Founders Journal 71 · Winter 2008 · pp. 31-32
Driscoll, Mark. The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004, pb., 2008 pages. $14.99.
Mark Driscoll is a controversial evangelical. He is one of the originators of what is now popularly known as the Emerging Church Movement. For some, this fact alone is enough to prevent them from reading or listening to him. But with his growing popularity, this dismissal would be a mistake. A good place for an individual to start would be The Radical Reformission, where Driscoll lays out his vision for the church and its relationship to the culture. By the end, Driscoll may surprise you.
His introduction lays the foundation for the rest of the work. His analysis of how the gospel, church and culture relate to each other form the basis of his book. How does he see these three interacting? “Reformission is a gathering of the best aspects of each of these types of Christianity: living in the tension of being Christians and churches who are culturally liberal yet theologically conservative and who are driven by the gospel of grace to love their Lord, brothers, and neighbors” (22). Therefore, each part handles an aspect of this reformission: loving your Lord through the gospel and loving your neighbor in the culture.
There are many things I appreciated about this book. First, it was very easy to read. He writes in a conversational tone, which makes the pages fly by. His unconventional paraphrasing of biblical stories is edgy but insightful. His personal stories are often convicting as well. Second, he warns about uncritical innovation as well as the dangers of postmodernism. Finally, Driscoll’s zeal for evangelism and missions is commendable. Actually, this is the overall purpose of the book. Driscoll wants to pull Christians out of our evangelical ghettoes and have us reenter the culture to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to those who desperately need to hear it. Many in evangelicalism (as well as those in Reformed circles) need to listen to Driscoll’s challenge.
At the same time, there are some problems in Driscoll’s book. His ecclesiology is weak. In a table comparing methods of evangelism (68), he contrasts “Routine Presentation Evangelism” (believe in Jesus, then belong to the church) with “Reformission Participation Evangelism” (belong to the church, then believe in Jesus). While it may be true that an honest display of Christian living attracts people to Christ and the gospel, we must not forget that the body of Christ is composed of regenerate believers. Membership and what it entails should only be extended to those who make credible professions of faith; it follows our identification of Christ in baptism. Our churches should always be inviting and welcoming to all, but we cannot minimize or remove the separation that exists between the world and the kingdom of God. The author also seems to wrap too much under the guise of cultural neutrality. Is dressing gothic or getting tattoos and body piercing morally neutral? Or are they an expression of one’s heart? I do not automatically dismiss these as cultural preferences as Driscoll seems to do.
Nevertheless, Driscoll’s book is a welcomed call to action. I pray that it will awaken many from their contemporary slumber to glorify God and to love our neighbors. Let us reach those in the culture(s) in which God has placed us with the gospel!