Book Review of “The Radical Reformission” by Mark Driscoll

Posted: November 27, 2007 by Rick Hogaboam in Book Reviews, Ecclesiology (Church Stuff)
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 Reaching Out without Selling Out

Well, I must say that it is refreshing to read a Pastor who holds nothing back in his candor and blunt style of conveying his opinion. In the midst of political correctness and wuss pastors who are constantly afraid of offending someone, Mark Driscoll is a prophet of sorts.

As for the contents of the book, I like much of what Mark has to offer. The chart alone (below) was worth the price of the book. Driscoll categorized ministry paradigms as follows:

Gospel + Culture – Church = Parachurch

Gospel + Church – Gospel = Liberalism

Church + Gospel – Culture = Fundamentalism

Gospel + Culture + Church = Reforission

Driscoll defines ‘Reformission” as follows: “Reformission combines the best aspects of each of these types of Christianity: living in the tension of being culturally liberal yet theologically conservative Christians and churches who are absolutely driven by the gospel of grace to love their Lord, their neighbors, and their fellow Christians” (p. 16)

I must say that while growing up in a Pentecostal church, the piety was more monastic, or separatist, not too far removed from the fundamentalist piety, categorized by: boycotting businesses that supported principles that were not “Christian”, staying away from movies, not listening to ‘secular’ music, spending more time with Christians than with non-Christians, a triumphalism in holiness that was only obtained by constant prayer and worship. I could go on and on. I don’t wish to lam-bast Pentecostal piety, but only to mention that such piety doesn’t engage culture all that well.

On the other extreme, I attended a “seeker friendly” church, where the gospel felt trivialized and hardly any observable passion for the Gospel. The Gospel was stripped of its prophetic and confrontational nature with the intention of basically blending in with culture in the name of relevancy. To me, fervent prayer, engaging worship, serious Bible study seemed things to be frowned upon in such an environment. You would be labeled a “super-spiritual” or “too heavenly minded for earthly good”.

You can see the 2 extremes. In one environment, one may be “too earthly minded for heavenly good”, while in the other camp one may be “too heavenly minded for earthly good”.

Driscoll’s book basically confirmed in me what I have longed for, a blending of Missional and Monastic principles. To me, the Apostle Paul epitomizes what it means to be very monastic and “Pentecostal” on one hand, and extremely relevant to culture on the other. It’s interesting that both camps usually cite Paul for the basis on their piety and philosophy of ministry. Seeker sensitive types usually point out how Paul was seeking to be all things to all people, and how he constantly used illustrations that were culturally relevant, like sports analogies, etc. In the Pentecostal camp, Paul is seen as one who is constantly fasting, praying, and studying/preaching the Word. To them, Paul’s whole day consisted of constant and perpetual prayer, study, spiritual warfare. Taking in a ball game, or reading a secular book would seem completely out of place for Paul.

Well, the Apostle Paul did all of the above: He prayed, he fasted, he studied Scripture, he read ‘secular’ literature, attended sporting events, engaged in spiritual warfare through prayer and fasting, engaged in philosophical warfare (which is really spiritual warfare as well) through bringing down false philosophies and challenging pagan notions of deity. Paul would eat meat sacrificed to idols because he cared more about the gospel and yet, cared about the monastic types who thought that eating such meat would give credence to the worship of demons. Here we find that Paul had a mature piety and realized that one size doesn’t fit all. Some are offended by things that aren’t sin necessarily and yet would be sin for such weak believers if they should go against conscience. What we have then in modern Evangelicalism is an “either or” mentality in how churches assemble. The “super-spirituals” who love to fast, worship, and think there’s a demon in every secular song and movie will naturally tend to congregate amongst their own kind. Liberals who think the gospel is nothing a message of tolerance and mandate to feed the poor will naturally affiliate with their own kind. Seeker ministries that strive to make the gospel relevant by being intentional about what words to use and not use, what clothes to wear, what illustrations to use in the sermon, and on and on, really don’t value the Pentecostal/Fundamentalist/Monastic type because they are out of touch with the culture.

This has been less a book review and more a regurgitation of the book from my own experience and what Driscoll is aiming at in his own ministry. I have yet to see it codified as such and would recommend this book as reading for anyone interested in examining issues of piety, philosophy of ministry, and such related topics.

There are things in the book that I disagree with, but don’t think them so significant to detract from my otherwise wholehearted recommendation of Driscoll’s heart and aim for the church today.

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