Radical in the Truest Sense

Much has been said of David Platt over the last few years. Pastors have preached his message from Radical, and his follow up book Radical Together has generated a bit of a stir in the professional pastor world. As if that wasn’t enough for a mild-mannered expositor from Alabama, he recently launched the Multiply Movement which combines the efforts of Francis Chan’s Crazy Love with Platt’s message.

Since both Platt and Chan have received quite a bit of attention I don’t care to linger too long on the story of how Platt came to discover the radical idea, and how it has affected his church community (my favorite is when Christian bloggers accuse them of promoting a “works based” faith despite James admonition “Without actions, faith is useless. By itself, it’s as good as dead.”). Instead, I just want to say a few words about Multnomah’s The Radical Question and A Radical Idea.

Not a new book of any sense, this “two-books-in-one” item is roughly 100 pages of simple yet challenging stuff. The main themes of both of Platt’s larger works have been boiled down into a concise message. “Is Jesus worth your radical devotion?” Platt’s question lingers throughout the first 50 pages as he recounts stories that both embarrass and glorify the Christian Church, all the while consulting the Word of God in his analysis of the average American Christian. The second section of the book ponders that mystical concept of “a priesthood of believers.” He stakes his claim that all Christians should make disciples, and challenges the professionals (like pastors and church administrators) to equip the average person sitting in the stadium seating (or the pew, you get the idea) to be a part of God’s purposes in the places where they work and live and play.

Let me tell you a little about the word radical. It comes from the late 14th century and typically meant “of or having roots,” which was derived from the Latin word radix or “root.” By the 1650’s the meaning had shifted to incorporate the idea of “going to the origin, or essentials.” It was not until the 1920s that the meaning of “unconventional” arose, and this eventually transformed into the 1970s surfer slang meaning “at the limits of control,” (you can double check me here). In particular, I like how Noah Webster defined the word: “Pertaining to the root or origin; original; fundamental; as a radical truth or error; a radical evil; a radical difference of opinions or systems.”

I think it is in this Websterian sense (and that of the oldest uses of the word) that Platt is using the word. If his ideas are “unconventional” to Christians, it is only because they have bought into the wrong conventions (which is of course the occasion of the work).

Platt’s works are a necessary thing right now for American Christianity. While I would typically advocate for reading his longer, more comprehensive works, this little gem is a wonderful introduction. Maybe you’re not sure you buy into all this “leaving everything for Jesus” thing? This is a good place to start. Perhaps you think Christianity is archaic and too stuck in the culture? Platt has an answer for that in his tiny tome. In truth, this is an ideal primer for anyone who thinks their faith is lacking, or knows someone who may need that extra push to get off the bench of God’s purposes and into the game.

Give it a look, or give it to a friend. It will be money well spent.

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Are You A Good Christ?

This is an article that you can read here. I don’t typically repost entire articles like this, but I thought Chan’s musing were worth the read.

ARE YOU A GOOD CHRIST?

By Francis Chan

I think it’s time we stop asking ourselves the question: “Am I a good Christian?” We live in a time when the term “Christian” has been so diluted that millions of immoral but nice people genuinely consider themselves “good Christians.” We have reduced the idea of a good Christian to someone who believes in Jesus, loves his or her family, and attends church regularly. Others will label you a good Christian even though your life has no semblance to the way Christ spent His days on earth. Perhaps we should start asking the question: “Am I a good Christ?” In other words, do I look anything like Jesus? This question never even entered my mind until a friend of mine made a passing comment to me one day.

Dan is a long time friend of mine. In fact, he’s the pastor who performed my wedding. He was talking to me about a pastor named Von. Von has been working with youth in the San Diego area for decades. Many of his students have gone on to become amazing missionaries and powerful servants of God. Dan described a trip to Tijuana, Mexico with Pastor Von. (Von has been ministering to the poor in the dumps of Tijuana for years). Dan didn’t speak of the awful living conditions of those who made their homes amidst the rubbish. What impacted Dan the most was the relationship he saw between Von and the people of this community. He spoke of the compassion, sacrifice, and love that he witnessed in Von’s words and actions as he held these malnourished and un-bathed children. Then he made the statement that sent me reeling:

“The day I spent with Von was the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to walking with Jesus.”

Dan explained that the whole experience was so eerie because he kept thinking to himself: “If Jesus were still walking on earth in the flesh, this is what it would feel like to walk alongside of Him!” After that discussion, I kept wondering if anyone had ever said that about me-“The day I spent with Francis was the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to walking with Jesus.” The answer was an obvious “no.” Would any honest person say that about you?

What bothered me was not that I hadn’t “arrived,” but that I wasn’t even heading in the right direction. I hadn’t made it my goal to resemble Christ. I wasn’t striving to become the kind of person who could be mistaken for Jesus Christ. Isn’t it ironic that a man can be known as a successful pastor, speaker, and CHRISTian even if his life doesn’t resemble Christ’s?

1 John 2:6 “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”

When John made that statement, he wasn’t speaking about how to be a church leader or even how to be a “good” Christian. He merely stated that anyone who calls himself Christian must live like Jesus did. So how did Jesus live? You could make a list of character traits to compare yourself to, but it would be far more beneficial to simply read through one of the Gospels. After you get a bird’s-eye view of the life of Christ, do the same with your own. Are you comfortable with the similarities and differences?

It’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of “success” as American church-goers define it. The thought of being well-known and respected is alluring. There have been times when I’ve been caught up in the fun of popularity. I’ve even mistaken it for success. Biblically, however, success is when our lives parallel Christ’s. Truth is, there are many good Christs that you’ll never read about in a magazine. They are walking as Jesus walked, but they are too focused and humble to pursue their own recognition.

We make it our goal to someday have someone say of us: “The day/hour/15 minutes I spent with ______ was the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to walking with Jesus.”

As Christians in America, we often complain about how antagonistic people are toward Christ. Personally, I’m not sure that Americans are really rejecting Christ. They just haven’t seen Him.

Try to be COMPLETELY honest with yourself right now. Is the following true of you?

You passionately love Jesus, but you don’t really want to be like Him. You admire His humility, but you don’t want to be THAT humble. You think it’s beautiful that He washed the feet of the disciples, but that’s not exactly the direction your life is headed. You’re thankful He was spit upon and abused, but you would never let that happen to you. You praise Him for loving you enough to suffer during His whole time on earth, but you’re going to do everything within your power to make sure you enjoy your time down here.

In short: You think He’s a great Savior, but not a great role model.

The American church has abandoned the most simple and obvious truth of what it means to follow Jesus: You actually follow His pattern of life. I pray for those who read this article- that we don’t become cynical or negative toward the church. Instead, let’s make a personal decision to stop talking so much and begin living like Jesus. Then we can say as the apostle Paul, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). My guess is that you’ve never had someone say that to you, and you’ve never said it to anyone else. Why Not?

Scattered Shots

There’s been a lot of things rolling around in the ol’ noggin here lately. Stuff about Genesis, like this discussion here. Or the huge blindspots I feel exist in the potiical climate this year, like these things for example. But ultimately, what really got me thinking was a discussion my wife and I had.

I’m working through this book, so that I can have an intelligent discussion about it with a recent high school graduate. And it made a point that my wife and I thought worth contemplating: is the Cross the foundation for our faith?

It’s a trick question mind you, because the Cross is only one part of the foundation of our faith. After all, the Cross without the Empty Tomb is still death. But we discussed it for some time and I pondered whether or not I would seem odd for such a thought amongst my friends and co-workers.

And all of this reminded me of a video I saw recently. It’s worth two minutes of your time:

I totally get what Chan is saying, or at least I think I do. Gathering together matters, not only because it keeps us on mission, but quite frankly it keeps us from heresy too. Christ is clear, “For when two or three gather together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” However, just because something is good, doesn’t mean it is the point.

There are so many days as of late where I wish I could throw everything to the wind and love mercy, doing justice in the process, all while walking humbly before my God. And I am convinced that along the way I would encounter, just like Elijah of old, all the others who have heard the Lord’s calling to the hard things and stepped up.

I want to be on the front lines of IJM or Living Water. I want to get my hands dirty, and rub shoulders with the people God loves, and who love Him, through the process.

But right now, the hard things boil down to being a light where I’m at; to being a good husband, and a gracious dad. Sometimes, I need to be reminded of that. Still, I look for those souls who enkindle the same spark in me that I hope I spark in others: seek God, and obey Him.

Maybe tomorrow…

I’ve been thinking about Christians.

I know a guy who God used in amazing ways. But not anymore. He’s just a statistic now; one more person who amounted to nothing. Nothing sounds harsh, but I think it’s true. He told me once,

You cannot repair the irreparable mistakes of today by yielding to God tomorrow.

Profound. True. And sadly, proven by his life. This is what is most tragic though: who remembers and talks about the things God did through him before he showed that he was just like everyone else? I mean, God moved people through his words and showed people His love by this man’s actions. But now it’s all forgotten, or pushed to the back, because he did some selfish things.

It’s like Thomas, from the Gospels. Here is a guy who said he would follow Jesus to death, who told the other disciples “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.” But that’s not what he is remembered for. No, he’s called doubting Thomas, because he needed to touch Jesus (his friend who he saw crucified) in order to believe he had come back from the dead. That’s something many people today, who did not see Jesus crucified still find difficult to believe. But he’s doubting Thomas.

See, eventually, we all become a statistic. Somehow, we screw up, and everything God ever did through us vanishes. Just like that. Gone.

A friend was showing me this Francis Chan video where this guy talked about how awesome it would be if a church were to just buy a field and meet there and quit wasting money on buildings (which I think is probably the best idea I’ve ever heard), yet all I could think about was, “what happens when he becomes a statistic?” Then we heard a sermon from Craig Groeschel, and the same thought emerged. And the truth is I think anything God has ever done through them would be relegated to pointless blogs and sparse memories from people who used to have hope in the Church.

What’s funny is I used to want to be these guys. I used to want to teach God’s word and show people how awesome I think God is. But the truth is I wouldn’t stand a chance. I’d become a statistic. And I’d hate that more than anything.

Of course, I might be wrong. Maybe I just have a headache. Maybe I’m just grumpy as a result. Maybe tomorrow will look different.