Mark Driscoll, in his opening chapter, asks ten questions of his own church and ministry and invites readers to do the same. It is clear that the basic assumption of Driscoll’s approach is that the church continually be “on mission”. (It reminds me of the early days of the New Labour government where those who spoke for it had to be “on message”!). I think this is a useful corrective to the stuffy deadening introvertedness that churches can have. Nevertheless, I would be concerned that if a reader were to walk away from a book like this with a single-minded view that the church’s only priority should be to be “on mission” then this too would be unhealthy. I think it healthiest to get the right relationships between worship, discipleship and mission. I think this is expressed in the Great Commission, where the context is worship (Mt 28:17), the command is to be on mission (“Go, therefore…”, 28:19) and the task is to make disciples (28:19), and that means more than simply converts – they are to be taught to obey. If Driscoll’s book is read with this in mind then I think a lot can be gained from it.
I won’t go through all the questions, but I think some of them are interesting and worth a comment. For example, Driscoll asks what kind of church your church will be as far as mission is concerned. There are three in his mind:
- traditional, which basically believes that it is ministering in a christianised culture, and that traditional forms in themselves are adequate to attract non-believers
- contemporary evangelical, which has recognised that culture has changed and that the church must adopt some kind of “seeker sensitive” attractional approach to outreach, with the risks compromising on some elements of truth in order to meet felt needs
- emerging/missional, which rejects the consumer driven approach of contemporary evangelical, and rejects traditionalism and instead focusses on community, cultural engagement in its outreach, and where every Christian is a missionary. There is a wide range of theology held in this category.
Driscoll sees himself in the last, broad category. What he seems to see is that the attitudes of churches to mission in some way or other are defined by the culture they believe themselves to be in.
I don’t know. I find it difficult to get any kind of traction on this idea. It seems like someone’s opinion, and if you like the guy you will believe it. Maybe, maybe not. My problem I think is based on my belief that fundamentally there are two kingdoms: the kingdom of God/heaven/light/the Son he loves and the kingdom of darkness/the air. When a person is moved from darkness and begins to live in the kingdom of light it seems to me that there is a certain irreducible minimum of “kingdom culture” that must be adopted and will always make unbelievers feel uncomfortable and separate. Therefore it is inevitable that there is a (strong, I believe) element of tradition which must exist in any church governed by minds transformed by the gospel. Yet at the same time I recognise that there is much that is attractive in the “missional” view adopted by Driscoll for the simple reason that the church must find ways of fulfilling the great commission. Inevitably this implies an accommodation to culture at some level.
Perhaps you can see the tension that I feel in reading this book! I want any church that I am involved in to be “missional” (this word is far too trendy for me to treat as a real word without quotes!) and outward facing, both corporately and individually. But at the same time there is much that has been learned from careful study of scripture in ages past which we must be careful not to throw away too easily.
This post is long enough and a bit of stream-of-consciousness thinking, and I have only mentioned one subsection of one chapter! How long is this going to take, you ask? How long is piece of string-of-consciousness…