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.