Radical Reformission – Chapter 1

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!

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