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How Radical is “Radical”? February 28, 2011

Filed under: faith,goals — Elizabeth @ 2:34 PM

What church do you go to? the woman asked me.

When she heard my response, she said, oh, yes, that big church.  I’ve heard that’s a cult.  I’ve heard that your pastor tells you to sell everything you have and give the money away. Her friends all nodded in excited agreement.

Not exactly, I reply, it was actually Jesus who said that.

That conversation happened to me last year.  You see, there are (at least) 2 megachurches here in our city, and I go to one of themDavid Platt pastors the other, and he is the author of “Radical“.

When I heard about the book, I was intrigued.  I have only heard David Platt (an adoptive father, by the way) speak once, but I was hooked.  It was a simple fluke that we tried out our current church first and fell in love, because I think we would also find his congregation to be a good fit for our family.  Anyway, after hearing about the book, I wondered how radical it really was.  Was it going to freak me out?  Was I going to be terribly convicted?  Was I going to read it and then uproot my family and become a missionary?

Since I had so many people tell me it was on their list to read or ask me if it was worth reading, I decided to give you my take on the book.

First of all, I would say that the radical-ness of the book is pretty subjective.  It depends on where you stand in your beliefs already.  It depends what you are hearing from the pulpit of your current church (personally, I enjoy feeling challenged to always do more/be more/give more by my pastor.  Does it mean that sometimes I say to myself “ouch” when he is preaching?  Yes.  Is that a good thing?  Yes).  It depends on the attitude you have when you read the Bible (do you take it for what it says or interpret it in a way that suits your situation?  do you tell you yourself that the rules do not apply today?).

The woman who told me I was in a cult would probably find this book incredibly radical.  As an aside, I later realized that she probably thinks I attend David Platt’s church and someone has told her that he wrote a book telling people to sell all of their belongings and give the money away.  Well, I heard, and she said, and blah, blah, blah. A classic example of misinformation.

The gist of the book, for those of you who aren’t familiar, is rediscovering what Jesus ACTUALLY said about being his disciple.  Hint:  he did say to give everything away.  The book discusses how some modern-day Christians  have manipulated the Bible to fit our preferences.

The book was eye-opening to me, especially in a few ways.  You might read it and be blown away by many other parts, but I will touch on some of my bigger takeaways (and forgive me for not having any quotes from the book to share, but I had to return it to the library.  Y’all know I was getting late fees on that thing!  $1.95??  Enough is enough!).

First of all, we are told to go into ALL THE WORLD and preach the gospel.  I know that.  I learned that in Sunday school!

But, I really had lulled myself into a sense of complacency, telling myself that some people were called to be missionaries.  Bull.  We are ALL called to be missionaries.  And then I might even have told myself that’s fine, but I’m not really feeling comfortable enough led to get on a plane and go somewhere on a mission trip.  I will just be a missionary in my own city.  (Ask me how that local missionary thing was going, and I wouldn’t really have an answer for you.  Ahem.)  And the local missionary thing is all fine and good–great even!  We should be a light to those around us, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t also called to GO.

Here’s a little secret.  I’ve never wanted to GO.

But my eyes were opened to the fact that it wasn’t about if I was comfortable with that or if it fit into my schedule.

One of the other big points in the book (and a part of the Radical Experiment at the end of the book) is to give (we are talking money and time here).  Okay, I’m totally fine with that.  Not just to give though–give sacrificially, like until it hurts.  Like maybe even set a dollar amount that your family can survive on and give everything else away.  Every penny you ever make over that number.  EVERYTHING ELSE.

That’s radical.

You know what though?  It’s also biblical.

Now you could take that idea and twist it and call it crazy.  This suggestion (and it is absolutely NOT a one size fits all type of thing, but rather you should pray about this and see what God is telling you to do) is much more fleshed out in the book, and much more eloquently discussed, and it absolutely allows for saving responsibly, etc, etc.  But that’s the gist of it.

And like I said, we give.  We give, and we get complacent in our giving.  Our church has been a church for 10 years and in that time, they have donated over $10 million to worldwide missions.  I see that number and I sprain my shoulder patting myself on the back and I think, I am doing something for worldwide missions

But I’ve never been on a mission trip.

Our church has opened a free medical clinic in the inner city and I tell myself, I am a part of that–my money helped do that!

But I have never driven down there and seen it for myself, much less volunteered there.

There are two lessons in that.  One–people need more than my money.  They need me, they need my compassion, they need my time, and I need to be the hands and feet out there doing things.  Two–even though I do give, it still isn’t enough.  Do I seriously need another pair of shoes when there are others dying of starvation?  Seriously?

So after I read this book, I began to think of how the Radical Experiment (there is much more to it than I have discussed here) would look lived out in my life.  I started discussing these ideas with Jason and wondering if we gave more (of our time and our money), where would we give it, how would we manage, how would that look?

My first thought was that I need to get going locally.  Donate my time, doing some sort of outreach HERE, in my own backyard.  So I found a local DHR girls home in our area that is in need of tutors and mentors for the girls living there.  I have signed on to be both, and I’m waiting for all of my background checks and fingerprints (think adoption homestudy all over again!) to come back so I can get started.  Then my awesome small group leader set up a Saturday for us to serve lunch at a local homeless shelter.  I would love it if this could be a regular thing for our group.  I am so glad for the opportunity and really have a renewed desire to make a difference in my community.

As Jason and I talked about financial giving and mission trips, it did seem a bit overwhelming at first.  We were both on board but we didn’t know exactly where to begin.  Out of the blue, Jason received some information–he found out that he was going to start getting paid for some work that he currently does (and has been doing for years) as a volunteer.  What a surprise!

Our first instinct was to spend it on ourselves.  Literally, you could hear the wheels turning as we both made plans of everything we needed wanted.

Then I realized–this is our chance.  This is a sign.  So, we have decided to take every penny of this extra money and save it up.  Our goal is to use it to take a mission trip next year or to find a need that is close to our hearts and give it away.

Is that radical?  You tell me.


13 Responses to “How Radical is “Radical”?”

  1. Meredith Says:

    I think that is a great idea for your extra cash! Would love to hear of any volunteer efforts you hear of. We were working with a group feeding on the weekends at the Firehouse shelter and this year we were informed the group would no longer be a “group” . I have been wanting to find something since!

  2. Mom Says:

    Jesus was radical (according to the “world”) and he calls us to be also! This world is not our home, we are only passing through. When you go on a mission trip, you will never again be the same.

  3. Christy Says:

    I really should read that. Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. Kristen Says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, its on my (long) list of books to read.

    Every time I hear someone talk about it, I find myself feeling a bit uncomfortable, which is why I know I need to read it. I think its so important to challenge ourselves spiritually and it’s so awesome all the ways you’re doing that as a result of reading this book!

  5. Joyce N. Ingram Says:

    You are so inspiring. Ronnie and I have went on one mission trip and hope to go on another one someday. I will be thinking about you as you make this commitment to take that step. I need to read this as I would like to give more. I have always tithe, but don’t feel like we are giving until we go over and beyond that part. I need to be a better example of Christian love. Thanks for the influence you have on my life.

  6. Really nice! Love that you are looking towards being involved in a mission work. One thing that attracted DH and I to each other was that we were both involved in missions. Right now I am a scaredy cat about flying (thank you, 9-11) so DH has been the one traveling. This year he took our oldest with him to Guadalcanal. It was our son’s first trip and he’s talking about going back there this summer, without any pressure from us. 🙂

  7. Grace Says:

    my husband just read that and is feeling very similarly…i need to read it, too, but honestly, i’m kinda scared. we just finished the “hole in our gospel” and even that was super duper challenging. i think “radical” will be a serious swift kick in the pants. in the best way possible. 😉

  8. Jenny Says:

    loved this, just the other day I asked a friend, but do you find Radical, radical? So it was interesting to read your take. My first (and only international) mission trip change my whole world view and really I think played a huge role in adopting internationally. So looking forward to seeing what God is doing in your life!

  9. Lori Says:

    We have some small groups doing radical right now and our church is lapping it UP! Of course, we are some mission trip LOVING people. I’m actually going to Haiti in May (or possibly June) and I CANNOT WAIT!! As far as the other part of radical, it’s probably why I haven’t read the book yet:) And really, the mission trip thing is not difficult for me – I love it – I’d go wherever and whenever if I could. But the giving – yes, we give but not in any way that hurts us. And I certainly don’t do without something I want to give to others and you’re right – Jesus said it so why don’t we do it? I could go on and on about this topic, but at the end of the day, I just have to admit that I don’t want to do what Jesus said to do. It’s such an encouragement to see God is showing you specific ways to be on mission with Him after you made a decision to be obedient so thanks for that! And I would HIGHLY recommend the book “Same Kind of Different As You” if you haven’t read it yet!

  10. I love how I can FEEL your excitement, your invigorated spirit, your utter desire to do good! It just oozes out of your writing!
    It’s interesting because I’m Buddhist and clearly, this is a Christian book you’ve read. So at first, I even considered skipping reading this post b/c even when I was a Christian, mission-y type stuff always turned me off. But I quickly overturned the thought to skip it, saying “whoa! That’s totally the wrong spirit to have here!”
    And after reading your (always) eloquent writing, a smile spread across my face. I’m so happy for you to be finding this renewed generosity inside yourself. Is it radical? Only because our society is full of complacent people who stay within the confines of their own comfort zones and don’t follow their beliefs with total conviction. So “radical” isn’t the word I’d use… more like “inspired” or “what *every* passionate person should do to make the world a better place.”
    Your conversation with the woman made me cringe. People can be so incredibly closed-minded and scared of things they’re not familiar with. It’s up to those of us with passion and conviction to lead the way, live better lives, and drag the rest of the world (even if it’s kicking and screaming) with us.
    Good on you 🙂

  11. Jen Says:

    Girl, you should have told that woman that they serve Kool-Aid at your church now, because they were tired of waiting for the Hale Bopp comet to return! Seriously, the ignorance of people can be astounding these days. No doubt these are the same ignoramuses who ask why did we adopt our children, as if it is their business!!

    As far as following the Bible word for word, I try to remember that it is not a literal account but rather stories passed down and translated. But the spirit of the Bible is what the world is missing today (myself included). I think that, even though we are not prepared to go on a mission trip right now, with our two toddlers, when the time comes, I will definitely look into going to a mission to Vietnam. How beautiful to give back to the country that gave me my world and my reason for being! To celebrate important events, I try to donate to an orphanage in Vietnam to help the children there. But we could, and should, do more.

  12. Becky Says:

    I just finished reading Radical on Monday! It is not radical in the sense that is exactly what Jesus taught, but it is in the sense that radical change needs to happen in the Church in America and in my own life. I am hoping/praying my hubby will also read it and be inspired to take up the one year challenge. I had not realized how much sin had crept into my heart in terms of lust for luxury and comfort, especially when it comes to our house. The house we now live in is the second house we have lived in during our marriage (we lived in apartments initially). Recently, I have grown discontent with our home and have begun desiring to move into a larger place, and even envisioning ourselves in a much larger and nicer place when we move this summer. I was really convicted about all this after reading the book. We have more than enough now. At the very least I would like to put a cap on what we have now and choose to move to a place that would not require us to buy any more furniture to fill up additional rooms (other than what we need for Joshua). But what a battle it is as I begin to look at potential houses!

  13. meryl rose Says:

    Really funny (the parts that are supposed to be funny, that is)! Love the honeymoon comment, but … even more classic was what you wrote to your Mom about it. You are gifted.

    Thanks for the recommendation on Girl in Translation (I think that was you); couldn’t put it down (though ending petered out, don’t you think).

    Anyway, thanks for the delightful writing.

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