November 24, 2017

Demythologizing “Radical” Christianity (1)

By Chaplain Mike

As genuine Christianity diminishes, the adjectives we require in our attempt prop it up get more and more outlandish.

One such example is the word, “radical.” It’s not enough to be a Christian, one must identify as a “radical” Christian to show that one is really, really serious about Jesus and “the Christian life” (whatever that is).

The word suggests getting down to the root of something, recovering the fundamental meaning or origin of a concept, cutting something back to its essentials. It has come to be used more and more to signify extreme commitment, drastic reform, immoderate zeal for principles or a cause. In our efforts to describe people who are willing to go to any length to live out their convictions, no matter how crazy they may seem in the eyes of the world, we even speak of “radical extremists,” adding redundancy to the equation.

In a couple of articles at Out of Ur, one of my favorite authors, Skye Jethani, has questioned our need for the increasingly “adjectivized” life of faith, especially as it is being promoted today in terms of “radical Christianity.”

After agreeing that much contemporary Christianity is “self-centered” and “consumeristic,” Skye Jethani asks: “But what exactly are we to do about consumer Christians? The solution I hear in many ministry settings, and the one I would have given 5 years ago, is to transform people from consumer Christians into activist Christians.”

He notes that the appeal to activism can lead to different kinds of activities, depending on one’s theological milieu. For some, the call to radical activism is a call to more participation in the program of the church. For others, it is a call to evangelism. Some hear this as a call to missions. Others hear it as a call to social justice and a revived commitment to the poor.

Whatever it may be, Jethani says that Christian leaders have a tendency to over-correct one error by promoting an agenda that is just as wrongly focused in the other direction. We lament the tendency to “use God” as a divine vending machine to meet our needs (consumer Christianity). In an attempt to address this, we call people to “use God” as the One who exists to grow our churches or solve the problem of world hunger (radical Christianity). He cites Gordon MacDonald’s article in Leadership that critiques what MacDonald calls “missionalism”—which he defines as, “the belief that the worth of one’s life is determined by the achievement of a grand objective.”

Thus, the God of our cravings becomes the God of our cause.

Are we exchanging one false gospel for another? …Consumer Christianity is a pandemic in the American church, on that I agree. But a prescription of radical activism is not the remedy. It robs people of their joy, burdens them with guilt, and fails to draw people into a passionate communion with Christ.

Friends, it’s OK to just be a Christian. Receive God’s grace in Christ through Word and Sacrament. Love God. Love your neighbor. Love your brothers and sisters in Christ. Walk in the Spirit. That is truly radical. Not flashy. Not “extreme.” But fundamental. Solid. Grounded. Maturing.

The Apostle Paul had to deal with a situation in Thessalonica that may have grown out of some people in the church thinking they needed to go beyond being just “Christians” to being “radical Christians” as they followed Jesus. They neglected the ordinary to focus on what they considered extraordinary. As a result, their behavior caused upheaval in the church and was threatening the reputation of the believers in their community.

So, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul wrote this counsel to them, “Make it your aim to live a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to earn your own living, just as we told you before.” (4:11)

Paul’s advice to those promoting “radical” Christianity involves humility, quietness, and attention to one’s vocation. Keep your mouth shut, mind your own business, get to work, take care of yourself and your family, love one another.

Along the way, bigger, more “exciting” opportunities may arise in which we can participate. That’s great. But unless we pursue them from this foundation, we are being anything but truly “radical.”

Comments

  1. Great post, Mike. Thanks a lot. We need to hear this kind of message more often.

    Would it perhaps be better to speak of “deconstructing” radical Christianity rather than “demythologizing” it?

    • You are right–I am trying to deconstruct the concept. But I think the other word works too, because such words as “radical” are integral to the “mythology” of contemporary evangelicalism. I’m trying to strip that myth away in order that we might see a more accurate picture of what the real thing looks like.

      • can’t help but think of a rude, elf-looking German theologian when I hear “demythologizing”. But it works!

  2. “the belief that the worth of one’s life is determined by the achievement of a grand objective.”

    This phrase is my biggest struggle in life. I have spent innumerable amounts of time, money, and effort pursing this objective (as defined by whatever pastor I am under at the time). After years of time, money, and effort “down the drain”, I ended up Lutheran because my local pastor doesn’t go down this path.

  3. I would like to go with a phrase I learned in A.A.

    K.I.S.S.

    Keep it simple stupid.

    No offense intended. I’m just sayin’!

    “humility, quietness, and attention to one’s vocation. Keep your mouth shut, mind your own business, get to work, take care of yourself and your family, love one another.”

    In the world we live in…..all of these are more radical than what most churches are preaching from the pulpit.

  4. There is a LOT to chew on in this post , but this little phrase sticks out to me:

    “to earn your own living…”

    One reason is that grand, humongous causes and fundraising tend to go hand in han…..uh…mouth. Now we aren’t just running ragged in the GREAT CAUSE, we also have to find a way to fund that dog… and ‘her puppies’ so to speak.

    Paul was not above asking for help from others, but he sure didn’t mind carrying his own load either.
    Nice post,
    GregR

  5. Well done! do you think we will ever find the perfect middle? I believe we as Christians will constantly swing back & forth on this “radical” to “consumer” pendulum (cheap grace to costly grace is another ex.) . I believe the tension is real & part of life, but we must be aware of it. peace.

  6. It seems like the push towards “radical” is just a response to complacency. It doesn’t have a specific meaning per se, but functions kinda like a wakeup call… when your parents would yell at you for playing video games all day when you should be outside doing something more important with your life.

    I do agree that ‘radical’ should be better defined in the Christian communities… but my sense is that it is more of a blow horn then a specific objective.

  7. “In Chains”

    Here I lie, upon my confining bed.
    I ponder, for what was I created?
    To eat and breathe I struggle in the gloom…
    How will I glorify God in this room?

    What of oarsman slave on Roman galley?
    Worldy eyes deem his election folly.
    Just our words seem too little to achieve,
    When they our crew refuses to receive.

    In this room, grace lifts my darkened veil.
    It is not a matter of success or fail.
    ‘Tis not ascetic word, deed, or vesture,
    But living lives in a certain posture!

    Knowing spiritually of our place,
    Trusting fully He who argues our case,
    So with eyes fixed on Him, we run our race.

    • Tokah, did you write that? I tried to google a couple lines and got nothing. It is wonderful!

      • Yeah, I wrote it. My neuro disease had gone into crazy progression and bed bound me suddenly, was stuck in bed for about five months before I got a powerchair and was able to get out again. It was a hard time, but I learned a lot.

        • I’m sorry for your pain, but I thank you for sharing the poetry. I found it very meaningful.

        • FollowerOfHim says:

          Tokah:

          A hearty second to Daniel’s commendation of your poem. It’s even more meaningful now that you’ve shared a bit of where it came from in terms of your own experience.

          Peace upon peace to you.

          • yep, and we each have our “own race” to run…it’s going to look different for each us…lifts the burden on trying to be like someone else!
            thanks, tokah!

    • Beautiful…I can relate.

  8. there is a subtle or not-so-subtle artificial category of ‘radical’ Christian misused mostly to distance themselves from the rabble (Luke 18:9-14)…

    the uber-spiritual types that emphasize fasting & intercessory prayer/spiritual warfare & promote godly visions & supernatural encounters the worst offenders. they have foisted upon mostly naive youth the religious mantra of self-sacrifice to support the ‘vision’ or goal or agenda of the leader(ship)…

    it is promoted as the ‘real’ Christian method of practicing godly zeal intended to make some larger-than-life impact in or on or thru the targeted area of spiritual focus. there is an uneasy admixture of proper spiritual disciplines usurped for whatever purpose is being heralded as the most godly. it has esoteric elements & Christianese superstitious elements & fantasy game elements all wrapped up in a cloak of religious zealotry. these added elements of more than the perceived ‘baseline’ it is intended to rise above consists of works displayed before men whether in their insular group gatherings or public settings. it is a trend that is not harmless. i do believe it is going to result in many, many young believers becoming disenchanted with Christianity as it was promoted to them. once they realize the hype was overly promoted & the results non-existant or artificially inflated by their leader(s) they will go away disillusioned, damaged & feeling taken advantage of…

    the pressure to ‘out-zealous’ your peers is continuous. one must be more spiritual than those others in order to be of the elect, special, called by God, anointed, destined for glory+greatness, etc.

    what a proverbial rodent running wheel approach to Christianity. and those poor souls thrown off after awhile end up realizing they are not so ‘spiritually’ special after all…

    Lord have mercy… 🙁

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      the uber-spiritual types that emphasize fasting & intercessory prayer/spiritual warfare & promote godly visions & supernatural encounters the worst offenders. they have foisted upon mostly naive youth the religious mantra of self-sacrifice to support the ‘vision’ or goal or agenda of the leader(ship)…

      According to Fr Orthocuban, the preferred way of flaking out in Eastern Orthodoxy is the “Monkabee”, the monastic fanboy who tries to be more-ascetic-a-monk-than-thou, regardless of whether they have taken monastic vows or not.

      In my church (RCC), it’s “Mary Channeling”, claiming Marian visions no matter what the collateral damage. And in the Middle Ages, “Mortification” reached levels not seen nowadays outside of X-Treme BDSM. And Renaissance Spain — well, rampant Clericalism and the Spanish Inquisition were the “Radical Christianity” of the time.

      And Internet Monk wrote “Wretched Urgency” and “I’m Weary of Weird Christians”.

      All the above have one thing in common: Can You Top This? And “See How Much More Devout and Holy I Must Be Than Thee” — all forms of One-Upmanship.

      the pressure to ‘out-zealous’ your peers is continuous. one must be more spiritual than those others in order to be of the elect, special, called by God, anointed, destined for glory+greatness, etc.

      Again, One-Upmanship. “Who’s THE Most Devout/Most Holy/Most Godly Christian? ME, NOT THEE! I THANK THEE, LORD, THAT I AM NOTHING LIKE THAT LUKEWARM BACKSLIDER OVER THERE…!”

      While all the rest of us unwashed laity just have to live out our lives in the shadow of these God’s Shadows Upon The Earth, grubbing for the crumbs from their Radical Holiness.

      • I’m good friends with a guy who’s a deacon at an Eastern Orthodox church, and the priest at the church calls the over-zealous college students who’ve recently converted “Ortho-dorks”…

  9. Thank you for sharing this, Chaplain. If we define radical as “divergent from a mainstream norm”, maybe the most radical idea is to do just what St. Paul advised?

  10. “the term ‘missionalism’ —which MacDonald defines as, ‘the belief that the worth of one’s life is determined by the achievement of a grand objective.’ ”

    Please tell me MacDonald didn’t really say this! What a load of theology of glory.

    This is why we need Lent. God’s grand objective was achieved by dying naked on a cross. Man, will we ever get it.

    • Yes, that is the definition MacDonald gives. But mind you, he is not very much in favor of “missionalism”.
      The title of his article is
      “Dangers of Missionalism
      Even the best causes can become cold, prideful, and all-consuming.”

    • from MacDonald’s article:

      -But missionalism is something else. It’s a leader’s disease. Like a common cold that begins with a small cough, missionalism catches on in a leader’s life and seems at first so inconsequential. But let this disease catch hold and you are likely to have bodies strewn all over the place, the leader’s and some of the leader’s followers-

      Macdonald is not opaque about his position: the above paragraph is pretty explicit, he is warning AGAINST “missionalism”, not advertising for it. I think he stands very firmly against a theology of glory.

      GregR

      • Thanks, Greg R, Dumb Ox and Katha. I needed to hear that. I usually think of it as workaholism, or ego, or works-righteousness, but it’s good to hear it called “a leader’s disease” and to define it better.

        It reminds me of something I heard a pastor mention a few times: “She’s the kind of person who lives for others. You can tell who the others are by their hunted look.”

  11. There is a place for activism. Being a shepherd requires being a defender of the weak against predators of the flock. A shepherd needs to occasionally wield the rod against the encroaching lion or wolf in sheep’s clothing. How much this takes place on a political stage is debatable.

  12. “Friends, it’s OK to just be a Christian.”

    “Keep your mouth shut, mind your own business, get to work, take care of yourself and your family, love one another.”

    Not only “OK” but liberating. And if we truly are taking care of ourselves and family and loving one another, all the grand (and good) causes we’re interested in will get done by God rather than through our own efforts.

    • Tooshay!

    • I agree with the spirit of this post and agree that the focus must be on God and not on what we do for some cause. But I wonder if we want to go to the extreme of saying, “Keep your mouth shut, mind your own business, take care of yourself and your family…” I think that last part “love one another” speaks to sometimes the need to get involved, to go out on a limb. Where would the world be today if it weren’t for the Mother Teresa’s or the Martin Luther King, Jr’s? I agree that we can’t put our “calling” in life onto other people. That’s where we get into trouble. And I agree that the focus must be on God and God’s grace and power in our lives. But I think God desires us to act, to show love, to do the work God has called us to do.

      • I find a difference between activity and activism, Amy. And by the way, “keep your mouth shut” is actually an acceptable translation of Paul’s words in 1Thess 4:11 where he calls us to a “quiet life.”

        • The Guy from Knoxville says:

          Chaplin Mike,

          I think what this comes down to is that by living out life daily in Christ is where this all goes back to – even to the “as you go make disciples……..” of the Great Commission. Sometimes it’s the simplicity of this that causes people to flinch because we’ve been taught for years in evangelicalism that we have to constantly be doing more and more and more for God or for the cause of Christ…… doing, doing, doing – work, work, work to the exclusion of the norms of daily life, of taking care of family, of work life etc. All this leads to burn out and a tendency to run from the church even from God because what has been put forth by our evangelical churches, for the most part, is, as you and others have said, unsustainable. As humans we just can’t function physically, mentally, emotionally on that level constantly – even Jesus in human form had to rest, had to get away, had to commune with the Father in the quite times in order to function…… he was God in flesh but that flesh, like us, had to rest to function – had to have the quite times.

          Not saying that we should not be about God’s work – just making the point that much of what is put forth in our churches is so unsustainable as to be imposible to live up to and quite honestly that is one of the reasons that I’ve had very little to do with the church these days along with some issues personally that I’ve had to and am working through. The simplicity of experiencing Christ in the daily living of life – of experiencing him in word and sacrament – of quite and humble living is a radical departure from the norm in the days in which we live and living this way will give rise to many opportunites to share Christ with others that we contact daily, weekly, monthly…….. radical and refreshing.

  13. Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt (literally). I remember as a youth pastor taking the kids to Acquire the Fire many times. Some good things happened, but most of it was unsustainable.

    I recently had an interesting conversation with a former member of that group. We were discussing another former member who went to the Honor Academy (a program associated with Acquire the Fire). She stayed for a couple years, then moved back to Michigan. After a few years she fell out of church and into a confused and ungodly lifestyle. I mentioned that I was surprised by this, but he was not. The problem, he pointed out, was that she had come to know christianity only in a form that was “non-real”. When she found she could not function like that in the actual world, it was disillusioning to her.

    This, to me, is the heart of the problem. No-one can stay “on fire” for long. When we make on-fire christianity as true christianity, a lot of people will lose faith.

    • The problem, he pointed out, was that she had come to know christianity only in a form that was “non-real”. When she found she could not function like that in the actual world, it was disillusioning to her.

      a form (of christianity) that was “non-real”…….. and I think we’ve found the smoking gun. here in my neck of the woods, they are planning to build, or have already built special prayer rooms where folks can go pray 24-7 for the needs of the poor, specifically. I’ve had dozens of hungry and cold urban dwellers tell me, personally, how deeply comforted they were knowing that hundreds, if not thousands, of well fed suburbanites were talking about their needs. Radical…..

  14. Great, Mike. True always, everywhere, and for all people.

  15. Great post!

    I have to agree that radical Christianity in the form of hyper-sovereignty is doing a great disservice to Christianity and its followers. When you let this “radical” ideology run its full course you eventually wind up with person who is seeking to glorify him/herself even though their intentions may have been pure in the beginning. I have written countless blogs about the craziness going on within today’s churches and my search to find a home within this maze of madness. The search continues…

    I have been reading a book called “The Pastor” by Eugene Peterson that speaks a lot to this issue:

    Fresh imagery [for how to understand the church] was now provided by American business. While I was growing up in my out-of-the-way small town, a new generation of pastors had reimagined church. …

    The church was no longer conceived as something in need of repair but as a business opportunity that would cater to the consumer tastes of spiritually minded sinners …

    Thank you for this wonderful blog!
    Blessings,
    Mark

  16. I love that verse. I too have felt the effects of both consumer Christianity and activist Christianity. But I am finally starting to realize that I don’t always have to be stuck running on the treadmill of either one. Great post!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I had my fill of Radical Christianity back in the Eighties, when the “Liberation Theology” movement hit my church. Before long, “Solidarity with the oppressed” meant a new Trinity composed of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, and Fidel Castro. About a year after this form of Radical Christianity took off, Pope John Paul dropped an Acme anvil on them, hard.

  17. Plain vanilla is fine with me. 🙂

    • What’s so plain about vanilla anyway? I like vanilla, its really good. Vanilla treated properly is a wonderful agent in many sweets. I even like it my late`. Bar-none best ice-cream in the stores…”vanilla bean” by Bryers.

      • It’s not that vanilla is plain, it’s that most of the time when vanilla is used it is a plain variety, hence “plain vanilla.” I really like vanilla, too. Haitian vanilla is quite good.

        • Vanilla is just plain radical, man. My wife brings home vanilla from the Dominican Republic, which is probably the same as your Haitian stuff. Unbelievable.

          Steve, where have you been?

    • and vanilla actually comes from an orchid. how beautiful is that…

  18. This post really reminds me of what Spencer said about a dying word to a dying man… Hardly radical in the flashy sense, but radically life giving and transformative.
    For reals, Platt just put out a book on being “radical.” I saw the cover and thought to myself, “Pietism 101.” It just doesn’t help, in the long run. I understand there is so much complacency in Christianity. The solution is not more flash. A little church discipline will run out the wolves in no time, but there is nothing more politically incorrect in our time.
    Radical On Fire For Christ As The Only True Keepers Of The Flame brand Christianity is totally unsustainable. It’s darned near semi-pelagian, and likewise the best cure for it is reality. I like Chaplain Mike’s recommend cure: Word and Sacrament. Totally ordinary, un-flashy, and sustainable. I wonder what genius came up with that one. I would just add that church discipline is also a much needed mark of a discipling community. We need to speak the truth into one another’s life in love, even if it hurts. If we are not confronted for our sins of complacency, no amount of motivational gizmos will overcome a heart that ignores the voice of God’s law and the leading of his Spirit.

  19. Christianity is radical.

    It is different than every other religion. Radically different.

    I think way too many Christians bel;ieve it is a co-operative effort…if even it is just a tiny bit that we must kick in.

    That tiny bit is a drop of poison in the pure glass of water.

    I think many (including myself) who like the term “radical”, use it in an attempt to get practioners of Christianity to understand that it is not a practice at all, but radical trust in the one who has done ALL that is needful for sinners.

    • I was thinking along the same lines Steve, and Mike does have some good things to say. But I’d like to get into the whole idea of Christianity being radical, the gospel being radical, Jesus by all means being radical. Skye is taking on something altogether different than what I’m feeling, so here is not the place. He has some very good points. I’m thinking a post of my own is brewing, just finished scribbling out a comment I won’t post that runs about 10 paragraphs. I’ll spare everyone.

      • I hope you noted that my reason for using the word “demythologizing” is to help sort out the true meanIng of “radical” from the hype being promoted today.

  20. I agree–to an extent. But I think choosing to focus on said “adjectifying” is just as unproductive as insisting that we should be adjectified.

    “Different strokes for different folks,” as my grandpa always used to say. For some people, “radical” Christianity is the term they need to affix to their faith in order for it to feel meaningful to them. For others, rejecting this adjective has the same effect.

    Paul says that we’re all part of the body, and we’re all connected–when one part suffers, we all suffer together. But each part of the body has its place as a functioning part of the whole.

  21. Dude. . .

    I thought the use of “radical” was more of a surfer thing.

  22. I agree that terms such as these are misused. Often as “spitting contests”, to feed our need to be extreme in every part of our life or to try and impress God. “Christian” is sufficient when embodied with the Spirit of Christ. But unfortunately, the term represents a “status quo” label in our church today (not to mention the unfortunate connotations many have given it to the world). Following Jesus is not “business as usual” churchianity as you and Michael have written about so well. Following Jesus is a radical departure from simply living a nice, lower-middle class American religious life. It’s not about doing something radical (although I think this is an improvement from consumerism) as much as having the Radical One invade our cozy little lives from which we may depart on weekends for our little adventures and activities.

  23. Chaplain Mike,

    Thank you for this post…they are a balm to a weary pastor’s soul.

  24. I’ve had a couple of friends ask me recently if I am “doing Ok” as though I shouldn’t be. I used to be a good religious girl who loved Jesus but didn’t really know Him. When I suffered a great personal trial last year, I finally sought God with all of me–I call what happened my “rescue.” I’m not sure why I’m posting here except to say that no labels seem to get anything right.
    From ashes, I have followed God’s call to love my neighbor–he gave me unloved to love, poor to feed, and burdened to share their load. I am neither activist nor pursuing activity nor anyone else to join me. But God gave me 8 fellow believers to give up their Saturday nights to teach English to our community’s non-English speakers–with love for them as persons, not only students. I’m not a teacher. I work fulltime in PR/Mktg elsewhere. When friends ask out of the blue “are you burning out” or “are you OK? I’ve been praying for you” I smile and share what God is doing. This is not my doing. How can I refuse my Lord? And besides that, I have found my joy in God’s will over mine.

    Early in my suffering, someone sent me a link to a Michael Spencer post that resonated with me. I come back here occasionally. I have rejected the religion of my evangelical Christian upbringing to cling to the real Jesus of the Bible. I don’t need religion, nor labels, I need life in Christ. I don’t care what anyone might say about me now. I know where my help comes from, and I will not deny Him anything or woe to me. Is this radical? fundamental? I know or care not. For me, just me, I keep my eyes on the Savior often weeping with a hand raised for my help and his comfort, and I know that He guides me.

    Just me. Just my thoughts. Peace.

  25. This has been helpful. I’ve been aware of this without knowing that it had any names besides workaholism, hyper-christianity, etc. Thanks to Chaplain Mike and to Gordon MacDonald.

    This is also timely because I’m reading the book Mastering Contemporary Preaching, co-authored by Bill Hybels, Stuart Briscoe and Haddon Robinson. I was searching for a book on preaching by Haddon Robinson and this came up—and I’m not at all disappointed. I especially like the chapters by him and by Stuart Briscoe.

    The Bill Hybels chapters are…useful. Hybels is no doubt a great preacher and motivator. But in the chapter that I just finished, entitled “Power: Preaching for Total Commitment” he pushes for the very attitudes and goals that Chaplain Mike and Gordon MacDonald warn against.

    Hybels does admit that he can go too far and often has to run things past his elders first; and that he is wary about new Christians going too far too fast—and that much depends on one’s personality. But, he nevertheless comes on as high-pressured preaching and even uses the term “radical commitment to Jesus Christ” in the final paragraph—that it “leads to life in all its fullness”. If this statement were intended to mean a commitment to follow Christ, a “born again” experience, OK. But by the time he gets to that paragraph it’s clear that he’s talking about “doing” and “serving” to the fullest of one’s gifts, with no compromise.

    A quote by Bill Hybels in this chapter:

    “Not long ago we surveyed our committed core people. One question we asked was, ‘Are you using your spiritual gift in this body for God’s glory on a weekly basis?’ About 53 percent said they were. Scripturally, that’s not good enough. So, in a message I cited that statistic and said, ‘I thank God for those of you who are using your spiritual gifts. And I pray for those of you who have been so deeply wounded in the past that you need a time of healing before you can begin to serve. But to the rest of you, I have to ask a tough question: What’s going on? If you’ve been redeemed and welcomed into the family of God, you should be lying awake nights thinking of ways to show God you gratitude. One way you can do that is by identifying and using you spiritual gift. If you’re not doing that, something is wrong!'”

    I can agree with Hybels that we should try to identify our spiritual gift(s). But I thank God that I’m not “lying awake nights thinking of ways to show God [my] gratitude.”

    And, if I could play the Michael Spencer card: “How much is enough? And who gets to make the call?”

    I do recommend the book, and I’m finding that the chapters by Haddon Robinson alone are well worth the price. I also like Stuart Briscoe very much and even Bill Hybels, whom I may not agree with entirely, has some very good advice on preaching whether you agree 100% with his message or not.

    Thanks, Mike, for the post.

    • If you’ve been redeemed and welcomed into the family of God, you should be lying awake nights thinking of ways to show God you gratitude. One way you can do that is by identifying and using you spiritual gift. If you’re not doing that, something is wrong!’”

      Heard very close to these words at a Kingdom Hall last Sunday’s Eas…..oooops,….I mean MEMORIAL service (don’t be callin’ it Easter, long story). This has the faint smell of …..wretched urgency, I knew I’d remember it from my ‘knock on every door in THIS generation’ days of the 70’s and 80’s. Also: we are playing the “spiritual gift” card WAY too much: is it my spiritual gift to wipe the poop off my dad’s 91 yr old behind ?? Tell me it isn’t , and then maybe I wont have to. Rant over.

      GregR

      • Good rant, Greg.

        In Gordon MacDonald’s article he names Bill Hybels in his Pantheon of great Christians:

        “In modern times, Graham, Henrietta Mears, Hybels, and Stott come to mind: all people hugely focused on a mission.”

        But then he adds,

        “If they were all I had with which to measure the worth of my life, I’d slip into some kind of depression rather quickly. I would try, but I could never keep up with them.”

        So yeah, how do we keep up? Should we try? No question that Hybels is used by God for great things and through his gifts—but what you’re doing with your father is of utmost importance too.

        Just reading the second installment on Radical Christianity and comments are off to a good start.

        • I think in an ideal world, we could hear a passionate call to mission but leave out to exact details, those are to be filled out by the Holy Spirit to fit OUR exact requirement, for now at least. So the person who is feeding orphans in Africa doesn’t have to be the model in the SPECIFICS, but can and should be in the spirit of Jesus led sacrifice and others centered living. I think we ere when we make “Saint So-and-So the big deal in the details of what they’ve done by faith. Also, it seems like people of great passion are born recruiters: they are always trying to GROW what GOD has begun with them. This is not all bad, but it takes great discrernment to know that what GOD is doing through them and what HE wants to do thru ME might be two very different agendas. Church leaders esp. have a very hard time with that, typically. They’d like to think that their “vision” incorporates their entire local body and beyond, all members (or most) on board, lets GOOOO…..

          thanks for your kind words, and conversation;
          GregR

  26. Charles Fines says:

    Chaplain, I consider myself a radical follower of Jesus and recently ordered both the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer and Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. Not sure exactly what I was expecting in that last one but I was surprised and disappointed on first poking around in it to get the distinct odor of leftist political activism. Maybe I missed it along the way but I don’t recall Jesus volunteering in his spare time at the local soup kitchen or joining orchestrated televised marches on behalf of the victims of the day. If he was in favor of the overthrow of anything, it appeared to be the tyranny of self-interest.

    That Episcopal Book of Common Prayer speaks of the Nicene Creed as “the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.” I regard it as not only an insufficient statement of the Christian faith but even worse a major hindrance and preventer of the message Jesus was dying to teach. Like I said, I consider myself a radical follower of Jesus.

    I have come to look for the simple recognition of loving God above all and your neighbor as yourself, what Scot McKnight calls the Jesus Creed, in the words and actions of others. In my opinion this is the core of what God has revealed to us across the millennia and I struggle to follow it a little better with each day. It was a radical concept when Jesus taught it and has remained so up to now. Some of the staunchest opponents of this teaching are hiding in the Christian church and it is not uncommon to run across instinctive followers outside the “faith”. This whole idea of becoming a child of God is about as radical as you can get in my view.

  27. Radical for radical’s sake is empty of substance. It fizzles. The gospel, simple and true, is radical – extraordinarily radical.
    The only caveat I might add is that the working of the Spirit changes in time and place. The Pharisees missed the radical move made 2000 years ago for many reasons, one of them being a lack of discernment. I’m not really adding anything new here but sometimes the language structure and the concepts must be altered to make room for what the Spirit of God is developing in the body of Christ. With maturing comes expansion (not only in the waist) and sometimes we need new, expanded ways to see the same things. We do not accept “any other gospel” . We don’t need to. There’s a lot about this one that we haven’t figured out yet. “Eye has not seen…….”

  28. What was that quote from “Catcher in the Rye”? The mark of an immature man is die for a cause, the mark of a mature man is live humbly for one.

  29. The Guy from Knoxville says:

    Chaplin Mike,

    Would you check out The Summit Church – Little Rock, Ark website about what’s been happening there and perhaps, carefully/prayerfully, comment about it? Some of the things mentioned in the post and responses seemed to address directly/indirectly some of the things I’ve been reading from there. I don’t see this as extreme – seems that what’s happening in Little Rock lines up with many of the awakings that have happened in years gone by. I would be interested in what you might conclude from reading the info about this move of God. BTW, any other responders to this post – check out The Summit Church – Little Rock, Ark website and see what your take is on this as well – might want to start a separate thread for it if it garners heavy response.

    Thanks much!

    The Guy from Knoxville

  30. Hi Mike…glad to see the blog posts coming! I’ve recently experienced a string of personal / family tragedies and I’ve also recently been “blessed” by the presence of a few drug addicts and alcoholics in my life — close friends who were actually in “vocational” ministry and sought to live a “radical” Christian life whose burdens have just gotten too heaven to bear so they turned to alcohol and drugs to try to cope. I say all of this to get at the fact that sometimes — for lots of people — just getting through each day with a minimum of sanity and self-worth is a huge accomplishment. To strive to be more “radical” in the face of human brokenness, despair, tragedy and simple, everyday life can really be soul-destroying work. I guess I’m just discovering that we cannot be present to others in their need if our own, everyday struggles overcome our lives and, for me, being “just a Christian” — with our doubts, fears, joys, uncertainties, small victories, imperfections existing side-by-side — is the most liberating way to be alive in the world.

  31. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    One such example is the word, “radical.” It’s not enough to be a Christian, one must identify as a “radical” Christian to show that one is really, really serious about Jesus and “the Christian life” (whatever that is).

    This is Wretched Urgency with a fresh coat of paint.