Friday, August 2, 2013

Why I'm Not Sold Out On "Radical"

     I’m not Sold Out on Radical. What I mean is I am not an adherent to the philosophy that Christians are not fulfilling the Great Commission if they never have their lives threatened and have never gone to a foreign country to spread the gospel. I am not an adherent the idea that modern American Christians must live ascetic lifestyles in order to be fully in Christ.
     What does this pertain the word "Radical?" The book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream by David Platt has sold over 750,000 copies since 2010. The advertised synopsis emphasizes the idea that American Christians have become too comfortable as they pursue the American Dream. This idea, which I whole-heartedly agree with, does not result in the applications I have found to be scriptural. The majority of the book is a case study of Platt’s life experiences as a globe-trotting missionary/pastor of a mega-church with a weekly attendance of over 4,300 (as of 2006). The applications he gleans from his experiences are often extremely insightful and should definitely be taken to heart, but problems arise from the universal nature of his charges and challenges.
     All Christians are not called into full time ministry (being defined as your occupation: be it pastor, elder, foreign residential missionary, minister… what have you). All Christians aren’t even called to leave the country. The part of the Great Commission directing people to go to all the nations was a church directive, not an individual’s directive. Every Christian will bear Christ’s image (the Great Commission is not only a command, but a prophecy), but the where and how is determined best by the calling God has given every individual. The idea that if one doesn’t go to China or the Middle East and have their lives threatened is not scriptural. But neither is the idea that we can sit at home, watch TV and eat Doritos all day and have a healthy spiritual life. Each Christian has a different calling. David Platt obviously has been blessed with a tremendous passion and the skills necessary to be an incredible proselytizer, but on the other side of the token a man like David Nobel is not called to be a proselytizer, he is called to be a teacher and to minister to the spiritual development of those already saved, and he also has an incredible influence in that area. There is no "ideal" Christian. Paul (the epitome of spiritual leadership, both in the spreading of the gospel and the support of Christians), under the influence of the Holy Spirit, says that “[Christ] gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.” Christians don’t have a picture of what a "perfect Christian" looks like (in terms of vocation) because we are all blessed with different callings and skills that are harmful when used improperly.
     So, my biggest beef with Radical is not his call to stop settling for the mediocre Americanized version of Christianity, which I completely agree is something that needs to change, but rather his universal applications of his personal calling. A woman in Christ who is called to be a mother and “train up a child in the way he should go” loses all capability to follow her calling (or feels extremely guilty doing so) if Platt is right in his assumption that all Christians are to live "Radically."

     I am going to stick this passage (1 Corinthians 12:12-30) on the end, because I believe that frequently we desire to be the hand, instead of the arm, or the foot instead of the eye, or the mouth instead of the ear. We all have specific purposes in the Body of Christ. We are not all of one type, but a myriad of types and giftings specifically orchestrated to serve the Body in the best way possible.

     12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not one member but many.
     15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be?
     20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it,25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

     27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?

Leaping Lizard


  1. Good post. However, you left a few unanswered questions in my mind, I have read Radical, so I do know what the book says. First question: if not every Christisn is called to be a missionary and share the gospel with the unsaved, what ARE we supposed to do? Second: what do you do with Jesus' Great Commission if we aren't supposed to share the gospel because "we've all been different gifts"?

    I think you're reading the book slightly wrong. Yes, he STRONGLY encourages foreign missions, and that is needed. (In our denomination, there are 68 full time missionaries. 68!!!! That's pathetic!) Yet, he records many instances where people are "home" missionaries. He is himself a home missionary. Yes, we need people to build up, teach, and edify the current body of Christ, but we need them to teach them how to reach the lost. That's what the job of the church has always been!
    Okay. Enough of my ramble. :-P I'm just curious as to what your answer to the above two questions is. :-)


  2. Hey Jael,

    Thanks for your comment! I'd be happy to try and answer your questions. :D
    In response to your questions; I believe you don't have a distinction between sharing the gospel and being a missionary. Every single Christian is called to share the gospel; I'm sorry if that wasn't clear in my article. Every Christian is called to share the gospel, but not every Christian is called to be a missionary. The way you live your life will tell others about you, and by extension your faith. Being "blameless and above reproach" is a daily goal for every Christian. By living as Christ we share the gospel. In addition to proclaiming Christ through our actions, we also need to proclaim him through our words. The checkout lady, the waiter, the random guy you're sitting next to waiting to get your haircut. These are all people that we should be sharing the gospel with. If you aren't in vocational missions, that doesn't give you a free pass to not share the gospel on a daily basis.
    The point of my article was not to dissuade people from living in a manner worthy of the calling they have received, and proclaiming Christ. Quite the opposite actually.
    As a body of believers, I believe the American Church has become boxed into this false notion that one has to be on a mission trip (ie leave home) or in vocational ministry in order to be fulfilling God's calling in their lives. Which is totally unfounded.
    Lydia was a cloth merchant. She didn't drop her business and start traveling the world with Paul. She stayed put and sold cloth. Lydia was called to be cloth merchant. God had designed her so that she would be most effective in her service to the body of Christ through selling cloth.
    I'm going to point at the 1 Cor. passage again. Specifically verse 21:
    'And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”'
    For the purpose of illustration, the hands and feet can refer to vocational (ie as a full time job, with no major supplementary income) missionaries and head and eyes to business men and women, and those who serve to edify the body, *more* than (not to the exclusion of) the "winning" of souls.
    Each man must serve in the way God has called him. God's calling is unique for each and every individual, by trying to emulate another's calling we have problems. If there are five hands, that means there are three body parts missing. maybe they are eyes and ears, or a mouth. All extremely important parts of the body that can't be replaced. Also, the three extra hands won't be doing their job well. Especially if by doing the job of the hand, a person who has been called to be a hand doesn't see the need to execute his calling, because there are already enough people doing his "job."
    A successful business, home, church or body needs each of its parts to do their own jobs.

    I hope that answered your questions. :D

    All the Best,
    Leaping Lizard

  3. That answered my questions perfectly. It helped to know your definition of "missionary." ;-) Thank you for taking the time to answer.