Confessions Of An Ordinary Non Radical Christian

Antony Bradley, in a recent World Mag article, makes a relevant point. I don’t know if I agree with all of Bradley’s conclusions surrounding David Platt’s “Radical”, but I love this verse he expounds on:

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, (1 Thess 4:10-11)

Other than the pet sins of lust and laziness, this is what I’ve struggled with more and more through out my adult years: Living an ordinary life. In our culture, there is a consistent torrential message of “living dreams”, “being awesome” and “setting the world on fire.” The general message is the people who do something extra ordinary (as culture dictates) in their life are the only ones not wasting their vapor. And, meanwhile, everyone else is regulated to spectators of this greatness.

At nineteen I had delusions of “conference headlining”, “bestselling books”, and “mission trip leading” grandeur. Now at twenty-nine I just want to see my famiy protected and provided for and my two boys fall in love with Jesus,,. and maybe at night catch a “Frasier” re-run with my wife. I’m woefully aware of how un extraordinary that sounds.

The church has adopted this same fervor with varying results. When I first became a Christian the common catchphrase was being “sold out.” Being sold out was usually directly correlated to how many people you witnessed to or invited to church. I’d be at visitation on Monday night, youth group on Wednesday night, and worship service twice on every Sunday. I was found at every lock in, mission trip, and ancillary bible study on the bulletin.

I was on point.

The tides have shifted slightly since then, but our fascination with extra biblical catchwords hasn’t. Now the focus is less directly church related and more about being “missional” or “radical.” Church folk, to express with greater accuracy the life of Christ in Scripture, are now beckoned out of the church walls to: adopt a third world child, start an inner city ministry, or go live amongst the tribal guerillas of the Congo.

There is definitely something to be said of souls committed to local church bodies and international missions. But these catchwords can muddle our spiritual vision and make us tragically far-sighted.

I can attempt with grand boldness to save the world and yet lose my family. This can easily happen if I’m so enamored with the extraordinary call of reaching the lost out there that I neglect the extraordinary call of sacrificial love for my wife and little fallen boys in my home. The ordinary faithful life needs to be lived by the Christian, even the Christian called to the “comfortable” suburbs: Doing quality work at whatever job, paying the bills, protecting family dinner time, replacing light bulbs, sowing gospel seeds into one church.

Paul says strive to live “quietly”, while working and minding our own business. So much of missional/radical Christianity tells us to make the biggest counter cultural splash we can muster with our message and medium and life. But what of the small town boy who gets married at 19, has three kids by 25, and works as a car mechanic until his last days on earth? What of quiet faithfulness to a small family, a small church, and a small community for 50 years?

What if he likes Sarah Palin and spends his whole life voting Republican?

Can our modern artsy narcissistic hipster sensibilities handle all this?

Missional Christianity will probably only celebrate the life of that mechanic if he writes a book on missional life, starts a conference with missional headliners, adopts 15 Chinese children, or dies in an Indian leper colony.

Cause I mean, his family is kinda boring but social justice is the new Nintendo, right?

But the meaning of extraordinary should get turned on its head. It’s more extraordinary to be faithful to one wife until death than write a New York Times bestselling book on marriage. It’s more extraordinary to pour your love and leadership into your two children than lead a mega conference on parenting. Sometimes, it takes more spiritual backbone to share Christ to your nameless suburban neighbor across the street than confront a demon possessed Shaman in an African jungle.

So here’s where we are at: In the tenuous position between two ditches, balancing the commands of Christ the best we can. To not be overcome by the toxic materialistic fragrance of the American Dream on one side. And to not be discouraged by the heavy legalistic demands of radical/missional/sold out Christianity on the other.

To live faithfully in the ordinary

is the new extraordinary.

Where grace is the center and that is the only thing that will keep us from falling. Whether it happens to be in small towns, inner cities, suburbs, or third world ghettos.

Bryan Daniels

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Author: Bryan Daniels

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband to Jessica, and a father of three boys: Josiah, Gideon and Judah. I teach high school math as a job, read reformed theology as a hobby, and write this blog just for kicks. With the rest of my time I coach football and track.

19 thoughts on “Confessions Of An Ordinary Non Radical Christian”

  1. I really don’t like the word “missional.” Partly because it’s not a word. The “church” made it up. While we’re talking about those catchwords, I also don’t like the current buzzword, “intentional.” It’s like I’m going to do some “accidental” praying? Or live “accidentally?”

    On the other hand, I have struggled with the same thoughts, thinking I haven’t done anything of great value for the Lord. My wife reminds me that I’ve been a pretty good husband and father. Turns out, there’s a lot to be said for living an ordinary life.

  2. You’ve brought up something really important. We aren’t all called to set the world on fire. Sometimes we’re simply called to minister as He would have us in whatever regard that may be. It is challenging to simply take care of one’s own and if one cannot do that well, one better get back to basics. Charity begins at home and branches outward from there! Great posting, Bryan!

  3. Thanks for your thoughts on this. I can’t say I totally agree with Anthony Bradley’s post, but I get his heart in it. It’s just we too easily default to “bare minimum” even in our legalism, and people are actually more bored without purpose than what Bradley is portraying. But needed words all around.

    1. Yeah, I think he was a little too harsh on Platt. Yet there has to be a way to give people a larger vision of their life without the inevitable shame techniques that follow. A vision that shows being faithful in the little normal things is really a big thing.

      1. Yes. I thought Radical was a great book, and while it did go into some shame-territory, I could feel Platt’s passion and concern. A funny thing too: his challenges in the closing chapter are rather tame suggestions, and a lot of the Amazon reviews complain that Platt went too easy on the practical advice. So I probably wouldn’t be so hard on Platt but rather on the shaming subculture that has sprouted around him.

  4. Darn I wanted to a write a post on the “live quietly” verse but you got there before me. Although I appreciate the passion these catch phrases stir up, I don’t appreciate that that passion seems never to amount to anything. It’s not biblical to “live out loud” and “set a generation on fire” and all this nonsense. Of course these phrases can have alternate meanings like, “you should always live and talk in such a way that models Jesus”–but do the kids getting wrapped up in this really think that’s where it stops? Yes we should do our best to reach the world and model Jesus and make disciples…but not all of us are gifted to endure the jungle, and disciples take more time to make than most leaders are willing to admit.

  5. It really does come down to our definition of extraordinary living. Platt’s charge, and that of others like him, to make the most of our Christian experience is crucial to avoid living a life that it boring. A boring Christian life does us (and God) no good.
    But, this article does bring out our need to be radical in a Jesus way, which is a good distinction. Taking great steps of faith to please Christians is a false pursuit (that’s the shame thing), but not pursuing greatness to counteract that potential is just as silly (that’s the cowardly/lazy thing).
    I’m all for helping Christian adults to be more engaged with their divine purpose because maturity shouldn’t extinguish the uninformed passions of youth. Rather, it should redirect them with godly wisdom so that they can flourish.
    Thanks for sharing this, Bryan.

    1. Absolutely man. It seems like Platt and others are actually — surprisingly — trying to play on a worldly definition of “radical.” But even a quiet, humble Christian life is radical in the true sense: the Christian’s worth ethic is not the world’s, his belief’s are not the world’s, his discipline and conduct is not like the world’s, he does not desire the things of the world. Christians are to be gracious and caring to all no matter what the circumstance. We’re commanded not just to preach the gospel but to snag individuals and invest in their lives to make out of them true disciples of Jesus Christ. That’s the utter antithesis to the culture of the world. What is more radical than that?

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