Reading Mark Driscoll is like reading some sort of blend between John Calvin and George Carlin. That is to say, he seems pretty solid theologically but he is radical and funny and creative and surprising and refreshing and insightful and sometimes shocking in his presentation. I learned a lot from reading his book, and I was also entertained.
In particular, the way Driscoll thinks about evangelism and church planting really grabbed hold of me and I think this will greatly affect the way we go about ministry in Rogers, Minnesota. On page 66 of his book Radical Reformission (Zondervan, 2004) he writes,
"After some Bible teaching on the principles I write about in this book, people in our church began seeing themselves as missionaries in the culture, building friendships for the purpose of showing and sharing the love of Jesus with lost people. Our church continued to grow, and today it is one of the largest in Seattle, having grown at an average of nearly 60 percent each year since its inception. As our people function as missionaries, evangelism is done by the whole church instead of through the dated evangelistic routine of relying on the ministries of professionals, programs, or large formal events. Reformission requires that every Christian and church realize that missions is about not something they do but something they are. We are all on a mission with Jesus every day, and we are either good missionaries or bad." (emphasis added)
Wow. I am not a gifted evangelist, by which I mean that I’m not the type of guy who walks into a Starbucks and walks out thirty minutes later with a double, no-fat, no-whip latte and fourteen new brothers and sisters in Christ. So, as I’ve prepared to plant another church over the last couple of years, I’ve thought and prayed about bringing a gifted evangelist alongside me who could help shore up this weakness. But Driscoll has challenged me to think and pray in a completely different way.
A few years ago I had the privilege of meeting Lee Strobel at the Hawaiian Islands Ministries’ Bay Area Conference. I asked him if he would lay his hands on me and pray that I would receive the gift of evangelism. After all, reaching the lost for the glory of God is the only biblical reason to start a church, as far as I can tell, and I really felt the pain of my lack in this area. He answered that he would pray, but not in that way, and then told me that my lack of “gifting” in this area had the potential of being a great blessing to the church because, without it, I would an example for the people of what evangelism can look like in their lives.
This really encouraged me, but I still thought it would be a good idea to have an evangelist around. Now, Driscoll has helped me see that if I use my gift of teaching to equip the people to be missionaries wherever they are, I’ll probably have the privilege of living in the midst of many gifted evangelists who will help me find people to teach and who will teach and stretch me with regard to evangelism. Sounds an awful lot like Ephesians 4, doesn’t it?
Practically, here’s how I think Driscoll’s work will give shape to our ministry. First, if God brings us an elder-qualified evangelist, I’m not going to say no, but neither am I going to spend time and energy looking for one. Rather, I’m going to trust that God will have gifted some of us in this area, and as we “take it to the streets” he’ll make plain which ones of us that is.
Second, I’m going to pour a lot of time and energy into teaching our people that they are missionaries, and that one of the callings on their lives is to offer their weakness to Christ in an effort to reach their world. I think Driscoll is right to say that it’s better to train an army of missionaries than to employ a “hired gun.” And I think he’s more biblical in this as well.
Third, I’m going to throw as much energy as I can into reaching my world through Christ, and pray that God uses this bumbling idiot to save some. Specifically, Kim and I plan on throwing a “Matthew party” for our neighborhood on October 8, where we’ll invite our core group, our family, and all our neighbors over with no particular agenda except to sow the seeds of friendship. Further, I will continue to participate in the Twin Cities Bike Club, seeking to make friends and meet needs and share the gospel when I can. Finally, I will continue to look for ways to take my main gift, teaching, and use it as a tool for sharing the gospel. For instance, I’m developing a course on marriage that I would love to offer to the public, in a non-threatening, public atmosphere.
In these ways I think I can set an example for our people of what a passion for the lost looks like in the life of one who does not have the “gift” of evangelism. And by being open and honest with the church about my weakness in this area I will encourage them to offer their weakness to Christ in order to reach their world.
And I’m sure that every so often the Lord will bless us with someone who truly has the gift of evangelism—when that happens I’ll make it my job to pour as much fuel on that fire as I can.