A Fresh Look at Mission

One of the first books that began to reshape my understanding of the church’s role in culture was Mark Driscoll’s The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out. I wanted to share an excerpt from it, as I think it has some helpful ideas as we consider what it means to “embody the message and mission of Jesus in every place he sends us.”

I’m also excited about Mike and Val Kelley’s Community Group that will be meeting this summer and working through this book (click here for more info on this summer’s groups).

In the book, Driscoll coins the phrase “reformission,” which he then defines like this:

A radical call to reform the church’s traditionally flawed view of missions as something carried out only in foreign lands and to focus instead on the urgent need in our own neighborhoods, which are filled with diverse cultures of Americans who desperately need the gospel of Jesus and life in his church.

One of my favorite excerpts comes from the third chapter, “Shotgun Weddings to Jesus”:

In reformission evangelism, people are called to come and see the transformed lives of God’s people before they are called to repent of sin and to trust in God. Taking a cue from dating is helpful on this point. If we desire people to be happily married to Jesus as his loving bride, it makes sense to let them go out on a few dates with him instead of just putting a shotgun to their heads and asking them to hurry up, put on a white dress, and try to look happy for the photos.

Reformission evangelism understands that the transformed lives of people in the church are both the greatest argument for, and the greatest explanation of, the gospel. Therefore, it welcomes non-Christians into the church, not so much through evangelistic programs as through informal relationships like Jesus developed with his first disciples. In our church in Seattle, as lost people become friends with Christians, they often get connected to various ministries (for example, helping to run concerts, helping to guide a rock-climbing expedition, taking a class on biblical marriage, helping to develop a website, joining a Bible study, serving the needy) and participate in them before they possess saving faith. In this way, reformission evangelism depends on friendship and hospitality as conduits to the gospel.

As trust is earned over time, lost people will often speak with their Christian friends about “our church” before they speak about “our God.” Often they first convert to the church and friendships with its members, and second to God, whom they meet in their friendships and experiences in the church. For example, a woman in our church who knows that she is not a Christian asked if she could host a Bible study in her home and have someone else teach it, because she enjoyed the people in “our church” so much that she was excited to have them in her home.

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. Reformission Christians are not ashamed of the gospel, and they speak about Jesus and pray to him in front of their lost friends as they would around their Christian friends; and their lost friends appreciate their authenticity. Their lost friends are comfortable asking them questions about the Christian life, and these reformission Christians have earned the right to give answers as a result of their friendships and hospitality.

At some point, God may grant saving faith to their lost friends and enable them to pass from death to life, but their salvation is ultimately between them and God, as he alone gives salvation. The precise moment of their conversion is known by God, but it is often unknown to them, because authentic conversion is experienced more as a process than as a single moment. Ultimately, what matters most is not when they meet Jesus but that at some point they begin loving him with new hearts and will continue to do so forever.

One of the most fascinating aspects of reformission evangelism is that lost people actually function as missionaries themselves before their conversion. Lost people commonly speak with lost family and friends of what they are learning about Jesus, even inviting them to church and introducing them to their Christian friends. Hence, reformission evangelism is careful not to sever lost people or new Christians from their tribe of lost friends because those relationships present further opportunities for evangelism. The only exception would be if those relationships were causing someone to fall back into habitual sin.

What stands out to you from that excerpt? What do you agree or disagree with?

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  1. #1 by Michael Kelley on May 12, 2010 - 8:42 am

    Nice! Sounds like a great group! haha

  2. #2 by Rick Hill on May 12, 2010 - 8:43 am

    Suzi & I listen to Mark Driscoll quite often, as we have friends who live both in Montana & Seattle, WA. While in Seattle they attend Mars Hill Church. We agree whole heartedly with the views expressed within this excerpt of his book. Not simply because he has expressd them, rather, that Jesus practiced this form of evangelism, as did the early church. Mark Driscoll is a wonderful testimony of the grace of Jesus and is not ashamed to speak Jesus’ truth.

  3. #3 by Jeffery on May 12, 2010 - 11:58 am

    Luke–

    I think that Mark Driscoll is one of the few still-orthodox evangelicals who understands and functions successfully when confronting a post-modern saturated demographic the emergenting generation–Cf, the Pew Research Center’s study of the Millennials.

    That said, we must all understand that the mission Christ gives us extends beyond personal evangelism, as cruical as that is–Jesus’ words were that we disciple nations (ethnoi), not just persons (anthopoi)–so structures are vital targets as well, but Mark’s track record and methodology extend to this, though the exerpt by design just focuses on the individual.

  4. #4 by Troy Blakemore on May 19, 2010 - 2:37 pm

    Looking forward to going through it with the Kelley’s!

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