovereignty as a reason to never work at ministry. Instead, they find a healthy (and Biblical) balance, understanding God is at work and that we have been invited to be a part of what he is doing.
In concert with a proper understanding of God, we have to have a proper understanding of culture. Although I had not read this book before, I believe something similar. I call it relational matrices, and it is the idea that the Bible occurred in certain matrices of culture, language, environment and personality and that we live in certain matrices composed of the same. In order to understand the original intent of the Scriptures (interpretation), we must know the original matrices. In order to relate it effectively to people in our culture and era (relevance), we must understand our own matrices. Additionally, we must understand that often the Church’s matrix is somewhat different but related to the world’s matrix.
One of the primary components of our matrices is the past. This can be a good thing when the past motivates us to strive for the future, but it WILL set the stage for everything we do or don’t do. As Driscoll points out:
Arguable, most Christians and churches prefer the past to the present of the future, because the past is over, while the present and the future still require a lot of work.
Much of the Christian world seeks out the past rather than explore the potential of the future. We dwell in our cultural matrix, unwilling to alter it for fear of failure.
Livingstone once wrote: “I want men who will come [to Africa] if there is no road at all.” He summarized the nature of true Christian labor, which is pioneering into cultures and become relevant. We must discover the resistances to sin and the doors of opportunity for the gospel. We must speak boldly into these things, tearing down resistances and opening doors. The future requires that we go where there are no roads and make them. And we must continue to go because roads never last without maintenance. Reformission is about continually clearing roads.
Of course, some members of this emerging church, which is literally being born out of the existing church, worship innovation and the future rather than staying close to Christ. This is the ultimate in irrelevance because it compromises the truth we are attempting to communicate in favor of the communication itself.
[These churches] are unable to call lost people from or to anything because they have lost the distinctive and countercultural nature of the gospel.
We must ultimately walk the balance between the matrices of past and our future. We must be biblical but relevant, truthful but clear and committed to the communication process.
To that end, we must pursue language that speaks to people. Every culture has its language and postmodern culture in America is no different. In fact, it has a plethora of dialects to which we must speak. We must humbly and continually ask ourselves whether we are offering the gospel in a form which is most effective to the cultures we are trying to reach.
Ultimately, ministry is not about traditions or procedures but about Jesus. Rich Mullins once said something along the lines of “Christianity is not about creeds and beliefs but about one idea, and that idea is a person.” This Christian thing is about Jesus – pure and simple. Jesus walks among the world in the form of his followers, and he wants to speak to people through us. This charge is something so important that we have to take the risk and do the difficult work of making roads.
That’s what I took away from this chapter anyway. Bono and the boys are not singing anymore, and I should be sleeping because I’ve got another full day tomorrow.
As Driscoll pointed out in the introduction, reformission is about presenting the message of Jesus Christ in a culture. It is not enough for churches to focus on loving God and loving each other. We must love the people we reach so much that we are willing to consider the differences between our “church culture” and the “secular culture” and, if necessary and Biblical, redefine our church culture.
And so, we move forward into chapter 1. As the Fab Four sing “Nowhere Man” over my stereo, I will attempt to review what Driscoll has to say.
“It is imperative that all Christians continually search the Scriptures in order to see Jesus clearly.”
This is Driscoll’s opening shot, and it is a good one. The gist of the first section of this chapter is that we misunderstand who Jesus is and how he did ministry in his culture. We have divorced a theological Jesus from the practical, real Jesus.
In relating that Jesus was the product of a teenage mother who claimed to be a virgin, his earthly father was considered a few fries short of a happy meal for believing her and his followers were a bunch of country bumpkins, Driscoll opens our eyes to the fact that relevance is not always cool and acceptable. Even Jesus’ first miracle – the conversion of water into wine – is unconventional and yet perfectly positioned in his culture.
But relevance IS speaking truth into the culture, and more importantly, it is overcoming our addiction to the appearances of goodness and morality. He relates a story of visiting a gay cowboy bar with a friend who had recently declared himself to be homosexual. Driscoll – a red-blooded heterosexual – found himself afraid of how Christians would perceive him if they saw him at the gay bar, and even afraid of how the homosexuals would feel if they found out he was, in his words, “a Bible thumper who, deep down, believed they were running headlong to hell in their cowboy boots.”
I will let Mark finish his thought.
That night, I learned that reformission requires that Christians and their churches move forward on their knees, continually confessing their addictions to morality and the appearance of godliness, which does not penetrate the heart and transform lives. In the end, I learned that God’s mission is not to create a team of moral and decent people but rather to create a movement of holy loving missionaries who are comfortable and truthful around lost sinners and who, in this way, look more like Jesus than most of his pastors do.
The tremendous truth of what Driscoll says here will take awhile to sink into our thick skulls. Being comfortable and truthful around people is one of the greatest weaknesses of the church and modern Christianity. Our faith is often something we either wear on our shoulders, daring people to knock it off or something we hide because we are afraid we will offend.
We are often addicted to the appearance of morality and we justify our addiction by quoting verses like 1 Thessalonians 5:22 -
Abstain from all appearance of evil.
Unfortunately, we misread the intentions of the translators because words change meaning. The ESV translates this verse much better:
Abstain from every form of evil.
You see, what the KJV translators meant by appearance was not the idea of looking like you were committing sin, but rather the physical form of evil. They are saying, “Evil takes lots of shapes! Be on the lookout!” We misread this because of generations of holiness preachers who knew less about Greek than they did about Shakespearean English.
(And in case you’re wondering, there is no textual difference in 1 Thessalonians 5:22. The Greek word eidos appears in every known manuscript, and it means “form” or “fashion.” The KJV translation is not an error. In 17th and 18th century English usage, it meant the same thing as the ESV means today.)
“Reformission is ultimately about being like Jesus, through his empowering grace.”
We are not called to become sinners to reach the sinful, but we are called to cross the lines so the sinful can see the power of Jesus and redemption. I think so many Christians and churches live in fear that if you dance too close to sinners, they will infect you. Apparently, they believe that sin is contagious and there is nothing the Holy Spirit can do to immunize you.
Now, before everyone gets mad at Mark and me, neither of us would advocate that a person who struggles with alcohol should commit to spend their lives ministering in bars or that men with a history of sexual sin should set up shop in a strip club. But we are calling for Christians to “be like Jesus, by living freely within the culture as missionaries who are as faithful to the Father and his gospel as Jesus was in his own time and place.”
Again, I will let Mark speak for himself:
Reformission requires that God’s people understand their mission with razor-sharp clarity. The mission is to be close to Jesus. This transforms our hearts to love what he loves, hate what he hates, and to pursue relationships with lost people in hopes of connecting with them and, subsequently, connecting them with him. This actually protects us from sin, because the way to avoid sin is not to avoid sinners but to stick close to Jesus.
I’ve got nothing more to add. The Beatles have a couple more songs to sing before the CD is done, but I have nothing more to write. Looking forward to chapter 2!