David Patt recently posted about looking back on Radical, the impact it has had, and the misconceptions it has spawned. I take from his post that in hindsight he would have rather sat down and personally taught through the material with every reader, rather than record it all in a book to be read independently for the reader to draw their own conclusions. I've written about this before in response to one criticism, that you cannot judge an author by the limits of a book's pagecount. But we critique anyway.
The recent swarm of debate was kicked off by a couple of articles. One in Christianity Today and the other in World Magazine; neither were particularly complimentary. And like with anything on the Internet (posts about Mark Driscoll or Rob Bell for example) a single shot fired results in a volley of replies. Here are just a sample from my reading list:
- Dan Darling: The Grace of Radical Ordinariness
- Jamie Arpin-Ricci: A Christianity Too Difficult (link is currently broken)
- Miguel Labrador: Am I Imposing My Giftings... On You?
- K Rex Butts: Missional and Radical Christianity: Necessary or Legalism?
- Matt Dabbs: A Fine Line Between Radical Faith and Legalism
- Dan Edelen: Radicalism and Reality
- Skye Jethani: Redefining Radical (part 2; part 1 is linked in the article)
- Jamal Jivanjee: Is Radical Really Radical?
It is possible to be a radical crazy Christian who is not just a fan of Jesus and who is all-in in their commitment to follow Christ while not fitting in that particular stereotype. You don't have to sell everything you own to be a "good" Christian.
Now let me be clear, Jesus did say "those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples." (Luke 14:33) I don't want to water that down. It is important to have this conviction. But it is just as important to define what "everything" is. Everything is not necessarily material possession; it includes time, energy and emotion; it costs relationships, hopes and dreams; and it is uncomfortable and will set you apart from the rest of the world. But that does not mean moving across the globe to spread the Gospel.
Looking back in my relatively short (read: naive) Christian walk, I have had several opportunities to be "radical". I remember regularly attending Cocaine Anonymous and hosting Thanksgiving dinner for a group of addicts. During that time I held weekly Bible studies in halfway houses. My wife and I ministered to single mothers. I have walked the streets to hand out food to the homeless. I held the hands of someone with AIDS and prayed fervently with tears running down both of our faces.
I don't list these things off to boast but to highlight that you never know where the opportunity to minister to another might arise. None of these were planned. None were expected. In fact every time I've tried to plan something along these lines, I have fallen flat on my face. Ministering to crack addicts was because of a relationship with a friend who needed support during a dark time. Serving single moms came about because of existing relationships. We would have one over for dinner, or watch another's kids while she interviewed for a job, and over time it evolved into so much more. Feeding the homeless has become a family tradition, and it wasn't even my idea! The victim of AIDS saw me in a restaurant studying the Bible with someone else and sought prayer and support.
Each of these were "radical". All of them happened in the course of my everyday life.
I haven't had a radical experience like these in a while. I could be legalistic and beat myself up over that, but I won't. I will instead pray that God opens my eyes to the radical opportunities right in front of me. I know they're there. They are there for you, too. You don't have to travel the globe to find them.
(Addendum: I should add that my examples are by no means exclusive. There are many other means not only to be "radical" but also "missional" in your day-to-day. One of our ministry staff coached his son's soccer team. I know many who frequently have neighbors over for dinner. I use my vanpool as an opportunity to share ministry activities and events. I could go on and on, and still not have to move to India.)