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.