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The Radical ReformissionCopyright © 2004 by Mars Hill Church
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Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Driscoll, Mark, 1970- The radical reformission : reaching out without selling out / Mark Driscoll.-- 1st ed. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 0-310-25659-3 1. Evangelistic work--United States. 2. Christianity and culture--United States. I. Title. BV3793.D752004269'.2--dc22 2004010004
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
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Interior design by Tracey Moran
Printed in the United States of America
@2TOC_TTL = contents
my personal reformission and the emerging reformission movement
part 1: loving your Lord through the gospel
1. eat, drink, and be a merry missionary: 27
imitating the reformission of Jesus
reformission interview with David Bruce: Hollywood Jesus
2. and now, the news: 45
shaping a reformission gospel
reformission interview with Ichabod Caine: Christians and country music
reformission interview with Stef Hjertager: from dancer to deacon
part 2: loving your neighbor in the culture
4. Elvis in Eden: 91
a reformission understanding of culture
reformission interview with Crash: what would Jesus tattoo?
5. going to seminary at the grocery store: 117
connecting with culture in reformission
reformission interview with Tim Ottley: rocking for the Lamb
6. the sin of light beer: 139
how syncretism and sectarianismundermine reformission
reformission interview with Mike Hale: Protestant pubs
7. postmodern pandemonium: 159
defeating the new demons
reformission interview with Jenny Schneider: glued to the tube
from demons to dreams: building a kingdom culture
peering through portals into tomorrow
@1CHAP_NUM = Chapter 1
eat, drink, and be a merry missionary
imitating the reformission of Jesus
Jesus. The first word of this book must be Jesus, because everything, reformission included, begins and ends with him. But the longer someone is a Christian, the greater their propensity to diminish the Jesus of the Bible until he becomes a predictable little God who ceases to surprise them. Therefore, it is imperative that all Christians continually search the Scriptures in order to see Jesus clearly. And as we read of Jesus' involvement in culture, we see a free and radical God whose life is so shocking that it is self-evident that the story is true, because no one in their right mind could make it up. Therefore, to prepare you for reformission, I first want to remind you Christ.
what God's story reveals
The story begins with God making all things, then creating a man named Adam. Though Adam is technically perfect, it is still not good for him to be alone. The Bible never tells us why, exactly. Perhaps he would have forgotten to pick up the trash around the Garden of Eden, and the place eventually would have looked like an eternal fraternity without a hint of an annual spring cleaning.
Whatever the case, God creates a perfect woman who is beautiful, sinless, and naked--the same kind of woman every guy ever since has been searching for. Adam meets her and, recognizing that his life has just taken a turn for the better, he sings her a song, after which their marriage is consummated. The Bible could end right there, after only two chapters, with the man and woman naked, eating fruit, and trying to fill the earth all by their happy, horny, holy selves.
But ever since the dreadful day of the Thud in Eden, we have all been walking around scratching our thick skulls, trying to figure out how to get back to that glorious time. Why? Because our happy, naked first parents sinned against God and brought a curse upon themselves and all of creation. They sinned because they believed the lies of a talking serpent who had been an angel until he got kicked out of heaven for his pride.
After they are exiled from Eden, our first parents have two boys, and before long, one boy kills the other. From there, carnage and death ensue, and people grow so wicked that God floods the earth, killing nearly everyone. But he starts over with another decent guy named Noah, who nevertheless ends up having a bad day, gets drunk, and passes out naked in his tent like some redneck on vacation.
As time rolls along, God also works through a cowardly old man named Abraham, who is happy to whore out his loving and beautiful antique of a wife to avoid conflict. God also chooses to work through a guy named Jacob, even though he's a trickster and a con man. Later, God raises up a stuttering murderer named Moses to lead his people. Years later, a king named David comes onto the leadership stage, but he becomes an adulterer, a murderer, and an odd type pointing ahead to the promised Christ. David's son Solomon redefines addiction, with more wine, women, and money than any guy could possibly know what to do with, though he gave it a good Hefneresque run. This brief list doesn't even include the prophets, like Ezekiel, whom God tells to cook a meal over his own feces; Hosea, who marries a prostitute; Jeremiah, who cries like a newly crowned beauty queen all the time; or any of the freaks on cable television right now talking about Jee-zus along with their wives, who by God's grace alone are not naked like their mother Eve.
And to top it all off, God comes to earth. He has a mom whom everyone thinks is a slut, a dad whom they think has the brilliance of a five-watt bulb for believing the "virgin birth" line, and brothers who likely pummel him frequently, because even God would have to get at least one wedgie from his brothers if he were to be fully human. The God-Man goes through puberty and likely goes through that weird vocal transition in which, in the course of one syllable, a young man can seamlessly go from sounding like Barry White to sounding like Cindy Brady. God comes hiding in human flesh and, according to Isaiah the prophet, he's a regular-looking guy. In sum, nobody knows exactly who this guy is.
Doesn't the story sound like the plot of a trashy, daytime television talk show? The God-Man is born to a teenage virgin in an animal stall, grows up with a blue-collar dad in a dumpy rural town, and has a weird cousin named John, who lives in the woods and survives on a steady diet of bugs, sugar, and repentance.
Somehow John becomes the leader of a religious movement with a small posse of guys you'd have to think probably looked like clones of the kid on the porch in the movie Deliverance. Then Jesus takes a few of John's posse as his own. At this point in the story, God is thirty years of age and a classic underachiever with no wife, kids, stable career, or even much of a home.
But apparently God is fun to hang with, because he and his posse get invited to a lot of parties, including a wedding, which is basically a week-long wine and dance party celebrating some lucky guy's attempt to get back to Genesis 1 and 2. This would be the first of Jesus' many parties.
The constipated religious leaders of his day accuse him of being a drunkard, a glutton, and a crooked guy who always hangs out with the wrong people: easy girls like Mary, crooked mafia types like Matthew, and the kids in high school who always wear black concert T-shirts, sport greasy male ponytails, and smoke cigarettes just off school property during lunch (Matt. 11:19). To the religious leaders, Jesus is a scandal--his followers are felons--and every time they see Jesus, it agitates them that he is always surrounded by a crowd, telling knock-knock jokes to miscreants who love his sense of humor (because his perfection had to have included comedic timing).
Anyway, Jesus shows up at a wedding and begins his public ministry. God has come to earth, and he kicks things off as a bartender. Some poor kids getting married have run out of wine and face humiliation with their friends and family. So Jesus' mom, Mary, comes and asks her son, God, to do something about it.
In a show of irony, he takes six large stone jars used for ceremonial washing and asks for them to be filled with water, not for cleansing and religious purification but so he can turn that water into wine. And this is not the cheap wine named after a bird or a handgun but good wine, fine wine, the kind bearing a foreign name most Americans can't even pronounce because it is not spelled B-u-d-w-e-i-s-e-r.
The Bible says that this is how the sovereign, eternal God of the universe first makes his glory known. Paul says this message of Jesus sounds like foolishness and that many people trip over him in their failed attempts to find him. Why? The reasons are legion, but they include the ignorance of the freedom of Christ from which Christians obtain their freedom in Christ. In an effort to illustrate this truth, I will tell you about an experience I had with a gay cowboy friend of mine.
what happened in a bar
As a newer Christian, I was the plankton in a conservative, suburban megachurch food chain. My hope was to get called up to the big leagues and be a full-time pastor, and so I attended a solid Bible-teaching seminary, volunteered at the church, and labored to build a good reputation as a morally upright man. I did not drink, smoke, or do anything that could give others the impression that I was a bad sinner.
Then I got a phone call from an old college friend whom God had used to bring me to faith. He was a zealous charismaniac type who had relentlessly chased me around campus the first few months of my freshman year, trying to get me to pray the Sinner's Prayer. After my conversion, he became a Christian friend. But in the years since college, I had lost touch with him. So I was now happy to hear his voice on the phone, and we scheduled a time to get together.
Over lunch, he informed me that he had been a closet homosexual throughout college, had joined the military after graduation, and had recently been discharged for having sex with fellow soldiers. He was presently frequenting public bathrooms throughout the city and having anonymous sex with various men. He shared that he was wrestling through whether he believed that he was a sinner and whether he still believed in God. When I invited him to attend church with me, he declined, saying that it was unfair for me to expect him to come into my Christian subculture, since I was unwilling to go with him into his homosexual subculture.
And he was right. So, feeling convicted to be like Jesus, I told him I would be happy to go into his world if he would come into mine. Seeing an evil dervish grin emerge on his face, I knew I was in trouble. He invited me to a gay country and western bar he frequented. At the time, I did not drink and disliked no one more than limp-wristed gay men and cowboys. I could not conceive of a worse purgatory than the one awaiting me.
I went home to inform my lovely bride about the mess I had gotten myself into, discovering that she was both supportive and good humored. The following week, I went out with my skinny, feminine gay buddy, who was dressed up in tight jeans, goofy boots, and a big hat for a night of country line-dancing. Walking through the front door of the queer cowboy club, I was hit with the shrill sound of country and western music and the sight of a sea of skinny men sporting tight jeans, well-groomed mustaches, and boots, even though we were in the middle of downtown Seattle and at least an hour's drive away from the nearest horse.
My friend took me to the bar and introduced me to a number of his gay buddies, who were drinking--of course--light beer. Feeling like I was wearing someone else's underwear, I stood there and tried to be inconspicuous, praying that no one would recognize me. Then someone I had graduated from high school with approached me with a surprised look. She asked, "What are you doing here?" And I quickly blurted, "I'm married to a woman and here with a friend, but I'm not a gay guy, so please don't tell anyone I'm a queer." She laughed and we chatted for a few minutes until a song she obviously liked came on, and she then shuffled off to the dance floor with her girlfriend.
Then a guy introduced himself and hit on me. Stunned, I did not immediately respond but instead stared at the poor guy, trying to figure out why he looked so familiar, how he could mistake me for a gay guy, and if I was really good looking. It then hit me and I asked him, "Are you my mailman?" He replied, "Yes, I am a mailman." Suddenly, I wanted to kill myself and never get mail again.
My buddy had abandoned me at the bar, and I frantically searched for him in hopes that if I was with him, no one else would hit on me. I found him drinking a fruity drink and flirting with an enormous man. I asked him how long we were staying, since the first five minutes in this hell were about all I could handle. But he said, "Mark, I have to go to a special room upstairs for about an hour, so you are welcome to come up with me or stay down here until I return." I asked what they did in that room, hoping I would not throw up my dinner after hearing his answer. Here's how he responded: "It's not an orgy. It's a meeting for the gay rodeo committee."
Those were simply the last two words I had ever anticipated hearing together. He explained that the queer cowboys were hoping to have a rodeo and that he was on the planning committee. Not wanting to sit at the bar for an hour getting hit on, I chose to go to the planning meeting with a few dozen other guys. We all sat in a circle like we were in a home Bible study. The meeting opened with introductions, everyone giving their names and vocations.
I had prided myself on aspiring to the pastorate but now found myself in an awkward position. My buddy leaned over and whispered in my ear, "What are you going to tell them you do for a living?" Unsure, I said, "I have no idea. Maybe I'll tell them I am a teacher or a spiritual director."
When it came to my turn, I tried to avoid the inevitable conflict and lied to them by saying I was a spiritual something-or-other, hoping the queer cowboys would smile, nod, and ignore me. But one of the cowboys asked what my religion was. So I came out of my closet and told him I was a Bible-thumping, old-school Christian preacher, causing some of the guys to laugh, thinking I was kidding. The rest of the meeting went well and was not all that different from the boring staff meetings we had at the megachurch, where people who hadn't done much tried to appear as if they had. The guys were very nice, so afterward when we returned downstairs, I ended up buying some of them beers. However, I did not drink that evening because I wanted to respect the church's authority over me, which forbade alcohol consumption.
One of the guys asked if I was actually a real pastor and began explaining how his lover and many of his friends had died of AIDS. Actually, he began discipling me, articulating with great pain the loneliness and death that filled his community and explaining why he feared death. He asked what happens when someone dies and wanted to know what would happen to him, in particular. He was attentive as I sought to relate the gospel to his life: sin causes death, but Jesus is God who became a man and died--when he was about the same age as this man--in order to rise from death, forgive sin, and give eternal life to those who repent of sin and trust in him. I explained that only Jesus can take us through our own deaths and comfort us after the deaths of others, because he alone has been through death and come back.
The man was not converted during our chat, but in many ways, I was.
As I left the bar, God convicted me about my proud addiction to morality and my attempt to look like a decent guy so that others would like me. I was so insecure that I feared not only that my Christian friends would see me walking out of a gay bar with queer cowboys but also that the queer cowboys would reject me for being a Bible thumper who, deep down, believed they were running headlong to hell in their cowboy boots. I cared more about how I appeared to people than about whether I shared the passion of Jesus for those who are lost.
That night, I learned that reformission requires that Christians and their churches move forward on their knees, continually confessing their addictions to morality and the appearance of godliness, which does not penetrate the heart and transform lives. In the end, I learned that God's mission is not to create a team of moral and decent people but rather to create a movement of holy loving missionaries who are comfortable and truthful around lost sinners and who, in this way, look more like Jesus than most of his pastors do.
what it means to cross barriers
Driving home from the gay cowboy bar with my buddy, it hit me that I had just spent an evening in Samaria. In Jesus' day, what we now refer to as the Holy Land was divided into three regions. In the north was Galilee, in the south was Judea, and in the middle was Samaria. Samaria was the ghetto, where all the unclean and undesirable mixed-race people, with their convoluted Oprah-esque mixed religion, lived.
What's our modern-day equivalent to Samaria? Could it be Salt Lake City, Utah, which is filled with people who claim to worship Jesus but who have their own religion, complete with their own temple and sacred underpants?
In Jesus' day, the tension between Samaritans and Jews was intense. The Samaritans still claimed to believe in the first five books of the Old Testament, though they had cut themselves off from the riches of the rest of the Old Testament; they claimed to be children of Abraham, though they continued as a blended religion filled with pagan and occultic beliefs and practices. The Jews were so disgusted by the Samaritans that they rarely traveled through their land. When they did, it was not uncommon for Jews to be detained and harassed merely for traveling through Samaria.
When Jesus relocated his ministry to Galilee, he chose to travel through Samaria, rather than avoiding that region. On his way, he sat down at Jacob's well for a rest while his disciples went to town to buy lunch. As he rested, a Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water. We do not know her name; we do, however, know her reputation. She was the dirty, leathery faced town whore. After a string of five failed marriages, she had resorted to shacking up with a man with whom she traded sex for rent.
She did not say a word to Jesus, likely because she guessed that a Jewish rabbi was not interested in chitchat with a woman like her. She arrived at the well alone in the heat of midday, because she knew that the reputable women who had gathered earlier in the cool of the day to draw water and to gossip would have welcomed her about as warmly as the KKK would have greeted Malcolm X at a Klan rally.
The story takes a surprising twist when Jesus spoke kindly to her, asking, "Will you give me a drink?" Stunned, the woman likely scrunched up her nose and stared at Jesus in bewilderment, because in that cultural setting, men did not befriend women, Jews did not befriend Samaritans, and upright rabbis did not befriend crooked sinners. But Jesus is holy, which simply means he is different without being sinful, and so he spoke to her kindly, asking her a favor and treating her as a friend.
Travelers in that day usually carried a container for water, and Jesus' men had apparently taken theirs into town, leaving him with nothing to drink. So Jesus requested a drink from her container. This act of drinking from her vessel would likely have been viewed as sinful, dirty, and ritually unclean by the Jews. So his request, while not in violation of Scripture, trampled religious moral dogma.
A master teacher, Jesus used the metaphor of water to speak to the woman about salvation--or cleansing living water--given by God. In a clever attempt to expose her sin and her need for God's forgiveness, Jesus requested that she first go home to get her husband before he would give her living water. She replied with a half-truth, that she had no husband. Jesus then named her sin, saying he knew that she had been married five times and was now living in sin with a man who was not her husband.
The naming of the woman's sin was the turning point in the conversation, as the woman then recognized Jesus as a prophet deserving respect, so she referred to him as "sir." This would have been appropriate, since the Samaritans were waiting not for a Messiah but instead for the promised prophet who would be like Moses.
The woman asked Jesus about the theological issue dividing their religions, races, and worship. Where should she go to confess her sin and be reconciled to God? Should she go to her Samaritan temple on nearby Mount Gerizim, or should she travel to the temple in Jerusalem?
Jesus' answer was nothing less than the first shot in a revolution that has continued ever since. In his simple answer, he declared an end to both Samaritan and Jewish worship in favor of worship that requires not just outward tradition and ritual but, more important, inward spirit and truth to please God. Jesus declared that the Father was actively seeking worshipers and that he would give people the truth by sending the Holy Spirit to teach them whom to worship. Because of the Spirit, people would no longer need to go to any sacred place such as a temple. Instead, we can worship God anywhere and everywhere, if we turn from sin to receive the Spirit, who would dwell in us, thereby making our bodies (including the body of this woman, who likely smelled like cheap liquor and men at that very moment) into a new temple where the presence of God dwells.1
The word Jesus tenderly used for worship literally means "to kiss toward." In Jesus, God had just blown this haggard harlot a metaphorical kiss of loving grace and had proposed a covenant of love that, unlike all the others she had experienced, would endure. Predictably, the woman was so stunned that she sobered up. With her heart now yearning for forgiveness and understanding, she told Jesus that she longed for the day when God would come as the Messiah-Christ and explain all of these things to her. Peering into her tearful eyes, and likely leaving a painful silence before speaking, Jesus simply declared, "I who speak to you am he."
Lest we overlook the magnitude of this moment, notice that this is the only place in John's gospel that Jesus declares that he is the promised Old Testament Messiah. And he reserved this great revelation not for the seminary professors or megachurch senior pastors but for the woman he had come to earth to spiritually court at a lonely well in the heat of the noontime sun. And Jesus revealed her sin, putting his finger on the dirtiest and most scarred portion of her soul, which smelled like death, hell, and sin. He cleaned it, healed it, forgave it, and replaced it with grace and the Holy Spirit, as only he can.
Born again, the woman decided to start her life over, which is the essence of repentance. She sprinted back into Sychar with good news to tell. She told anyone who would listen that she had been a sick and wicked woman governed by her loneliness and perversion but that things had changed once she met Jesus. We can only imagine the looks on people's faces, including the many men who likely had seen her unclothed but who had never seen her clothed in righteousness. As the first evangelist in the New Testament, she was doing the work of mission in her culture, pointing others to Jesus for salvation and life.
Many heretical, outcast idolators came to believe in Jesus because of this woman's testimony. They correctly saw him as Savior for all nations of the earth because of one changed life. They then invited Jesus to join them as friends in sinful Sychar. So he remained with them for two days, teaching and seeing many more people believe.
It is likely that John's account gives just the highlights of a lengthy conversation that Jesus had with the woman. But it illustrates Jesus' bold crossing of the barriers that had separated people from God. Jesus overcame the racial barrier between Jews and Samaritans to show that though the message of salvation came from God through the Jews, it was ultimately intended for all nations of the earth. Jesus overcame the sin barrier and exposed the habitual sexual sin of the woman as the reason she had been unable to worship. Jesus overcame the gender barrier and showed God's gracious heart for this woman and for all women. Jesus overcame the geographical barrier and opened the possibility that everyone everywhere could worship if they would repent of sin, because the Father was seeking them and would give them the truth and the Spirit.
And in his greatest act of love for this woman, Jesus later hung on a Roman cross--punished between two thieves--dying for the many sins of this woman. Jesus then rose from death and ascended into heaven to prepare an eternal home for her. He then sent the Holy Spirit to empower her new life and ministry.
Reformission is ultimately about being like Jesus, through his empowering grace. One of the underlying keys to reformission is knowing that neither the freedom of Christ nor our freedom in Christ is intended to permit us to dance as close to sin as possible without crossing the line. But both are intended to permit us to dance as close to sinners as possible by crossing the lines that unnecessarily separate the people God has found from those he is still seeking. To be a Christian, literally, is to be a "little Christ." It is imperative that Christians be like Jesus, by living freely within the culture as missionaries who are as faithful to the Father and his gospel as Jesus was in his own time and place.
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 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.
If you have not recently read the account of Jesus and the woman at the well, I would encourage you to read John 4:1-42 and then answer the following questions.
1. Who do some Christians in your town, or the larger area in which you live, consider to be Samaritans? Why do you think some Christians dislike them?
2. What parts of your town or area are like Samaria to you--the places you avoid because you do not like the people who live there?
3. What were the Samaritan woman's sins? What do you think might be some common sins among the Samaritans in your town?
4. What pains must the woman's sins have caused her? What pains are your Samaritans' sins causing them?
5. In your area, where are the Jacob's wells and pagan temples where the Samaritans hang out?
6. What barriers did Jesus need to cross to evangelize the Samaritan woman? What barriers would you need to cross to connect with the Samaritans in your culture?
7. What changes took place in the woman's lifestyle? What might change in the lives of the Samaritans in your town or area if they met Jesus and repented of their sinful lifestyles?
8. Why do you think Jesus' disciples did not say anything w some of your Christian friends might say if you befriended a Samaritan?
9. Why was the woman at the well best suited to do mission to Sychar? Which people, if converted, would be best suited for mission in your town?
10. What was Jesus' sense of urgency for harvesting souls, and do you and your Christian friends share his sense of urgency? Why or why not?
11. In what ways is your salvation story (or perhaps the story of someone you know) similar to the story of the woman at the well?