The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out, by Mark Driscoll.
The Radical Reformission is written by Mark Driscoll, a seemingly controversial pastor in Southern Baptist life. I chose to write a review of this book because of this controversy and the little information I had concerning Mark and his thoughts, ideas, and methods of ministry.
Driscoll is the founding pastor of
Driscoll begins the Radical Reformission by giving the reader his personal salvation testimony and subsequent call to ministry. As he tells his story the reader begins to catch a glimpse of where the journey is headed. He states that he is “presenting this book as a contribution toward the furtherance of the emerging church in the emerging culture” (17). He goes on to say that this offering is made up of the insights he has gleaned from his experiences and the people he has come into contact with.
This “reformission” Driscoll calls for is a call for the church of today to be “faithful to the scriptural texts and to the cultural contexts of
The theme of being missional is a recurring theme in many books today written about the church. It is not a new idea by any means, but it is a long forgot theme and strategy of the Lord Jesus Christ. Driscoll makes some excellent points concerning this missional theme: it was the strategy of Jesus during his earthly ministry, it was the strategy of the Apostles and the early church in the book of Acts. But Driscoll takes this theme and doesn’t just slide down a slippery slope; he seemingly jumps off a ledge of no return.
He uses pictures at the beginning of each chapter to give the reader a visual of where he is going as he writes, and the first picture he uses is a picture of a beer mug full of beer. Keep in mind this is the chapter in which he begins with the very first word being “Jesus.” He states, “The first word of this book must be Jesus, because everything, reformission included, begins and ends with him” (27). It is easy to agree with this concept and his statement, but it is difficult, in my opinion, to see how the visual and the statement work in cooperation with each other.
The consumption of alcohol and the “biblical” basis for it by Christ followers is a thread which runs throughout the entirety of The Radical Reformission, and it is a very radical idea indeed. He in no way takes away from the authority of Christ or Scripture, he in no way attempts to undermine the message and power of the gospel, he is theologically accurate in his correlation of Scripture with practical application in a ministry setting. But the issue of alcohol consumption is a point of discussion and interest throughout the entire book.
Sex is another issue that is referenced quite frequently by Driscoll. He connects the issue of alcohol and sex, for the most part, with the same argument. His argument is that today’s church has the hang-ups it does concerning these two “hot topics” because of misunderstandings of Scripture and church history. His basic conclusion concerning these two issues is that if the church would get its history and theology correct, it would release Christians to enjoy and “feast” and worship God as He intended His children to do from the beginning. I will state that Driscoll does hold to a very strict theological position on sexual intercourse being for married couples only.
One issue that Driscoll handles excellently is the sin of self-righteousness. “The bottom line is we are all self-righteous. We are all prone to secretly believe that we are somehow better than others because of the things we do or do not do” (77-78). The reader will appreciate his biblical approach to this rebellious attitude toward God and others. He calls for Christians to repent of the sin of self-righteousness. He argues that as long as the church refuses to repent of this sin she will never be able to effectively present the gospel to all those Jesus gave life for. He states it in this manner, “As long as Christians fail to repent of self-righteousness, we will continue to speak of evangelism in terms such as ‘outreach,’ which implies we will not embrace lost people but will keep them at least an arm’s length away” (78). This attitude prevails in the church because the membership has come to see themselves as “clean” and those outside the church as “dirty,” and church members do not want to get “dirty.”
Another issue which Driscoll handles biblically is his discussion throughout the book with culture, especially contemporary culture. He and others like him call the church be culturally relevant. To Driscoll this means that the church should study the culture to grasp the “language” being spoken, and then present the timeless truths of Scripture in that cultural language. He acknowledges that this will look very different in
Driscoll makes an attention getting statement in dealing with the idea of redeeming culture when he says, “The Bible clearly teaches that we do what we are. It also repeated teaches that our sin comes from our hearts, the center of who we are. Our hearts are a rock band, and culture is a loudspeaker, and if we don’t like the music, spending lots of money to fund organizations to ‘fix’ the speakers won’t change the tune” (109). Another way of saying this is “the heart of the problem is a problem with the heart,” and until the heart of the culture is changed through a radical relationship with Jesus, the same old music will continue to be heard.
One of the best arguments made by Driscoll is found in chapter five when he deals with “connecting with culture in reformission.” He does an excellent job of demonstrating the biblical mandate of immersing oneself in the surrounding culture while remaining in a state of Christian purity. This idea is most easily understood from the perspective of the biblical principle “be in the world but not of the world.” I John 2:15 says “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (NKJV). And Jesus said, “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:18, NKJV).
Driscoll highlights Paul’s ministry in
Driscoll does a good job of furthering his position of “cultural reformission” by using Daniel as an example of being culturally relevant while remaining spiritually pure. The story does not need to be retold, but the principle is definitely present. Daniel and his friends are praised for their faithful stance and honor of God, but most do not at the same time see how these young men influenced their culture by faithfully performing the tasks assigned them by the Babylonian government. They did their jobs to the best of their ability while remaining faithful to God until such time as the two came into conflict, at which time they continued to honor God no matter the consequence. This is what is needed in our local culture, our nation and our world today. Christ followers who are willing to stand for Christ no matter the consequence.
There are many quality ideas found within the pages of The Radical Reformission. Driscoll does an excellent job of presenting the biblical mandate to transform our culture and redeem the time. It is impossible to argue against these principles. But the linking of these things with the idea of the Christian consumption of alcohol is a detriment to the
He takes the time to present the biblical argument against drunkenness (147); he gives twenty problems caused by drunkenness (148); he states that there are three positions being taking in Christendom concerning alcohol (149-150). He then lists six times or “occasions to drink alcohol in moderation” (150), and promotes the consumption of alcohol among believers. In my opinion these do not add up. This is a debate that will never die in Christian circles. There will always be those who want to walk as close to “the cliff” as they can trying not to fall off, and in doing so will always lead others to do the same thing. The point which seems to be missed is that some have better “balance” than others. It is not that Christians cannot drink alcohol, but should they, in light of those who are watching.
I would recommend this book to those seeking to make a difference in the Kingdom by making a difference in their community, but I do have some reservations because of the almost constant discussion and approval of alcohol consumption. God help us.