November 19, 2017

Demythologizing “Radical” Christianity (2)

By Chaplain Mike

I remember meeting with a friend over lunch one day. We had been in Bible college together. I had gone on into the ministry in a small church in the Vermont mountains. He never was able to find his way into “full-time ministry.” And he felt terrible about it. One of the things that was driving him crazy was reading biographies of “great Christians” that others had recommended to help him discover his calling.

He did not feel like he could relate to any of them. These Christian “superstars” all had dynamic personalities. They were pioneers. They seemed to have no trouble stepping into the unknown with courage and reckless abandon. Their charisma drew people to them like a can of soda pop attracts bees at a summer picnic. They not only had “successful” ministries, they started entire movements and organizations, and, at least according to the books, God did magnificent works through their lives. But these hagiographies that had been urged upon my friend did little to encourage him; indeed, just the opposite.

My former college mate simply did not have the kind of personality these Christian “heroes” had. He was quieter, more thoughtful, less visionary and activist in his orientation. He lacked self-confidence and was not driven to achieve lofty goals. My friend admitted to having lots of doubts and questions. If the Christian leaders in the books likewise had them, their biographers certainly didn’t highlight that fact, and it made him wonder.

If this was the model, the template for being a “man of God,” my friend was realizing that he had been formed from a different mold. He felt like a player on the field in a game he’d never practiced, trying to compete against a bunch of pros. He wondered if he lacked commitment, or faith. He questioned whether God had a place for him to serve.

In the second part of his articles at Out of Ur on “Redefining Radical,” Skye Jethani asks us to think about who we set up as examples and models of the Christian faith in our churches.

Consider who is celebrated in most churches. Typically it is the person who is engaged in “full time Christian work”–the pastor or missionary, or people who pursue social causes that result in a big and measurable impact. (Who isn’t talking about William Wilberforce these days?) Similarly, those who behave like pastors or missionaries periodically in their workplace, neighborhood, or perhaps on a short-term trip overseas are praised for these actions. But a church will rarely, if ever, celebrate a person’s “ordinary” life and work.

Evangelicalism’s definition of “radical” does not seem to include ordinary people living quiet, faithful lives, fulfilling their God-given vocations in the normal course of daily life. I think that’s a big problem.

So does Skye Jethani.

Here’s the problem–when we call people to radical Christian activism, we tend to define what qualifies as “radical” very narrowly. Radical is moving overseas to rescue orphans. Radical is not being an attorney for the EPA. Radical is leaving your medical practice to vaccinate refugees in Sudan. Radical is not taking care of young children at home in the suburbs. Radical is planting a church in Detroit. Radical is not working on an assembly line.

What we communicate, either explicitly or implicitly, by this call to radical activism is that experiencing the fullness of the Christian life depends upon one’s circumstances and actions. Sure, the man working on an assembly line for 50 years can be a faithful Christian, but he’s not going to experience the same sense of fulfillment and significance as the one who does something extreme–who cashes in his 401k and relocates to Madagascar to rescue slaves.

The error Jethani points out is pervasive in American evangelicalism, and it is as representative of fallen American culture as the “consumer” mentality or the “entertainment” addiction we often lament and critique. This is the elevation of the successful entrepreneur, the celebration of the “winner,” the admiration of the risk-taker, the worship of the extraordinary achiever. We love the adrenalin rush of hearing about exciting adventures. We love “the thrill of victory” (not so much “the agony of defeat”). We desire to either have the “great experience” ourselves or live it vicariously through someone else. We must have our super-heroes and feel like we are on their team.

Now, there is a place for this. I don’t want to flatten life to the point where we don’t appreciate those who may be specially gifted, recognize outstanding accomplishments, or admire extraordinary sacrifices. Nevertheless, in our celebrity-saturated society, it seems we are on a track of needing more and more of this, while at the same time we understand less and less about the blessing of common everyday grace and faithfulness.

By so doing, we create first and second-class Christians—those who are “radical,” “sold out,” “on fire,” “totally committed,” and those who are not. We also seize control of a process that is the rightful domain of the Holy Spirit. Friends, it is not the pastor or the church that is called to define the path of discipleship. That’s God’s job. Too many church leaders are making up their own definitions and laying burdens on believers that are much too heavy to bear. Their “radical” yoke is not easy.

I was heartened to read that Skye Jethani’s prescription for us is a revival of the Reformation doctrine of vocation. In my view, vocation is one of the most important and delightful teachings that drew me to appreciate the Lutheran tradition. It is summarized well in the following quote from Gene Edward Leith:

When I go into a restaurant, the waitress who brings me my meal, the cook in the back who prepared it, the delivery men, the wholesalers, the workers in the food-processing factories, the butchers, the farmers, the ranchers, and everyone else in the economic food chain are all being used by God to “give me this day my daily bread.”

This is the doctrine of vocation. God works through people, in their ordinary stations of life to which He has called them, to care for His creation. In this way, He cares for everyone—Christian and non-Christian—whom He has given life.

Luther puts it even more strongly: Vocations are “masks of God.” On the surface, we see an ordinary human face—our mother, the doctor, the teacher, the waitress, our pastor—but, beneath the appearances, God is ministering to us through them. God is hidden in human vocations.

The other side of the coin is that God is hidden in us. When we live out our callings—as spouses, parents, children, employers, employees, citizens, and the rest—God is working through us. Even when we do not realize it, when we fulfill our callings, we too are masks of God.

• Gene Edward Leith, “The Masks of God”

The essential apostolic perspective on this is found in 1Cor 4:2—“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” The quality of our life with Christ is not measured by how “radical” it is. God asks us to be faithful, by his grace, to that which he has entrusted to us.

If you are a plumber, be a faithful and honest plumber. Do your work well. Help people. Provide for your family and bless others through the wages you earn. Be a good neighbor and use your skills to assist folks in need when you can. In so doing, God will work through you to bless the world. You need not think you are doing less than the pastor or missionary or the person who does something out of the ordinary. You may never take a mission trip. You may not be able to serve in the church institution as much as you’d like. You may never give a sermon or lead someone personally to conversion. People won’t think of you as a “radical Christian,” but if you live faithfully in the vocations God has given you, that’s exactly what you’ll be. Salt of the earth. Light of the world.

I like the word Skye Jethani gives to church leaders like himself at the end of his article:

So I’ve come to embrace the reality that my place as a church leader is not to get people to do more for God. Rather, I believe my responsibility is to give others a ravishing vision, rooted in Scripture and modeled by my own example, of a life lived it communion with God. And there, as they abide in him, calling will happen. The Lord of the harvest will call and send workers. And he will call others to live quietly and work with their hands. Some may be butchers, and others lawyers, and some he will even call to be suburban moms. And all of their work will be holy, good, and, if rooted in communion with God, truly radical.

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of the hype. I’m ready to start a “Remove the Adjectives” campaign to protest the addition of any description to my calling as a follower of Christ. I am a Christian. Period. In life, I am a husband, father, grandfather, neighbor, member of my community, hospice chaplain, Little League baseball coach, blog author, and so on. In and through these “masks” God loves the world through me. I, who have been given these trusts, am called to be faithful.

I can’t think of a higher calling! A more noble stewardship!

Please, don’t start laying words like “radical” on me. That’s your deal, not God’s.

Comments

  1. cermak_rd says:

    The Jesuits have a phrase for this: Ad majorem dei gloriam.

    I think your friend’s issue was that he was reading hagiographies. In the world I live in, when something is called a hagiography, it means it isn’t real, it’s a cleaned-up, sanitized story having little to do with real life.

    • That may have been my friend’s problem. It is the church’s problem that these myths are perpetuated.

      • And if we’d only go back to St. Paul, he lays it all out for us: 1 Corinthians 12:28-31

        “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.
        28
        Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then, gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues.
        29
        Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work mighty deeds?
        30
        Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?
        31
        Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way.”

        Everyone has different gifts but all are part of the body, and the showier parts are no more important than the humble ones.

  2. I identify with your friend. Recently I expressed concern over the movie “Soul Searcher”. These types of movies are very depressing for me. I hesitate to say anything because I believe Bethany Hamilton is wonderful Christian person with a great story. But, I believe the Christian community allows marketing people to play us with wonderful stories with concise happy endings. Real life isn’t like that.

    I also believe that by allowing marketing people to create these stories, it changes the perception of non-Christians to what the Christian life is about.

    • Joshua T says:

      I also believe that by allowing marketing people to create these stories, it changes the perception of non-Christians to what the Christian life is about.

      I’ve been reading through the Lenten Church Fathers reading plan that was posted here some time ago (before Lent), and I keep coming back to Chapter 5 of Mathetes’ Epistle to Diognetus, which includes,

      For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. … according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. … They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children;

      I’m in graduate school and involved with local college groups, and I find it helps to recall this passage when we start getting to big scary conversations about people worried about “trying to find their calling,” &c.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        “Finding their Calling” is different words for the secular pop-psych idea of “Finding Yourself”.

        Beware lest you wind up like so many of my generation, who spent so much time and energy “Finding Themselves” that they never had the time or energy to HAVE a Self to find.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Recently I expressed concern over the movie “Soul Searcher”. These types of movies are very depressing for me.

      I’m not familiar with that movie, and searching on the title gives me several hits on at least two movies with that title, neither of which seem to fit what you’re describing.

      I hesitate to say anything because I believe Bethany Hamilton is wonderful Christian person with a great story. But, I believe the Christian community allows marketing people to play us with wonderful stories with concise happy endings. Real life isn’t like that.

      Does anyone remember Denise Spencer’s posting a year ago about her husband’s death? The one where she contrasts the reality of his death with all the “wonderful stories” on the subject “with concise happy/edifying endings”?

      • Sorry, should be “Soul Surfer”

        • For most of our stories, the ending is more like the last scenes in “Cast Away” — Chuck Noland sitting with his widowed friend, thankful that he has ice in his glass, but knowing that almost everything else he had (including the woman he loves) is lost to him. He looks back at the dreams that sustained him on that island … but realizes the reality now didn’t fulfill those dreams. And at the end he says:

          And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?

          That’s faith. Not victory wrapped up in two hours, not “your best life now” — just staying alive for the next sunrise because you never know what God will do next. Maybe it’s a divorced brunette in west Texas … maybe it’s just a long drive with a brand-new volleyball. Only time will tell …

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Not victory wrapped up in two hours, not “your best life now” — just staying alive for the next sunrise because you never know what God will do next.

            There have been at least three times in my life where that was about all that kept me going.

            “I gotta keep breathing…”

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          OK, “Soul Surfer”. Been seeing ads for it in a couple websites. Getting really hyped.

  3. You make a lot of great points in this excellent article.

    That said, I don’t really encounter a lot of people who are despondent because they don’t feel that they measure up to an unreal ideal. So, in a sense, your suggestion seems like an antidote in search of a disease.

    I’m much more familiar with a general level of comfort with worldliness … not troubled my any perception of lack regarding holiness or fruitfulness. All too often, this includes my own life.

    Ultimately, there’s nothing more radical than taking up our cross daily and following Jesus. Those who serve with humility and faithfulness are among the most radical Christians I know. What is radical about us needs to extend beyond charisma and into character.

    Dave

    • You have to go back to the first article. Worldliness is the problem but some Christians promote “radicalism” as a solution. CM is explaining why “radicalism” is jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

      • Thanks for the input Brendan.

        Actually, I did see the original article. It is against that backdrop that I shared that radicalism isn’t really promoted among believers I’m acquainted with. Do you have familiarity with it?

        Dave

        • Absolutely , I have familiarity with it. When it comes to sheer numbers complacency takes cake. However, those most infected with radicalism are those in ministry contexts and a few of their ardent supporters. As a pastor who meets with others in ministry I’ve noticed this radicalism is a force to be reckoned with. It’s like a weed that you can’t ever kill, you pull it out and it just springs back up when you’re not looking. It is as many people have already stated a major cause of depression with those who work in ministry, or those who wish they could work in ministry.

    • Dave. Have you been living in a cave the last 30 years? You don’t encounter too many despondent christians frustrated by unattainable ideals?
      Chap Mike’s friend is an image is a picture of too many people I know. I can’t understand how somebody could miss them. I’m willing to guess that you’re surrounded by them but they don’t talk to you about it. But that’s just conjecture from my experience.

      • Miguel,
        Yes, I have been living in a cave for the last 30 years. It’s dirty and damp, but the isolation gives me plenty of time to keep up with the blogs.

        Seriously, I think the grace-saturated preaching of our church probably protects us from some of what is described in the article. But we can lose sight of the Gospel imperatives sometimes while embracing the Gospel indicatives. Hence my comments.

        Stop by the cave some time. Clearly I need to interact with folks more often! Just kidding … thanks for the dialogue.

        Dave

      • Miguel, and Dave,

        I posted this quote by Gordon MacDonald over on the Radical Christianity (1) page, but it fits here too in light of Chaplain Mike’s college friend. MacDonald says this about certain heroes of the faith:

        “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.”

        • The only problem is, apparently we’re supposed to measure our lives by Jesus, but that doesn’t necessarily help, because His standard is even so much more infinitely higher. Maybe that’s why us Christians so easily flock to celebrity pastors/teachers/evangelists. They set a so much more realistic standard for fallen humans than our Savior does. ….so Jesus is the real problem here! There’s nothing more depressing than “Be thou perfect, as I am perfect.” 😛

          • But he also said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV) 🙂

    • Dave,

      You must be a fellow Episcopalian. But I assure you that three blocks away at Big Baptist Church the problem is epidemic. Hey, that cave dwelling has its advantages!

      • Ohhh, I’ve seen this among my fellow Episcopalians as well in one form or another. But it’s a whole lot more subtle! I know a few who struggle with the supposed “ordinariness” of their Christian lives, thinking that God has forgotten or neglected to give them something big to do.

        But He has – to be a parent, a spouse, a friend, a brother or sister in Christ.

        As someone who runs an outreach-driven ministry at my small church and has recently gone on a short term mission trip, I have to really watch myself that I don’t make the problem worse. The last thing I want my fellow parishioners to feel is that they don’t measure up…to me. Good grief. If they only knew…

      • William,

        Actually, I’m reformed and charismatic. (Yes, I do know that’s a weird combination.)

        Dave

  4. One thing I noticed about some of the real “radicals”, people actually who do amazing things, is that many of them don’t see themselves as radical. They saw a need, they realized they could fulfill it, and they did what could. End of story. For them it all seemed very logical and necessary, like it was an obvious choice. In that way some of them don’t understand why they are heroes or why anybody else couldn’t do it either.

  5. I think the word “radical” ought not be used to describe the Christians, but their Lord.

    It is His work for us that is radical. It is the upside down nature of a God who hung on a cross and forgave His murderers, that is radical.

    • Amen. Searching the depths of His being, the most immoderate (as in nothing lukewarm going on here) and untamed of all, can we say, and opening our hearts to His will in us is the most radical activity we can engage in. We are radicalized by simple proximity.

  6. When I read this article I couldn’t help but think of my grandmother who led a quiet life working in a sock mill in the mountains of Tennessee. She did the same job (looping the toes of socks) from the age of 14 until 63. What a boring job! But God had a purpose for that sock looper. She faithfully attended her local congregation and after her death I discovered that she was quite charitable but I never knew because she never said. She cared for her mother and father until the day they died and when my sister and I were born she and my grandfather uprooted their lives to come to our home in another city to help my mother and father care for us. She truly gave of herself in every way. She is the first person that told me about Jesus and taught me how to sing hymns. She had her troubles and sins but she lived quietly and faithfully until the day she died. It reminds me of C.S. Lewis telling the story of the man that gets to leave hell and see what heaven is like. He sees a huge celebration for a woman walking by and he says she must have done great things in her life and he is told yes she was a wash woman in London.
    I pray that I too can faithfully and quietly live out my vocation.

    • Robin,

      That was awesome. Thanks for sharing it with us, and thanks be to God for people like your grandmother, and the faithful wash women/men of the world.

  7. Richard Hershberger says:

    I am Lutheran, and therefore an outside observer of modern American Evangelicalism (as opposed to older senses of the word “evangelical”). Do Evangelical churches de-emphasize Paul’s teaching about the variety of gifts of the Spirit? This has always seemed to me a central text in understanding how to live the Christian life: the understanding that there is no single form it takes.

    That being said, I agree with Dave Wilson that much of modern American Evangelicalism seems to have the opposite problem. If a church’s marketing strategy is to provide the best coffee, gym, and music, it is unlikely to accompany that with a guilt trip about not accomplishing great deeds. Perhaps what we have here is two responses to two distinct target groups: the casual Christian is told that listening to music and what passes for a sermon is enough, while those seeking more are told that nothing is enough. In a curious way, this an example of comforting the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted. Both, of course, entirely miss the point of Christ crucified, but that is my Lutheran background showing again.

    • R.H, I don’t doubt the validity of your perspective, but I fail to see how being “Lutheran” puts one automatically outside “modern American Evangelism.” I used to be quite familiar with both the Mo. and Wisc. synods in my city and – at least in my experience – I found Lutherans pretty similar in outlook to those in the typical “evangelical ” church. Sure, Lutheran clergy may sometimes wear vestments and lead a more liturgical service than their Baptist counterparts, but many of them shared (for good or ill) the same keen interest in church growth techniques (“Ablaze!”) and in marketing their churches to suburban Republicans.

      • There are some major differences between Lutherans and Evangelicals. Too many to cover now, but just a couple:

        Lutherans do NOT believe in “free will”. We believe that Christ chooses us, we don’t choose Him (initially).

        Lutherns (traditionally) do not believe in Christian progressivism or progress in the Christian life. We believe in death and resurrection…over and over and over again.

        Lutherans believe that Christ is ACTUALLY present in Baptism and Holy Communion. This gives us assurance of our faith, outside of ourselves and our feelings of being saved.

        Just a few of the major differnces.

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          In fairness to Pilar, there certainly are Lutheran churches, and not just in the Missouri or Wisconsin synods, which have to a greater or lesser extent been influenced by modern American Evangelicalism. In the most extreme form are congregations which carefully hide their denominational affiliation while putting on the full Evangelical extravaganza. In theory they might be preaching and teaching Lutheran doctrine, but I have my doubts. There are any number of less extreme versions of the same thing, with praise bands and power point sermons and the like. The Lutheran church closest to me (though not the one I attend) has a rule against alcohol at any church function. (It is not clear to me if this includes the eucharist.) It is a sad day when a Lutheran church abandons Biblical Christianity in order to accommodate itself to the expectations of the world.

    • “If a church’s marketing strategy is to provide the best coffee, gym, and music, it is unlikely to accompany that with a guilt trip about not accomplishing great deeds.”

      Actually, it does go together. It takes a hoard of volunteers to provide coffee, gym, music…child care…. To the volunteers you promote radicalism, to the “outsiders” you promote consumerism.

      A classic church growth pastor explained it to me with two concentric circles. The outside circle is the crowd. The goal is to use consumerism to get the crowd into the outer circle. Once in the outer circle, you use a guilt trip on radicalism to get them to work in the inner circle providing lots of time, money, effort providing the coffee, gym, music… It is all classic Rick Warren/Bill Hybels methodology. You can’t do one without the other.

      I spent 15 years of my life in the inner circle, got tired (and broke) and left both circles.

      • Allen,

        I don’t really want to start a firestorm here, but what you’ve described is a cult.

        I have seen the illustration of the circles before, but adding the dimensions of “consumerism” and then “guilt trip on radicalism” adds a nasty twist to the model.

        The cults, however, go beyond that. Along with consumerism they add deception, and along with guilt trip they add coercion and even physical/mental abduction.

        Let’s be warned.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I’d like to remind everyone about the use of the word “cult”. All too often it’s just a snarl-word meaning “Enemy”.

          When a splinter church was messing up my head in the Seventies, the Christian Cult Watch groups defined “cult” entirely in terms of aberrant theology, not repeat NOT in terms of abusive or control-freak behavior towards their congregation. As a result, a LOT of “cultic” churches sneaked through under the radar. While the cult-watchers were parsing theology letter-by-letter, groups that passed their theology-parsing test were abusing their people worse than any of the officially-recognized Cults (TM).

          • HUG, I agree that it’s often a snarl-word meaning “Enemy” and we need to be careful not to use the term lightly, like the term “Nazi”.

            It’s too easy to label any non-orthodox faith a cult, and I disagree with those who label as “cult” the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian Scientists. Although I would call them heresies and warn against them doctrinally, I would not call them cults because they are at least honest about their beliefs. It’s all on the table and the doors are open if anyone wants to leave.

            What I call “cult” is any group that uses deception, coercion or even physical means to gain or keep converts. The churches that practice what Allen described stop short of that, but it sounds like a similar pattern, and something to keep an eye on at least.

            I’m not sure if you’d call Allen’s former church abusive or control-freak, based on this bit of information, but we may be talking about the same thing.

            Could be getting way off-topic here.

        • Christians define cult in theology terms (ie JW or Mormons are a cult…) Cults are much more than just that. I’d suggest that many fundgelicals are a cult. Why?

          1. Try leaving and severing ties….
          2. Deal with those few people who won’t leave you alone no matter how hard you try…
          3. Love is conditional..meaning as long as you fit into THEIR mega church program everything is hunky dorey.
          4. Avoid certain questions and downplay some questions all together.
          5. “Us” vs. “Them” mentality is usually present in many fundgelcial circles.

          I rest my agnostic case….

          • Eagle, cruise on over to HUG’s friend the Christian Monist, and scroll down to the bottom for a cartoon video that he made, entitled “Evangelical Church Exit Interview”. It’s as you said.

            http://evangelicalinthewilderness.blogspot.com/

            I understand your agnostic case, but reconsider Romans 3:4: Let God be true though every man be false. The Christian Monist left that church, but he’s still with us.

      • Yeah. Someone has to feed the beast.

  8. “..this an example of comforting the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted. Both, of course, entirely miss the point of Christ crucified, but that is my Lutheran background showing again.”

    I think you may have something there, R.H.!

  9. “The other side of the coin is that God is hidden in us. When we live out our callings—as spouses, parents, children, employers, employees, citizens, and the rest—God is working through us. Even when we do not realize it, when we fulfill our callings, we too are masks of God.”

    Yes! Lutherans need be more vocal about this. This and the theology of the cross are two of the most important contributions that Luther made – by far not the only contributions.

    I was a teenager in the 80’s during the days of Keith Green. He in his Finney-esque revivalism proclaimed, “Go! It is the exception to stay!!!” and “The difference between the sheep and the goats was what they did and didn’t do.” The implication was clear: if you didn’t go into the mission field or we’re doing anything for Jesus, you were at best worldly or worse unsaved. Being less than “radical” meant not being a Christian at all. We all had plans to go to bible college and then onto “full time ministry”. If someone had other plans, like going to university to become an accountant, you assumed that they weren’t the real thing. Others carry on this vision today. It wasn’t a matter of saving the lost, unborn babies, or the culture; it was a matter of saving oneself.

    A bright side was Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, which in addition to their Urbana Mission conferences started a new conference called “Market Place”, which was meant to help college students understand how to serve God in “secular” professions. It still fell short of a Lutheran view of being the face of God; one was still left to contemplate a lifetime occupation or profession rather than a vocation. A lot of good things came out of Inter-Varsity then – meaningful world view material not geared toward the cultural war.

  10. David Cornwell says:

    This reminds me of one of my favorite people, namely my late father-in-law. He was a quiet, dignified man, who always spoke in a quiet voice. He worked for many years at a Methodist children’s home in Kentucky as the maintenance man and grounds keeper. There were many buildings on campus, and his duties could come at any time, night or day. He lived in a small house, on campus, where his children also grew up.

    The children were from all kinds of situations, as you can imagine. They were broken in a variety of ways. He always had kind and good words for them. He showed them love and respect. They knew he was a Christian because of his manner of life, not his preaching or admonitions. His children played with them. They came to his house and learned to laugh and love. My wife says that the only time she ever saw him angry was when he caught a staff member physically abusing a child. It never happened again. When they would visit the campus he was the first man they would look for.

    And today, when I think of Christ, I think of him.

  11. I agree with you though as the name of my blog is radref (i.e. radical reformation) I had better be careful what I say. At its worst ‘radical’ is one of those aerosol words like ‘community’ that are sprayed into sentences to make them smell nice.

  12. Another excellent post. Thanks CM, I need to be reminded of these things.

  13. The first quote by Skye Jethani is so true.

    It’s why I have so little esteem for most Christian writers (who also happen to be pastors). These guys moved into the ministry, as if it were a career choice. They never worked a real job in their life. Many of them, became pastors, because it was the “family business.”

    • Good to hear a little honest anticlericalism. I see we agree on this: http://radref.blogspot.com/2008/12/give-up-your-vicar-for-lent.html

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Many of them became pastors, because it was the “family business.”

      Some even inheriting their ecclesiastical/pastoral positions from their fathers, just like a Borgia Pope.

    • I hear you!!! I loved it when I was brainwashed and I went to my local fundgelical church and I would hear the Pastor say..”I WAS CALLED BY GOD!!!” As is the Youth Pastor who is related, as is the sports minsitry director who is also related. On and on it went.

      Since when did being called by God reflect more of a mafia crime family due to its complexity?

      • Sports ministry director? Please tell me that’s not an actual position.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I suspect it is. It could either mean a ministry based around sports and sports fandom or ministering to those IN sports.

          I have heard of some variants on this in youth ministry where they target the high school Alpha Males and Alpha Females (Quarterbacks & Cheerleaders) for conversion and hagiography as Young Christian heroes in the hope of a trickle-down “soul-winning” effect. As someone who was the Omega Male of his high school, I can attest that approach would have just the opposite effect.

        • I know of several “megachurches” that have or once had sports ministry directors. For a couple of years, the Crystal Cathedral’s sports ministry director was one of my favorite ballplayers, Bert Blyleven. No idea what the heck he did there …

  14. I fall into the Radical trap often. When I am not living in the grace of the Gospel. Not found at His feet, not remembering what He has done and the implications of His finished work. When I feel He would be more pleased with me if I ‘really went for it! Became radical for Jesus’.

    The thing is, I love Jesus and want to be more “radical” in the sense of responding to His love for me and living from His love and not the other way around (working to be loved by Him). There are many manuals of examples on how to be radical, why is that? Maybe we are not living out of His love. Before marriage, while dating my future wife, I was head over heels in love, you didn’t need to tell me to be radical in my love for her, I didn’t need to read Shakespeare and learn how to show love, I showed my love to her and she showed her love to me and it was radical! (Of course it is even better now in marriage, so much more could be said of this example)

    When I abide in Jesus, my love for Him becomes radical but funny enough it doesn’t look like the examples given in the manuals (even though I search out those ways thinking that it ‘ought to’ or ‘needs to’ look that way). It looks more like time in prayer, more grace and love for others, working harder at work, caring for my wife and children in more self-less ways, listening more than speaking, consistently to serving with JOY in the areas He has already placed me. This is super radical when compared to the lost in the world but in the Christian life it is simply Kingdom living flowing from the love of Jesus.

    One last point on this is that I have found much freedom in simply living in His love and trusting in the Gospel, I don’t feel the weight of “I might be wasting my life”, or that “my real life in Jesus hasn’t yet begun, I am still in a training time” (that lie is so debilitating). There is freedom found in being fully present in where He has me now, listening to his voice daily, responding to and enjoying Him.

  15. “So I’ve come to embrace the reality that my place as a church leader is not to get people to do more for God. Rather, I believe my responsibility is to give others a ravishing vision, rooted in Scripture and modeled by my own example, of a life lived it communion with God. And there, as they abide in him, calling will happen. The Lord of the harvest will call and send workers.”

    Yes and no.

    The “yes” is obvious.

    But the “no” is that you are aiming people at communion with God. But since communion with God isn’t entirely mystical, that automatically includes simple obedience. Thus Jesus says, “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15), not, “If you love me, you will sing songs and feel deep emotions about me, and that will propel you to keep my commandments.” People easily miss that for a person whose heart is already changed and indwelt by the Spirit, obedience is biblical, not legalistic, or at least not necessarily legalistic. You know why you should give large portions of your money away? Not because you had a good quiet time, but because the Bible says to care for other people’s needs more than your own and to not get sucked in by idolatry.

    Jethani’s quote is subtly tantamount to saying, “The Bible says you should commune with God, and when you do that He’ll tell you what to do.” The problem is that the Bible has already told you what to do. And if that means being more “radical” or “missional” than we currently are, then great, and maybe those are even helpful shorthands for the larger idea. Sort of like “Trinitarians” or “Protestants” aren’t distinct from “Christians”. Those terms just help us to keep our self-identity right.

    Andrew Faris
    Someone Tell Me the Story

    • I think you are misreading Jethani. This is not about faith vs. works or a life of mystic contemplation vs. a life of obedience. It’s about whether I find my identity in my relationship with God or in extraordinary things I do for God.

  16. Paul seems the very example of an “overseas missionary” (and he definitely crossed the Mediterranean Sea), yet Paul never left the Roman Empire on any of his journeys. You can live the life of an “overseas missionary”, too, ministering to people from all nations (a.k.a. people groups), esp. these days, without ever leaving America.

    • +1 (square root!!!) 😀

    • Not to mention that Paul also had a vocation as a leatherworker (i.e., “tentmaker”) so he wouldn’t be financially dependent on the congregations to which he was ministering; occasionally, a different church would send support, but I get the impression from the Acts that was more the exception than the rule.

      In fact, I recall reading somewhere that all Pharisees of that time were expected to master a trade, so they wouldn’t be living off the people’s largesse. We’ve sure come a long way since then, huh?

  17. I just finished a study where we read a book that talked a lot about radical living for God. It was all very extreme (ie, selling your home and possessions and moving to less desirables places to be used by God there). The point of the book seemed to be that this is the litmus test for authentic christianity.

    At the final meeting, we were asked, “So what will you do?” My answer was, “All this week I’m planning ahead to have dinner preparations done by 10:00 am and on the table at 6:00 to preserve my ability to be a kind and effective parent to my 3 young kids.” I was very proud of “what i will do” — but am very aware of the lack of “sacrifical glamour” compared to the examples in the book.

    HA! — I propose that moms of young kids are the glamour queens of the world where sacrifice for a godly cause is concerned.

    • You feed the hungry, cloth the naked, tend the sick, and welcome the little strangers every day. You love the “least of these” and in doing so minister to Jesus.

      • brilliantvapor says:

        I’m not even a mother yet, Damaris, but for some reason this really shot me through the heart with gratitude. Thank you for this – I feel like I must have been blind never to have noticed it before.

      • Yes, yes, yes! I volunteer in my son’s kindergarten classroom for just half an hour every week, but I consider it a part of my ministry just to love each one of those children unconditionally. I don’t know anything about their home life, but I know that for half an hour each week I can give them words of affirmation and let them know someone cares about them.

    • Could not agree more, Pam. You are living the Gospel right there!

  18. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Consider who is celebrated in most churches. Typically it is the person who is engaged in “full time Christian work”–the pastor or missionary, or people who pursue social causes that result in a big and measurable impact.

    This is the Heresy of Clericalism with an Evangelical Protestant coat of paint.

    Clericalism is the HERESY that Only Priests, Monks, Nuns, and all other names for “Full Time Christian Workers” count with God. Not repeat NOT the laity just living their lives, whether in the pews or in the mainstream.

    And as tales of X-Treme Ascetics and Mortification horror stories can tell you, there was a lot of “Can You Top This?” over who was the Holiest going on in those monasteries and nunneries.

    All you Truly Reformed out there — remember that Protestant Reformation you’re always reliving like the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) never happened? Wasn’t one of your big beefs against us Romish Papists all about our Clericalism? Holy Orders and Cloistered Religious as Uber-Christians and our unwashed laity a distant Second Class, fit only to “Pay, Pray, and Obey”? Well, take a look in a mirror — you just call them Pastors, Elders, Missionaries, Prophets, Culture Warriors, and Worship/Praise Singers.

    • David Cornwell says:

      “Clericalism is the HERESY that Only Priests, Monks, Nuns, and all other names for “Full Time Christian Workers” count with God.”

      Or are the source of supreme authority and interpretation of the bible.

  19. Richard McNeeley says:

    We evangelicals read the Great Commission and focus on the word go. We honor those that give up everything and go to other lands. We honor pastors, because they have given up having a secular career and devoted themselves to the study of God and His word. We don’t realize that the command in Matthew 28 is to make disciples, everything else flows from that command. We look at the impact of Billy Graham, yet we have no idea who discipled him (I’m guessing it was his parents). The real christian superstar is the one that leads a quiet life and teaches his children to follow Christ.

  20. “Consider who is celebrated in most churches. Typically it is the person who is engaged in “full time Christian work”–the pastor or missionary, or people who pursue social causes that result in a big and measurable impact. (Who isn’t talking about William Wilberforce these days?) Similarly, those who behave like pastors or missionaries periodically in their workplace, neighborhood, or perhaps on a short-term trip overseas are praised for these actions. But a church will rarely, if ever, celebrate a person’s “ordinary” life and work.”

    —–

    Boy oh boy!!! Where do I start. This was one of the issues that was like a festering, infected sliver in my skin when I was a brainwashed, drink the Kool aide, fundgelical!!! I became more conscious of this problem toward the end of my Christian life.

    In the fundgelical kingdom serving God all too often means you have to go in full time work. Not only are you made out to be “more divine” and spiritual, but much more dedicated. It bothered me immensely that people would feel like they have to go to Ethiopia to “serve God” yet ignore their gay neighbor. They had to become a “Pastor” and leave the business world of IBM behind. Why…? I think some people desired to be worshiped in many cases, and crave the attention. The church culture definelty plays that up. Ever see how a Mega Church Pastor is trreated? What about the worship leader? Is he not worshipped? (pun intended…) The real tragedy is that this society has been created where people are leaving places where they could have the most impact and going to places where they are taking themself out of the picture and making themself irrelevent.

    Let me tell you one story I knew here in the Washington, D.C. area. I knew a guy from church who worked in the Pentagon health clinic. I bumped into him occasionaly and talked to him…he went to the same fundegelical church I went to. In the Pentagon Health Clinic he was a civilian embedded in the militray and working with people who are coming back/ or were injured in Iraq or Afghanistan. There were some incredible opportunities to show love, grace, compassion and interest in people who had bene through a lot in a combat zone. So what did he do? (Drum roll please…) He felt “called by God” to work in Fellowship of Christian Athletes (Campus Crusade clone…) and removed himself from the Pentagon, military culture and recently returning veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan. I shook my head when I heard of it, it was one of the many screwed up examples I hear, and continue to hear. For me…this is one of the many reasons why Christianity is a joke in the United States.

    But the problem described in the above post I would suggest goes much deeper. How…well how is success defined? Christians define success in so many other ways. You are a “Successful Christian” if…

    1. You have a family
    2. You have done a mission trip
    3. You have kids
    4. Your kids “turn out okay…”
    5. Your mairrage is a spitting image of what James Dobson says…

    Get my drift? And for me the whole facade of it all is just mindblowing if not sickening. Take point number 4… I knew a couple of families who were “successful” until one of their children came out as being gay. You can guess what happened to them in their respective congregations with the ways fundgelicals can gossip and play up the rumor mill. But here’s another problem in this “successful” environment. Where does the alcoholic, drug addict, gay HIV infected male, porn addict, single person fit in? Quite simpley they don’t!!! They have no business being there in the church, and really shouldn’t as they are not defined as being successful. Where oh where did this disconnect between what the Bible says and life in modern day fundgelicalism come from?

    And to be frank…let me give you a perspective from an agnostic. I don’t know if hell exists….but when I consider the facade that many fundgeliclas have turned Christianity into these days, truth be told is I’d rathor take the path to hell and end up there knowing I was honest in my soul; then play along with the game and be like a piece in a puzzle that worships the system. I’m not going to be apart of this racket. How Christians define and play success will screw with your mind and can ethically bankrupt you if you try and fit the system.

    In closing recently on another blog I read a posting by a missionary in Africa who talked about the problems he endured and on going stress. It was refreshing to hear a differnet and more honest take on missionary work which I never heard in church when I was involved. You can read the post here…

    https://jamesbrett.wordpress.com/2011/04/11/culture-stress-or-i-dont-want-to-be-a-missionary-anymore/

    • Too much of this kind of pressure in the evangelical world. Bash the Catholic world if you like – at least I don’t need to play “keep up with the Joneses” from a spiritual point of view.

      The philiosphy of “the more you do, the better Christian you are” gets a bit tiring. Or, the more you get to join the Church, the better Christian you are… etc. etc.

      Something happened to me at the gym about a week ago. If you were to see me there- which many do, you would not pick me out as a Bible thumper. I am older than the average member and in pretty good shape. Anyway, a group of 25-30 somethings were talking about faith (of all things) and I turned my head so I could eve’s drop. One noticed this action and asked me if I believed this “stuff”. Answering “yes”, I suddenly had a small crowd of youths around for some of the best faith and biblical discussion I’ve had in a while. They struggle with the whole church and all the hypocrytes who attend thing. I suggested they look at a few things from a different perspective (such as those in church were not floating higher than they, they were also struggling with similar things in their life and were at least making an attempt to be at church – proviiding the opportunity to maybe, just maybe one day taking the next step and going deeper). These guys ate this stuff up and from this point on we have this different kind of link – kind of cool and gives me hope for our youth.

      The point I am making is that I did not need to whack someone over the head with the Bible – nor did I have to go half way around the world, learn a new language, cause my kids loads of stress and uncertainty, so that I could ‘prove’ i’m the best christian. In fact, that is never my intent. I enjoy talking about it and when an opportunity arises where I might plant a seed (not win a convert at all costs) then I take it. Seems to work better.

      My wife’s cousin and her husband took their kids half way around the world once they “got saved” to minister to folks whose language they didn’t know. Sorry folks, you may disagree but from my view it was a very selfish act, doing what they wanted to do, putting their children in harms way, and being funded for the most part by family and the church back home to do “the Lord’s work” aka what they wanted to do. It may have been hard, but then the money coming from back home was supporting them and they got to come back as “Missionaries” ta da! The rest of us continue to work to support our families, and try to make a difference here where we can, and take care of our true vocation, which for me is my wife and children.

      OK… I guess this is a sore spot….

    • You are a “Successful Christian” if…

      1. You have a family
      2. You have done a mission trip
      3. You have kids
      4. Your kids “turn out okay…”
      5. Your mairrage is a spitting image of what James Dobson says…

      But God has more wayward children than He has obedient ones. I guess God isn’t a very successful Christian by our standards …

  21. An often unrecognized problem in the job market is that many employers overlook the gifts of a very large number of potential employees because they are only looking for EXTROVERTS. Their job ads and descriptions stress characteristics like energy, enthusiasm, initiative, power, “dedication” (a.k.a. a tendency to become a workaholic), winning, and ambition. Meanwhile they are ignoring all the introverts — who could be equally helpful to their business, by being thoughtful, insightful, careful, cooperative, thorough, and helpful. Both kinds of people can be competent, brilliant and immensely valuable, but only one kind is being valued.

    The “Christian superstars” follow much the same model — the high-profile preachers, missionaries and speakers are primarily extroverts, while some of the people who are models of quiet charity and holiness are introverts. The correlation is far from exact, of course, but it seems to me that the popular tendency to value extrovert over introvert characteristics just makes the tendency to exalt “superstars” that much worse.

    In a way, being an introvert in this society is rather like being left-handed, or a night person — society assumes that one way of being is “right” while the other is somehow “wrong,” and society therefore misses out on a lot of people’s real gifts.

    (P.S. Um, yes, I admit to being all three 😉

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Their job ads and descriptions stress characteristics like energy, enthusiasm, initiative, power, “dedication” (a.k.a. a tendency to become a workaholic), winning, and ambition.

      Which are also the characteristics of somebody whose ambition could lead them to put one in your back and climb over your body to your position of power.

  22. This is turning into a interesting thread. I agree with Chris on introversion/extroversion: http://radref.blogspot.com/2011/04/introvert.html. We need each other but I think it’s true that introverts are often squeezed out. It’s partly about institutions addicted to utility.

    As regards ‘radical’. All words carry baggage – associations, etc. Some words are so overused that the ‘tone’ of the word overwhelms its meaning. Mostly ‘radical’ is used by association – to give an impression that some organisation, individual or programme is cutting-edge or vaguely daring. We use he word ‘natural’ in the same way especially in advertising food.

    • It’s partly about institutions addicted to utility.

      This is a sneaky source of trouble. Some kind of utility is a great idea, but when certain forms of activity get mass produced as the biblical model, we’re starting in on a round of “I Want to be a Clone”…. Like your blog, btw, I’ll have to check back here and there.

      GregR

  23. Yuri Wijting says:

    Dear Mike,

    Thank you for this! It resonated deeply with me. I have belittled and berrated myself for not being more like the heros I admire. Sometimes I’d go for weeks depressed that I was not in the frontlines of Christian warfare. I occasionally entertained the idea that I would’t be happy if I wasn’t on a mission and staring into the barrell of an AK47 in some rice paddy field. As much as I loved Keith Green, I felt terrible that I wasn’t doing stuff like that. Given that I am deaf there’s not a chance that I can sing or play the piano or have a telephone conversation without a tty system. Just how does a person like me with a disability that impairs communication do evangelicalism on a world scale like Keith Green did?

    As you can see, your article has much relevance for me. The brotherhood of Christianity has to mean something other than the superstar status we’ve given it. Luther’s “Theology of the Cross” has helped me regain sanity and see what that the “Theology of Glory” is not the way of Christ.

    Blessings,

    Yuri

  24. There is a culture that has grown up in modern evangelicalism that places the spotlight on pastors. Even though you may occasionally hear sermons on the importance of small things in everyday Christian life, there can be no doubt that that consumer culture, celebrity and the numbers game have had their effect on the mindset of people in the evangelical churches in America. In this environment, its hard not to believe that if you’re not a full-time pastor or even bi-vocational pastor, you are really serving God. This is fed by false dichotomies between secular and sacred and priests and kings which teach that there is a temporal realm and a spiritual realm and which is really gnosticism in modern clothing.

    • Nadine: expand all this into a book or video, and I’m buying. Excellent points, esp. about the sacred/secular and about gnosticism. In the whacky world you speak of, those who buy into pastor bob’s plans, whatever they are, also “count”.

      • The Guy from Knoxville says:

        Greg r – at the end of your statement I’m going with pastor Bob as sarcasm……. first thought I had was God help you, and you will need God’s help, if you don’t buy into pastor Bob’s plan! Doesn’t matter what those plans are but that’s the “vison” that pastor received from God and you better get on board and buy into it or pay the price, be pushed to the side, marginalized/minimized and eventually put out! Been there and got the Tee-Shirt now…….. God help a great many of us here who know better and have paid the price.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      This is fed by false dichotomies between secular and sacred and priests and kings which teach that there is a temporal realm and a spiritual realm and which is really gnosticism in modern clothing.

      Which is the overlying theme of Christian Monist’s blog. And Clericalism is just a secondary heresy of that.

      To me, the Essence of Gnosticism is what Lewis called “The Lure of the Inner Ring”, the Elite Inner Crcle who KNOW What’s REALLY Going On (unlike all those sheeple). The same appeal as Conspiracy Theory, whether Truther, Birther, or Bircher. “Gnosis”, the Secret Inner Ring Knowledge Only I And I Alone Possess.

      • Okay, so this is only very marginally relevant. I was just watching an episode of Rumpole of the Bailey and one of the characters said, “I think he’s in danger of confusing the Christian Church with Christianity.”

  25. I went overseas once on what could be called a “mission trip” but never once handed out a tract, witnessed to anyone, led any kind of service or did anything that would be classified by most as “mission work”. I am thankful that the missionaries I was supporting (in their secular businesses which allowed them to be overseas) didn’t ask anything else of me. My vocation is engineering, product development and graphic design, and frankly I suck at the more traditional aspects of ministry work.

    That to me is one aspect of vocational emphasis that is missed. We can’t seem to let anyone just do what they are good at, we have to require some sort of extra, spiritual spin. It isn’t good enough to help the poor, or provide clean drinking water or medical aid: we have to include a service, an invitation, and a packet of spiritual materials with that help. Kind of a bait and switch IMO.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Bait and Switch is right. I was just on another blog’s comment thread that mentioned the same thing about a couple of well-known Christian College Evangelism organizations. How a lot of their “events” are to attract potential converts under the cover of being social or entertainment events, then at the end of the show the marks get hit with the altar call.

      I’ve heard it called “Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing”. I call it “Bait and Switch”.

    • I think the funniest “bait and switch” is a spiritual leader named “Rael”. He sponsors national “go topless” days with young attractive women. He attracts young men with promises of topless girls at their spiritual retreats.

      It would be funny it not for the fact that Christian groups are not that much different with the consumerism/radicalism bait and switch.

  26. @Chap Mike: YOU MUST READ this review: off topic (slightly) alert here, but reg. your thread on IMAGINATION, you must check out Thomas Kidd’s article “How to Raise Boring Children” the link can be found , with some similar material , over @ churchleadersread . Short article, and fascinating rebuttle to tiger moms of every stripe.

    GregR

  27. So i wonder what would happen if, in the perfect world, we could all be preachers/ministers/mishionairies. By ignoring all other vocations this world would cease as we know it.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      During the peak of Clericalism, Renassance Spain made an attempt at it. A quarter of the adult population of Spain were in Holy Orders, monasteries, or convents. Then the flow of “free money” gold & silver from the Americas dried up…

    • brilliantvapor says:

      Exactly! This is something that has bothered me about what I learned as the mission of the church. If the whole point of our existence as Christians is to get make more Christians, who can then make more Christians, while we all float around on our little lifeboats waiting for Christ’s return, then… what’s the point? (Um, I should probably note that I consider evangelism/conversion, etc. a very important thing. Just not the only important thing.)

      • One of the things I pointed out to others when I was a fundy was how all too often you hear the succesful mission stories. Jim Elliots, Hudson Taylor, etc.. The story needs to be over the top sensational. And my question was alwasy, “Why does the church always play these up?” I mean for every one Jim Elliot story…I beat there are 10 to 20 crsuhed and dejected missionaries who went off into the field with grandiose dreams only to have them crushed.

        • Eagle, you might be interested to know that Jim Elliot’s wife, Elisabeth, wrote a novel about a missionary called, “No Graven Image.” In that novel she describes the life and work of a “failed” missionary. It’s one of the most honest books I’ve read.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          And my question was alwasy, “Why does the church always play these up?”

          Because people in general tend to publicize their successes and not their failures.

          • And yet IIRC, Jim Elliot’s mission was a crashing failure; it was the follow-up mission that succeeded. And Hudson Taylor, now so lauded by evangelicals, was cut off at the knees by his supposed overseers and had to start his mission work without outside support. (Correct me if I’m wrong in either case.) For evangelical leaders of their times, both would have served as examples of what NOT to do!

            But as Jesus said, “wisdom is vindicated by her children” …

  28. I was in a church that preached that we must find our “destiny” in Christ, and every successful Christian had a “ministry.” Talk about works righteousness! So glad to be out of the competition. Now, due to ministry burn-out and a chronic illness, I’m a bit of a do-nothing, but that guilt still tugs at me every so often.

  29. I like the reference to the reformed idea of “vocation.” Much of what you said reminds me a lot of what Os Guinness says in “The Call.”

    It also seems that this post is a somewhat subtle response to David Platt’s “Radical Christianity.” Is that true, or am I reading that into the post?

  30. Worldliness and radicalism are cut from the same cloth. They are both man-centered, motivated by human desires, fears, efforts, and pride. Gerhard Forde talks about this in “Free to Be”. The sinful nature is very religious and wants to appear as religious and all together. Thinking of sinful nature merely in terms of worldliness is very dangerous; it leaves a blind spot where it can run a muck through legalism and extreme acts of pietism. The sinful nature wants to draw attention to itself, and radical Christianity fits the bill quite nicely. Radical Christianity can also be a cover for radical sin. It becomes a substitute for loving God and neighbor, rather than a fulfillment.

  31. Highlander53 says:

    But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 1Thess4:11-12.
    If you labor at your station and do your work as unto the Lord, you will be radically different from 95% of those around you.

  32. This two-part series kinda inspired me. Here’s what I posted as my Facebook status today (Good Friday):

    Full day today — mixing Sean’s meds, giving him exercise, helping with his bath, washing dishes, buying groceries, picking up a couple books in Galt, sorting old photos, making dinner and working on ch. 11 of my Iron Man story. Among other things. Sometimes God’s will, I’m learning, just means doing the “boring” stuff and doing it well.

    Part of me still wishes I was a missionary in Uzbekistan (no joke; that’s what I was preparing for for years, before God shut that path off). The rest of me is learning to trust God and follow Him … even if it’s to the supermarket.

  33. I’m late to this discussion, but one thing keeps going through my mind. While I don’t care about labels nor think myself a better Christian than another, this sounds all too familiar. I had been raised with the “whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.” Well, I have behaved rather well in my various vocational enterprises, but it’s what I didn’t do (and now do) beyond that which has changed as I’ve sought the real Jesus of the bible. I’m still working full time in PR & Marketing and I keep a pretty good witness, I think. But I’ve thrown off so much of my old self (praise be to God who allowed my suffering to bring me to my maker), that I no longer watch TV nor hold tight to “my time” on the weekends. I love my neighbors in my free time by teaching English and filling out paperwork for those who can’t yet understand them. I am motivated by love. My vocation is what I do; my life in Christ is who I am. This work I’ve been given to do is God’s work. I’m merely a vessel and willing to go through the wide open doors before me.
    No, it’s not radical at all. I don’t care to grow things bigger nor do anything more or less. When people praise me for what I’m doing (because it is getting notice in our large church), I point to God and say I’m a vessel. Some people insist it’s OK to accept the praise. When people ask me if I’m burning out, I share what God is doing. How can I refuse Him? Anyway, just thoughts.