What does it mean to become a Christian?
For many in the modern Western culture, it was consent to a facet of the culture they had not previously known or accepted. Most modern Westerners were at least familiar with the essentials of the Christian faith – the Bible, the Virgin Birth, the deity of Christ, etc. Conversion then simply required an acknowledgement of another component of the message that they had not accepted before. This kind of intellectual conversion was very common in the rational, individual cultures that emerged after the Renaissance and Enlightenment.
In the mid-19th century, there was a transition to a more emotional type of conversion where a person was overwhelmed with the righteousness of God and by extension their own depravity. This constant assault on the emotions would produce a tear-filled altar-side conversion experience, often on the first hearing of the message of the gospel.
The question that I ask, and Mark Driscoll asks in chapter 3, is whether these types of conversion will be as common in our postmodern world. Indeed, just how effective were the diametric opposites of the intellectual and emotional conversion? This is not to say that they were entirely ineffective because there is no doubt that many people discovered a true faith through both types. It is, however, asking the question if they are exclusive ways people come to know Jesus or if there is another type of encounter that might characterize our postmodern cultures.
To that end, Driscoll asks the question whether we are expecting shotgun weddings with Jesus.
One of the chief components of reformission is the idea of being able to “date” Jesus. By this, Driscoll does not mean that we flirt with the idea of Christianity but rather that people need to see Christ in action before they will become fully committed to being his followers.
Reformission evangelism considers it vital that lost people be brought close enough to witness the natural and practical outworking of the gospel in people’s lives.
To this end, Driscoll calls us to increasing our creativity, hospitality and authenticity in living out our faith and preaching the gospel. It is not enough to propose the gospel message to people, but rather we must incarnate it in somewhat unusual ways. We must blur the line between discipleship and evangelism, inviting people to partake in the community of the gospel without expectation of a commitment to the gospel.
This sounds almost heretical in our evangelical tradition that values individual decisions, but it is steeped in a confidence in the sovereignty of God who will speak through the body of Christ to those who need him. If there is no “door charge” in order to access God’s Word and be a part of God’s people, more unbelievers will be able to see the faith lived out in their culture and prayerfully God will place faith in their heart through the ministry of the gospel.
One of the chief ways this gets lived out is through surrendering our self-righteousness and self-focus. Instead of structuring a church around traditions or doctrines, we must structure around the mission of Jesus. We become a community of growth, defined by the direction we are moving rather than by the path we have already walked.
Driscoll’s concept of evangelism is quite provocative and yet we have seen the fruits of this approach to evangelism in our own church. When people are not treated according to their perceived value (James 2 anyone?) and are instead valued simply for being human, it opens doors. Rather than speaking from a position of propositional superiority (knowing all the answers), we speak to one another as fellow pilgrims to the city of God.