Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Reading good books... The Radical Reformission by Mark Driscoll

As I come across good and helpful books, I'm going to post some thoughts about them here on the church blog. I just recently finished reading The Radical Reformssion: Reaching Out Without Selling Out by Mark Driscoll. Driscoll is the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. The book is, as you'd gather from the subtitle, about reaching out to our world without compromising the gospel. Specifically, it's about churches reaching their own local cultures.
   One of the most helpful and arresting points of the book has to do with our willingness (or unwillingness) to go where sinners are. Not to participate in sin, but to go into our culture, to know people, and to bring them the hope of the gospel. I'd say that as a church we are convinced that we are called to bring the good news to the world, but we're often hesitant to step into that calling in a personal way, and we may often be so suspicious of the culture around us that we think it's not possible to participate without sinning ourselves. But, Jesus hung out with all the wrong people. He went where notorious sinners were. He went to their parties, he ate at their table, he spoke into their lives, and he never sinned while doing so. And sinners loved him. It was, remember, the religious professionals, the Pharisees, who hated, discounted, and derided Jesus. It was prostitutes who came to him weeping and washing his feet. Driscoll addresses a fearful response to culture that keeps us away from others in order to avoid sin. Only one thing, he points out, will actually keep us from sinning. Not artificial (i.e. extra-biblical) rules, but loving and staying close to Jesus. Here's a great summary of his point:
   "I am advocating not sin but freedom. That freedom is denied by many traditions and theological systems because they fear that some people will use their freedom to sin against Christ. But rules, regulations, and and the pursuit of outward morality are ultimately incapable of preventing sin. They can only, at best, rearrange the flesh and get people to stop drinking, smoking, and having sex, only to start being proud of their morality. Jesus' love for us and our love for him are, frankly, the only tethers that will keep us from abusing our freedom, yet they will enable us to venture as far into the culture and into relationships with lost people as Jesus did, because we go with him. So 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 (italics mine)" (p. 40).
   Driscoll goes on to address the motivation of our hearts which stands between us and the culture around us--our own self-righteousness, a sin which the non-believing world sees clearly in us and which hampers any effort of ours to share the gospel. Consequently, our own ongoing repenting of our many forms of self-righteousness is crucial to our ability to bring the gospel to the world: "It is imperative that Christians develop a habit of confessing and repenting of their self-righteousness, which prohibits this natural progress of the gospel through the culture" (p. 74). Confession brings us freedom as we own up to our sin, bring it to the One who forgives us, and as we are then sent out into our lives as forgiven and humble followers of Jesus who are freed to really love our neighbors.
   One caveat about the book. Driscoll is purposely edgy in his writing, and by the end of the book his occasional sarcasm and provocative tone wear thin. In spite of that, though, there is much that's great and helpful in what he has to day. So, read this book. It should be an encouragement in getting to know the cultures around us (even and especially right here in Williamsburg), in loving our neighbors, and in actually reaching out to our city with the hope of the gospel.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! This is really very good stuff, and I agree with you wholeheartedly. I've seen so many people who only hang out amongst the "righteous", or who silo their lives, keeping their Christian and secular freinds away from each other.

    I'd like to point out one of my beliefs, though. I think that when someone begins to draw closer to Christ, that they do have to step away from their "sinful nature" for a time. What I mean by that, obviously, are the people, places, and things that draw that person away from Christ, that are a huge distraction and detractor.

    I think during that time communication with others is vital, so they can understand, or at least be informed of what that person is trying to accomplish. I don't believe there is any pre-ordained timeframe that can be set for a person to become strong enough to re-enter those situations, but I think strong accountability relationships need to be in place prior to it.

    It takes a great amount of strength to resist sin today. I've had people call me "judgmental" because I do try to resist sin, and I point it out. Am I judging? Absolutely! I'm practicing good judgment in my mind, not against people, but against actions (whether they be mine or someone elses). I think people who say "I don't judge" often are excusing the bad behavior of others so that others will have to excuse that persons - so that accountability can be avoided.