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money

December 12, 2011

Last week I wrote a little bit about money, trying to point out 4 of the ways that we, as Christians, tend to think about money and possessions in worldly ways. Today I want to follow that up with what the Bible says about giving and tithing. God gives us money and tells us to be careful, faithful stewards of it. Is one component of our stewardship giving at least a part of that money away? Let me answer this question by asking a series of four more: First, Do I have to give? Second, How am I to give? Third, Where am I to give? And fourth, How much should I give?

Let’s acknowledge from the outset that this is an always-difficult subject and one which generates quite a lot of discussion and disagreement. I plan to share the way I have worked it out in my own mind.

Do I Have to Give?

Money is a good gift of God. Even though it can be used for great evil and even though it always threatens to become an idol, money is good. Money is not the root of all evil; rather, the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. This means that there is nothing wrong with earning it; there is nothing wrong with bringing home a paycheck. And, in fact, quite the opposite is true. The Lord expects that we will work hard, earn a fair wage and use our money responsibly.

With this in place, and assuming that you will earn money, does God now require you to give at least some of it away? My understanding is that he certainly does. I have come to this conclusion in a couple of different ways.

First, we see this modeled in the Old Testament. Of course we need to be careful with drawing from the Old Testament since we now live after Christ rather than before him. But having said that, many principles of the Old Testament are instructive. One thing God made clear to his people, from the earliest days, is that he required them to give back to him. He asked for the firstfruits of their labor; he wanted the first and the best. These firstfruits were symbolic of God’s claim to all of it. By giving away the first and best, God’s people were acknowledging that all of it was truly his. If they had given the last and worst, it would have been an indication that it truly and actually belonged to them. God asked for the best and that is what the people were to give him as their joyful duty.

God also asked for a tithe. He first announced this law in Leviticus 27 where he says, “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord.” This means that one tenth, ten percent, of the harvest was to be given to the Lord. In that day the people did not deal in currency as much as in produce and goods, so that is what the Lord required them to give. No matter what line of work you were in, you were required to bring a tenth of it to the Lord—the first and best tenth. God did not get the leftovers but the best of the best.

December 09, 2011

Throughout this fall I have been able to spend some time teaching my church about money. One of the first challenges I faced was in distinguishing between what the Bible teaches about money and what we, as Christians living in this time and this place, tend to believe. What I found is that there are many ways that we think about money that owes more to the world than to the Bible. Let me share 4 of them.

Debt

We live in a debt-based economy. A strange fact about this economy is that it begins to fall apart when people stop living in debt or when people are no longer allowed to borrow. We’ve seen this all across the world today, from the U.S. to Europe and beyond. Many countries are heavily in debt and governments have to borrow money from other countries in order to stay afloat. The scary thing is that many countries now borrow money not to fund projects or services, but to pay the interest on their existing debt; they are borrowing money to pay the interest on money they’ve already borrowed. It goes without saying that this cannot continue indefinitely.

It’s not just nations that fall into that trap, though. Many consumers—people like you and me—have borrowed far beyond our means. Many of us have borrowed so much money that we have very little hope of ever paying it back. The recent and ongoing economic downturn was triggered at least in part by debt. Many people bought homes that they could not afford and they did it by borrowing money. When the interest rates went up, which means their cost of borrowing got higher, they couldn’t afford those houses anymore. Because they couldn’t afford their homes, they stopped paying their mortgages and that led to a collapse of the banking system and the economy with it. Ironically, it was only borrowed government money that kept the problem from being far worse (another debt that will be called in at some point).

These are just 2 broad examples of debt in society—borrowing that leads to negative consequences. Lest we become proud, we must admit that almost all of us have at least one credit card and more than half of us have more than one. Some of us use credit responsibly but many of us have accumulated a lot of debt by spending more than we should have. Every store we go to is very eager to extend credit to us—to allow us to borrow money from them. The credit card companies are always trying to hook young people when they are in high school or college. Everywhere we go we are offered stuff for borrowed money. Too often we take the deal. We somehow keep believing that we’ll have money tomorrow to pay for the stuff we can’t really afford today.

September 14, 2011

TaxesI spent a lot of time pondering the first few verses of Romans 13 last week, verses that speak about authority. Paul is writing to the church at Rome and telling them that each one of them is to actively obey the governing authorities in every situation. He makes no exceptions; he simply commands them to obey all the time—“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.” It’s interesting to think about what Paul was commanding here.

He was writing to people who lived in Rome, people who were under the authority of a government that worshipped idols, that was systematically out to conquer and subjugate the world, that made death a form of entertainment, that promoted slavery, that was utterly ruthless and actively opposed to God. This was the government that was always on the verge of breaking out in persecution against the church. It was the government that had put Jesus to death. Paul was telling these Roman Christians to give honor, respect and taxes to the very government that paid the wages of the men who crucified Jesus, who mocked him, who spat on him, who rejoiced in his death.

And yet the Christians were to obey these rulers, to give them honor, respect and taxes—whatever was asked of them.

I had to sit for a while and ponder the value of taxes. This was obviously an urgent issue to people in those days since both Jesus and Paul had addressed it. These people were paying taxes to a government they did not believe in and paying taxes that would go to the soldiers who took advantage of them. Yet Paul and Jesus agreed: pay your taxes. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”

I believe that there are at least two reasons that we are to pay taxes to the authorities. There is practical value in paying taxes and there is also a kind of important symbolic value.

May 23, 2011

Coin StackIn eleven years of parenting my wife and I have often discussed our responsibility to train our children in their understanding of money. We have often spoken of giving them an allowance as just one component of this training, but we’ve always lacked the “big picture” of how we should do this, and why.

Recently I read Family Money Matters by John Temple and in that book I found just what I needed. The final chapter is dedicated to this topic of training your children in their use of money. What I came to see is the importance of training the kids not just to use their money well—to be frugal and wise and generous—but to honor God with their money. And in order to train them in this way I will need to ensure that they a) have money and b) have a realistic context in which to use it well or use it badly.

With that big picture finally in place, I was left with 2 questions: How will giving my children an allowance train them to use their money in a way that honors God? And how much should I give them? Let me show how Temple helped me answer these questions.

How Much?

How much pocket money or allowance should be given? This is a tough question and one that needs to take all kinds of factors into account such as where the family lives and how much the family earns. It should probably not take into account what other children receive as this teaches from an early age that they should seek to keep up with the neighbors.

Temple provides a spreadsheet that I’ve found very useful. It “sets out a suggested range of allowances on a unit basis. Families can then translate these units into their country’s currency as appropriate.” The spreadsheet will not tell you how much to give to your children, but it will help you as you attempt to increase the amount you give them and as you attempt to teach that with greater age comes greater responsibility. If you need a little nudge, though, I can tell you that we’ve begun with 4 as a logical multiplier (based on a monthly, not weekly, allowance). Having said that, my two oldest children each have a paper route and earn money on their own, so their needs may be less than some.

You can download the spreadsheet right here (scroll down and look for “Children’s and Teenagers’ Allowances”).

Here is what you need to know to use the table:

First, the table assumes that an allowance should increase by 15% each year since this is generally thought to be the minimum noticeable amount. The table also accounts for inflation at 5% per annum. Here is how it all works:

Assume you have two children who enter the allowance scheme in the base year. One is four years old and the other is eleven. The four-year-old will start off with an allowance of 1.00 unit per month (or week), and the eleven-year-old will start off with an allowance of 2.66 units. After one year the four-year-old will get 15 percent more, taking him or her to 1.15 units, but he or she will also get the inflation increase, which will give him or her 1.21 units, as can be seen by following the shaded diagonal line downwards to the right.

Childrens Allowance

When this four-year-old reaches twelve, he or she will get 4.52 units. The eleven-year old will likewise go from 2.66 to 3.21 units. Now, assume that in this, the second year, another four-year-old sibling joins the scheme. He or she will start at 1.05 and will then follow the diagonal line below the lightly shaded line—that is, 1.27, 1.53 and so on. This table can be used for all children between the ages of four and twelve.

Are you still with me?

April 27, 2011

Family Money MattersI am in the midst of an extended study of matters related to money. In particular, I am trying to understand money and possessions from a biblical perspective. What will it take to think in a distinctly biblical way about finances? I recently read and reviewed Randy Alcorn’s new book Managing God’s Money. Last week I also turned to Family Money Matters by John Temple. This is a short and to-the-point explanation of “How to run your family finances to God’s glory” (according to the book’s subtitle).

John Temple has written several books on the subject of money; this one is pointed specifically at family finances. At around 100 pages, it is meant to be just an introduction to what could be an expansive topic. It will not teach you how to get out of debt and it will not teach you all you could ever want to know about what to do (or what not to do) with your money. What it will teach, though, is equally important—it will give you the starting points for building a biblical worldview of your money. And as it happens, this is something many of us really need. Too few Christians think of money matters as Christians.

The book is composed of 13 chapters that move from the foundational to the practical. I found the opening 3 or 4 chapters the most compelling, though certainly many of the others have more than enough value to commend them. But it is in these early chapters that Temple lays the groundwork for that biblical way of thinking about money. He teaches that “Christians are to live in such a way that our lives demonstrate different values from those of our secular neighbors, colleagues and friends. This is one area where we can truly be different.” At the same time, “We must also show our neighbors that we are not ‘weird’ but ‘normal’ in all matters which are morally acceptable.” We do not fear our money and we do not regard it as evil. Rather, we must see it as a gift of God that must be stewarded faithfully.

Temple expends some effort in showing how the world thinks about money and showing how these unbiblical ideals have infiltrated Christian thinking. This is followed by a call for us to see how the Bible tells us to understand our money. After this the author is ready to speak about debt, home ownership, cars, vacations and other very practical concerns. I found his chapter on training your children particularly effective, and especially in the very practical section in which he describes one way of giving children an allowance and using that to teach them how to steward money well.

So what are my main takeaways as it pertains to my study of money? First, it has helped me in my attempt to build that Christian understanding of money and this by showing how worldy views of money have influenced my thinking. The second big takeaway is the beginning of a plan or strategy to help my children think well about their money and to train them from a young age to handle it responsibly.

Overall, this is a short but effective look at money and family finances. With a large practical component, Family Money Matters may be just what you need to kickstart your thinking about being a faithful steward of your money and possessions.

April 19, 2011

Sometimes I struggle with motives. I struggle with the idea that we are to be motivated to obedience in this world by the promise of reward in the next. This is particularly true when it comes to money. We are to store up treasures in heaven instead of on earth; we are to obey God not just out of a desire to obey him, but out of a desire to increase our reward in heaven. That has always struck me as wrong, as something that is just a little bit less than noble. A truly God-honoring Christian would take obedience as his only motive, wouldn’t he?

Is it wrong to be motivated by rewards? This has often confused me. Somehow in my mind it seems like the reward must negate the joy or the purity of obedience. The fact that I would seek an eternal reward for a temporal good deed concerns me. Shouldn’t I want to give out of the joy of obedience? Shouldn’t I want to give simply because I love the God who commands me to give generously?

Randy Alcorn has helped correct my thinking. In his book Managing God’s Money, he calls the doctrine of God granting eternal rewards for faithful obedience “the negelcted key to unlocking our motivation.” He offers Hebrews 11:26 as a simple example: “He [Moses] considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” And, of course, we know that the Apostle Paul was also running with his eye on the prize—the crown that would last forever (1 Corinthians 9:25). Even Christ endured the cross “for the joy that was set before him” (Hebrews 12:2). He humbled himself knowing that he would soon be exalted. He, too, found his motivation in the eternal reward that would await him—in this case the glory of his Father as he is worshiped by a church washed and redeemed.

If we maintain that it is wrong to be motivated by rewards, we bring an accusation against Christ, suggesting that he was wrongly motivated. We also essentially say that Christ is wrongly tempting us when he holds out a reward for our obedience.

October 05, 2010

Over the weekend I came across some video of America’s self-proclaimed cheapest family. They got me thinking about frugality, a topic that is all the rage in Christian circles today (or at least in some Christian circles). I have discussed this issue once or twice in the past but want to return to it today. Why? Because a lot of people put a lot of effort into frugality and I think many of them do so without thinking deeply whether what they are doing is right or wrong. They are saving money and this must be good, right? I’m not entirely convinced. So hear me out.

One reality about frugality is that it is contagious. I think it can be especially difficult issue for women. When one or two women in a church emphasize frugality and talk of all the amazing deals they’ve been able to find—how they managed to find a lifetime’s supply of Baby Aspirin for $4 or how they’ve gotten 180 rolls of toilet paper for the cost of 18 rolls—other women may feel like they are being spendthrifts for paying full price. It is difficult to say, or even to believe, that there may be no inherent virtue in frugality. And yet I want to suggest that very thing: there may be no inherent value in it.

Frugality

January 28, 2009

It seems that life is filled, at almost every turn, with trials and difficulties. Some of these times of trail are light while others are terrible and weighty. Strangely, some of these trials are caused by times of great joy while others are caused by great pain. The birth of a child can prove to be almost as great a trial, despite being brought about by such joy, as the loss of a job or another occasion of pain. It is during times like this that I am particularly grateful to be a part of the church. In these times we see and feel God’s wisdom in bringing His people into this type of community.

I am one of those people that loves to help (most of the time, anyways). While I am a shamefully selfish person in many ways, I do derive joy from helping others, even if that help is expressed in something as simple as lending my back to help a family move, lending my van for hauling a crowd of people from place to place, or lending my time to help out at some occasion or another. Whether I always do this from a pure heart, deriving my joy from obedience to God in helping these people, is debatable. It is a strange and unique fact of the Christian faith that, as far as God is concerned, motives matter more than actions. God values a pure heart and one that seeks His honor above all. Far too often I know that I do things from the desire to be seen, known and praised. It’s pathetic really. Shameful. Yet it is all too human.

But while I love to help, sometimes from pure motives and sometimes from impure, I am not the type who likes to be helped. I assume that this is primarily an outworking of pride in my life. I am convinced that it is also a product of my upbringing. Despite not having any recent Dutch heritage, I was, in large part, raised among second generation Dutch-Canadians. I went to Dutch schools and churches and no doubt absorbed much of their culture and many of their values. The Dutch are, in so many ways, a noble group and, when saved, make some of the strongest, most committed Christians I’ve known. There are few groups I have seen that do a better job of taking care of and ministering to their own. While these Dutch Christians value hard work, they also take very good care of those who are unable to work because of age, infirmity or circumstance. These Dutch churches put to shame many congregations I have come across since where those who fall upon hard times are considered burdensome and are shunned rather than honored, left to their own rather than ministered to.

Yet while the Dutch people I knew took very good care of those who were unable to care for themselves, they still placed great value on self-sufficiency. Charity was something to be extended only to those who had a genuine need for it. While it was not generally considered shameful to need or accept charity, it was considered most shameful to request it when it was not absolutely necessary. Embedded deep in the Dutch culture is the value of a person pulling himself up by his own bootstraps, being strong, and showing no weakness. Those who were considered weak, especially when young, were often trampled underfoot. The Dutch schools I knew were full of weak, frightened people who feigned strength simply to survive. The churches were probably not much different.

It is a strange dichotomy, I suppose, but this desire to be self-sufficient was as much part of the culture as was the desire to help those who had genuine needs. Charity was valued as highly as self-sufficiency. This was the culture I absorbed as a child and teenager. It was the culture that, in some ways, I carry with me today. I am usually glad to extend charity, but am rarely as eager to express need or to accept help from others. I hate to feel weak.

It is only over the past few years that I have come to see the value of expressing weakness when I am weak. I have seen the value in asking people to come in to my life and to minister to me when I have needs. But then in my honest moments I see that I still hide in my pride too much of the time, not wishing to be a burden on others even in my weakness.

I have come up with a list of three reasons that Christians need to be honest about expressing weakness and need.

First, expressing weakness is an expression of humility. Conversely, it is only pride that keeps me from making my needs known and asking others to minister to me. When I am filled with pride, a strong and ever-present foe, I would rather suffer silently than humble myself and allow others to extend help to me. Far too often I have feigned strength when I am filled only with weakness. Far too often I have allowed pride to overwhelm humility and have suffered in my sinful silence.

Second, expressing weakness allows others to plead for me before God. There are times when my prayers are weak and filled with doubt. There are times when I don’t even know what to pray or how to pray for myself. In these times it is comforting to know that others are praying for me and holding me up before the throne of grace. What a blessing it is to be part of a body where we can express the needs of others and bring these before God.

Finally, when I refuse to express my weakness I refuse to give other people the opportunity to minister to me. I withhold a blessing from them. It is a strange fact that, while I am always eager and willing to help those who reach out to me, I am far less eager to reach out to others. I cannot count the number of times that I have been blessed by having the opportunity to help others. While I attempt to see extending help and charity as a selfless act, an act primarily for my own benefit, it is sometimes difficult not to! I have had my faith challenged and strengthened and have been greatly blessed in helping others. When I have heard expressions of gratitude by those I’ve been able to help I have often had to say, with honesty and humility I think, that it was surely a greater blessing to be able to help than it was to receive assistance. Why is it, then, that I am so hesitant to allow others the opportunity to be blessed by helping me? It seems to me that I must be as sinful in refusing to help those in need as I am in refusing to allow them to bless and minister to me when I have need.

We are in the midst of difficult economic times. While my country of Canada has been insulated against the downturn (at least when compared to our neighbors to the south), as 2009 dawns we are beginning to see greater evidence that we will not emerge from these times unscathed. In the past few weeks we’ve begun to see friends and neighbors lose their jobs and are beginning to hear of needs within our community. The stories from Canada are beginning to sound an awful lot like the stories I’ve heard from the United States and elsewhere.

None of us know how long these times will last and none of us know just how bad things will get. There are those who would argue that the worst is behind us; others argue that the pain has only just begun. I think we can be certain that before this is over churches will see an large numbers of brothers and sisters in Christ face financial crisis. And this will be a prime opportunity for the church to be the church. It will be a time for those people who are affected by the times to express need; it will be a time for those Christians who have weathered the storm to be a blessing to others. This is not a time or occasion for pride and bravado. It is not a time to withhold a blessing from another Christian by refusing to express need, to express weakness. As these times unfold, let’s let the church be the church, functioning just as God intends it.

March 16, 2008

I’m going to keep it simple today. I just want to ask you a question and to hear your responses to it. This is a question that has been running through my mind for some time and one that arose after emailing back and forth with a friend.

The question has to do with giving money to charities or to ministries or to other organizations. Though the laws of Canada and the United States are the ones I am familiar with, I assume similar laws exist in many other nations. In North America we are able to give donations to organizations that have a certain kind of charitable status. At the end of the year we are given a receipt for any money given to them and all or a portion of this money becomes tax-exempt. In the end, charitable donations are able to lower your tax bills. It is an attractive way of inviting people to give money to an organization and it is not unusual to read a request for funds and at the end to see “Tax receipts will be provided.” Organizations know that this is a perk or a benefit.

Laws that allow us to lower taxes through charitable donations are a blessing, no doubt. But I sometimes wonder if they can also distract us from people or organizations who may be in desperate need of funding. Perhaps we can be hesitant to donate to organizations that will not reimburse us with a receipt that will in turn put a few dollars back in our pockets. Is it possible that, even in our sacrificial giving, we can allow ourselves to be swayed but what we might gain in return? Do we give with an eye to our tax returns?

My question is this: if the laws of the land eradicated the tax benefits of charitable donations, do you think you would change the way you give of your tithes and offerings?

Maybe these questions will help if you are not sure what to say: Would you give more of your money? Would you give less of your money? Would you be more likely to give to individuals rather than organizations? Would you be more creative in finding organizations to give to?

I look forward to your replies.

(And please, let’s not get distracted here by whether or not tithing is mandated in the New Testament.)

August 24, 2005

This is the third article in a series about Mark Driscoll’s book The Radical Reformission. You can find the first article here and the second here. Today we are looking at the fourth chapter which is entitled, “Elvis in Eden” and deals with culture. Do note that because of his use of proper nouns Driscoll was forced to properly capitalize this chapter heading. That must have been very disappointing.

“People live in culture as naturally as fish live in water and tornados hit trailer parks. But most people are as unaware of their cultural assumptions as they are of their bad breath, because it is so familiar to them” (page 93). What this means for the Christian on reformission is that he must be particularly aware of the culture he lives in and other cultures he encounters. He cannot presuppose that every culture is like his or that what is effective in his culture will be effective in others.

To help the reader better understand this, Driscoll provides four different ways to evaluate a culture.

Thoughts, values and experiences. In short, this involves studying the people in a culture to see what they do. We can examine how people think and arrive at their beliefs, the values that are so widely assumed they are usually unspoken, and the experiences that have shaped them (both experiences they have chosen and those that have been forced upon them). “To be faithful in reformission we must embed ourselves in a culture and develop friendships with lost people so that we can be informed and avoid making erroneous judgments. Non-Christian friends actually help to disciple us in culture as we evangelize them in Christ” (page 97). When we evanglize, we need to be aware of these thoughts, values and experiences of a culture because these provide both opportunities and obstacles for the gospel. The more we know about the culture the more we will be able to avoid the pitfalls while reaching out in ways that are effective.

High, folk and pop. Another way to evaluate culture is through the forms of high, folk and pop. High culture is connected to the past and requires great training, reflection and tradition. Examples are ballet and opera. Folk culture emerges from a community as their own creation and is highly valued by these people because it becomes part of who they are. This can include certain black spiritual songs, as well as folk music and some punk rock. Pop culture is unsophisticated and intended for a mass market. While it is very accessible, it is also shallow, faddish and trite. “While each of these cultural forms can mediate the gospel … this fact is often overlooked because people tend to attach a moral value to the cultural form they prefer” (page 99). This is evident in the “worship wars” that continue to rage in many churches in which members of a culture believe strongly that their form is superior to all others. Driscoll goes on to ask, “Do you spot the cultural issue for reformission churches? Our challenge is to determine whether the cultural form that dominates how we do life when gathered for worship and scattered for mission is best suited for evangelizing the people in our community…Reformission Christians and churches exist to perpetuate the gospel and should be swift to change their cultural forms if they are not the most beneficial for achieving that goal…Reformission churches have to continually examine and adjust their musical styles, websites, aesthetics, acoustics, programming, and just about everything but their Bible in an effort to effectively communicate the gospel to as many people as possible in the cultures around them” (page 100).

Waves. The third way of examining culture is through understanding waves of change. Western culture has gone from the agricultural age to the industrial age and we have now arrived in the technological age. Many Christian institutions and denominations have failed to make the transition, and Driscoll notes that organizations that began in earlier ages are finding it increasingly difficult to survive because of their refusal to change.

Sins and sin. The fourth way to examine culture is by examining the universal and particular sins common in that culture. Universal sins are the sins that the Bible forbids for all people of all time. Particular sins are offenses that are sinful for some people some of the time under some circumstances. “Christians are also commanded by God to avoid sins that are particular to them, without unfairly condemning or restricting the freedoms of fellow Christians who involve themselves differently in controversial cultural matters” (page 102). We need to resist our freedoms in some areas because of our weaknesses, but can use Christian liberty in areas in which we are strong. “Reformission recognizes that Christians will have differing personal convictions in matters of culture and welcomes those differences that are not sinful, because what pleases God is unity, not uniformity” (page 103). It may be helpful to list a few of the activities Driscoll feels are not forbidden. They include: listening to certain musical styles, getting tattoos, watching movies, smoking cigarettes, consuming alcohol and body piercing. Driscoll goes on to list a few pointers for cultural decision-making.

After providing the example of Jonah and speculating on whether Jonah eventually came to love the people of Nineveh, Driscoll begins to discuss how we, as reformissional Christians, can change a culture. “Our faith rests in Jesus alone, who redeems people and their cultures…our ultimate hope rests in God, not in human goverments, programs, or institutions” (page 108). The first step to changing a culture is to change the people within a culture. Our sin comes from deep within. To change people we musn’t focus on the symptoms of their sin, but on the root cause. Second, we must define what a “good person” is. If we hold up Jesus as our example, we must encourage people to continually compare themselves to Him in order to see their sin.

Analysis

Driscoll’s main purpose in this chapter is to make the reader aware of the different cultures without our society (or subcultures within our culture). The key to changing culture is not to launch an all-out offensive on the culture itself, but to bring the gospel to the people within that culture and allow it to be changed from the inside out. I agree entirely that we need to focus on individuals and not entire cultures. Our hope is not in the government or in programs, but in the power of God working in and through individuals. Early in the chapter Driscoll talks about a leader in their church who dresses in gothic fashion (face painted white, hair dyed black, dark clothing). But she dressed that way not because she was a depressed, ungodly woman, but because it was her personal sense of style and presumably because she was beginning to redeem a particular (gothic) culture.

Here are a few points I would like to make about this chapter:

Legalism and license” - We are all prone to love legalism. I would probably find it helpful if Driscoll drew up a list of “50 things you cannot do.” I realize, though, that this would be a poor and ineffective tactic. However, I feel that Driscoll may not have given enough attention to how we define what is Christian freedom and what is mere license. As humans we are prone to stretch our boundaries in any way we can. Some teaching on this would have been welcome. Perhaps it will follow in a later chapter.

Elements and circumstances - Driscoll says, “Our challenge [as local churches] is to determine whether the cultural form that dominates how we do life when gathered for worship and scattered for mission is best suited for evangelizing the people in our community.” I am not sure that I agree with the easy, clean line Driscoll has drawn between form and function. He neatly seperates the cultural form from the element of worship, whether that be music, preaching or other aspects of the worship service. But he provides little compelling evidence for this. In a previous chapter he wrote about having artists expressing themselves in worship through painting during the service. Driscoll would consider this cultural form, but Reformed believers, especially those who hold strongest to the Regulative Principle, would consider it a forbidden element of worship. This principle distinguishes between elements and circumstances. The elements permitted in a worship service are only those expressly permitted in Scripture. The circumstances are the “how” of worship surrounding those elements. Because of this conflict I do not feel that Driscoll’s teaching on the worship service is wholly compatible with traditionally Reformed worship. (For more, read this and this.)

Consistent with Calvinism? - I’d like to turn again to the same quote. “Our challenge [as local churches] is to determine whether the cultural form that dominates how we do life when gathered for worship and scattered for mission is best suited for evangelizing the people in our community.” Driscoll seems to deny elements of the Calvinist understanding of evangelism and the sovereignty of God and in this way seems little different from the Church Growth crowd. I am not convinced that he shows a sound understanding of the Spirit’s ability to work in the ways God has decreed. There are times when Christianity must be countercultural in order to be faithful to Scripture. I often refer to a church I sometimes visit in Ottawa that eschews most of these cultural forms but has still made a great impact on the city. They sing only Psalms and do so with no instrumentation whatsoever. Their programming is traditional (they have “Sabbath school” before church, for example), their website is awful. But their church attracts homosexuals, transvestites, yuppies and country bumpkins. In short, the church is filled with all manner of sinners who are attracted not to cultural form, but to the message.

In, but not of - I am not entirely convinced that Driscoll’s reformission will produce Christians who are in, but not of the world. His gothic church leader is an example. There are some cultures which are incompatible with a Spirit-filled person. While I know little about it, it seems that the death-obsessed gothic culture may be one of these.

In conclusion, I have to say that while this chapter began with promise, I found it quite disappointing. I do believe in the importance of understanding culture and understanding just how much we, as Christians, live in our own little culture. Yet I do not feel that culture is as neutral as Driscoll would have us believe.

We will move on to the next chapter in the coming days.