I’ve recently finished one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve read in quite some time. Mark Driscoll’s “Confessions of a Reformission Rev.”is that book. Quite a lot has been said about Driscoll over the last year or so. He is the infamous “cussing pastor” mentioned in the popular and controversial “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller. He is closely linked with Doug Padgitt and Brian McLaren as he worked with them earlier in his life before splitting with them over their theological drift. My guess is that Driscoll is one man who many think they know without having heard him speak for himself.
For this reason alone, I decided I needed to find out what he was about: everything I have come into contact with that has to do with him has been compelling, for better or for worse. Say what you want about him, he is never boring, and more than that, his influence is on the rise.
So I read the book. It did not disappoint. I’m reading “The Radical Reformission” right now, but that will have to wait. My reaction was both strong and mixed. Let me explain:
- Mark is, I believe, unnecessarily crass… a lot. He does not cuss in the book, but admits that he has struggled with swearing in the past. At the same time he is known for crossing comfort barriers in his preaching. In his book the words are not the issue so much as the phrases. You could call is crass, you could call it coarse, or you could call it frank. To his thinking it is a part of identifying with culture. You may disagree. At times I did.
- Mark calls the teachings of Padgitt and McLaren as heretical, yet insists on calling them friends. Go figure.
- Mark has a different idea of the church’s purpose than I do. He rejects the attraction-heavy, market-driven approach of Willow Creek, but he does believe that the church must market itself to unbelievers to a lesser degree. He remarks that his church is more for those unsaved people they are trying to reach than for the ones already there. He calls this being “missional.” Many people have now hijacked this term to justify becoming worldly in the name of evangelism. For Mark, being “missional” means having a singular drive to go into culture and see people saved. This is a right pursuit, but I believe that the first purpose is for the equipping of Christians for the work of service (Eph 4:11-13), under which evangelism falls.
- Mark goes a little to far in my opinion in accommodating to culture. This is a very touchy issue. He rightly observes that most Christians do not want to accommodate to culture at all; most want to drag converts into their own culture. When living IN the world, there is always the risk of becoming OF the world (1 Cor 5:10, James 4:4). I think Mark crosses this line a bit. I am reading “The Radical Reformission” right now, which addresses this question, so I am withholding judgment for now.
- Mark asks us to be more considerate of the cultures of the unsaved (in his case, the unchurched, ultra-liberal, punk rock culture of Seattle) while he mocks other subcultures. He picks on the ultra-conservative a lot. He unintentionally implies that the legalists are less deserving of patience than the heavily tattooed, pot-smoking crowd.
One the other hand:
- Mark convinced me that I do not truly love the unsaved like I should. He commended me for loving the people in my church but criticized me for not caring about my neighbor. I would classify this as a life-changing conclusion.
- Mark pushed me to re-evaluate the Church’s obligation to it’s community. This conclusion mirrors my personal reflections and extends them to the Church as a whole. He paints churches with too broad brush strokes, but he sums up the basic types of churches relative to their views on evangelism.
- Mark helped me rethink my ideas about how to contextualize the gospel to different subcultures. I would say that I have understood that context is important to the gospel (see all of Acts 17) but that I may have been too legalistic in what I expected of converts. In other words, I have expected that they should become like me. Christians and churches can exist inside subcultures rather than having to conform to mine.
- Mark has challenged my thinking about what is Christian liberty and what is worldliness. Again, I would say that I have not been a legalist about what passes and Christian liberty, but I have probably been too narrow. He has drawn me to examine exactly why some of my hang-ups exist. Whether I agree with him or not, I understand it better for myself.
The guy who titled a chapter “Jesus, Our Offering Was $137 and I Want To Use it to Buy Bullets” is definitely worth a read. Love him or hate him, he’ll make you think.