Tuesday, February 26, 2008

tell me your deep dark secret and i will tell you mine

thus far this lenten season has not been so much about my minimal expressions of discipline, but rather about how God is disciplining and discipling me.

to wit, last week my friend dave forwarded me a link of a recent sermon by mark driscoll in which driscoll briefly discusses his early connections with the conversation and then offers a lengthy discussion of how he thinks many in the conversation, especially mclaren, pagitt and bell,* have gone astray from the conversation's initial focus on speaking a contextualized gospel into a rapidly changing culture.

as soon as the link appeared in my inbox, i knew that i would take issue with a number of driscoll's accusations** and i was hesitant to listen to the sermon at all. but after the remnants of our thursday night bible study clustered around my laptop and listened to the sermon later in the week, i must admit that i was convicted by a couple of things that driscoll said.

specifically, driscoll said that when God inspired scripture he did not intend for it to be an object of conversation but a call for obedience. moreover, later in the sermon, driscoll declared that the dirty little secret of the "revisionists"*** is that while they do indeed have conversations they don't have many conversions.

if the first assertion is meant as an absolute statement, i have to take umbrage with it for i think that in its primal, oral form the scriptures were intended to be spread, mused upon, applied, debated, praised and questioned in the midst of conversations. however, in a more personal sense, i cannot deny that when i read Jesus' command to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" i realize that the Jesus is not asking me for a learned discourse on the ancient perspectives on love so much as he is compelling me to embrace his way of life by being good news in this busted up world. i don't think that God is offended or afraid of with our conversations about the meaning of biblical texts or the proper way to apply these texts in our contemporary settings. however, i suspect that Christ is more fully revealed in my obedience to the clear theological, ethical and moral teachings of scripture than he is by my rambling discourse. for this reason, and in this rather limited sense, i think that driscoll's assertion is worth heeding and, if followed, will benefit my community, family and soul.

however, it is driscoll's revelation of emergent's dirty little secret**** that has really gotten under my skin where it first festered like a ring-worm but now is spidering like vein that is threatening new life. i am so hesitant to say anything about the "e-word" in this space, since, like so many angsty evangelicals i have serious issues with the way evangelism has been taught, practiced, imposed and idolized in my tradition. however, i also realize that, as buechner has often said, "the only writing worth reading is that which is written in blood," so i guess i'll get out with it. i realize that the liberating, revolutionary message of Christ is meant to be shared and irecognize that illustrating, incarnating and, yes, ultimately inviting others to model the life of Jesus is at the heart of Christian mission and message. yet, in the past five or so years i have so often been afraid of being labeled a proselytizer or of sacrificing friendships in the pursuit of evangelism that i have too often failed to desire, pray for and invite people to more fully participate in the remarkable beauty, truth and goodness of life in Christ.

as a follower of Jesus i realize that it is an irreducible part of my community's mission to participate in the task of evangelism.***** yet, though i have talked about this component of the community's mission ad nauseam, i have not fully invested myself in this task in far too long..

so that's my confession for tonight. i hope you can take it as it comes and, especially if you are a friend who has chosen not to follow Christ, still find a way to trust that i am not going to violate our friendship by trying to actively impose my beliefs upon you or, hopefully, doing great violence to our friendship in any other way.

i swore this post was going to be a paragraph long and realize that i've probably said too much.

* the latter of whom has never openly identified himself with the discussion, rendering the charge rather specious.
** and, unsurprisingly, i did. i would find it hard to denounce mclaren simply on account of the theological diversity of his literary recommendations and his reticence to take part in evangelicalism's new single issue game by publicly explaining his perspectives on homosexuality and christianity, but apparently driscoll does not. does not.
*** in an oft referenced article ed stetzer attempted to define the emergent conversation by identifying three distinct streams within the conversation. according to stetzer the conversants includ the relevants (think dan kimball here), revisionists (think mclaren there) and reconstructionists (think david garrison, church planting movement leaders here). in the talk, driscoll openly utilizes stetzer's categorizations but exchanges a "relevant reformed" group, of which he counts himself a part, for the "reconstructionists." i think such an exchange makes sense when one is discussing the emerging conversation in america, but it probably would not make as much sense if one were including the worldwide church in the conversation.
**** which does not apply to emergent communities such as jacob's well in kc, mars hill in grand rapids and cedar ridge in maryland but clearly does apply to many, many more emergent communities than we would like to admit.
***** there, i said it.


g13 said...

if you were personally offended by this article - and i fear there might be a few of you - please feel free to email me (gentry13@gmail.com) or call me for further discussion.

if you'd simply like to discuss the piece and/or offer constructive critique, please drop your comments below.


carl said...

I liked Driscoll's call to subversionism instead of synchretism or sectarianism. That was very helpful and clarifying, the highlight of his talk. He is very enjoyable to listen to and seems (atleast to me) a very likeable guy.

I get a weird vibe about his emphasis on number of converts. Obedience to God (which the bible does call us to do) does not mean make as many converts as possible and the more you're "responsible" for, the more you are successful at being obedient to God. In other words, number of converts is not a barometer for how obedient a church or person is to God.

I understand and agree with his warning against conversation but he may be throwing the baby out with the bathwater a little bit.

g13 said...

carl, thank you for listening to the sermon and posting your reflections.

i found your synopsis of driscoll's main thrust (i.e., subversion versus sectarianism or syncretism) quite helpful. moreover, i also thought that his harangues against conversation were rather extreme (i.e., i do not think that by discussing the meaning and implications of biblical texts we are entering into conversations with lucifer:).

i didn't catch the correlation you mentioned between obedience and the number of converts that one assists and is in some degree responsible for. if he does suggest that the number of converts is an effective metric of obedience, i would undoubtedly take issue with that as well.

on another, conversion related note, i have been sketching through acts over the past couple of days in order to ascertain the connection between the gift of the Holy Spirit and the proclamation of the church. that sketchy little study has been quite enlightening.

carl said...

No. There really wasn't any correlation between the two. That was a late night rant. I still have a weird vibe about the conversion part though. I can't quite put my finger on the reason why just yet.

When I try to explain a vibe right away with logic I can sound silly sometimes.

g13 said...

we all sound silly most of the time.

since we've been talking all week i thought i should note that on thursday night a number of unexpected guests showed up for bible study. as we searched through i peter 3:1-7 together i was reminded of how visceral most people's needs are and how directly the living water of God can slake their thirst.

i was also reminded of how messy a life focused on evangelism and deeply invested in people must be, for while there were definitely beautiful, resonant moments throughout the evening where deep was speaking into deep and there were also incredibly weird moments like off-site, after-the-fact exorcisms* and a moment in which i scolded a fellow conversant as though he was a second grader.

i still don't know what i'm doing in regards to evangelism, but i'm confident that Yahweh is going to teach me a long the way.

* not, mind you, performed by me.