Tag Archives: Christian life

The radicalness of ordinary

The best way to write a bestseller is to have a compelling, action-packed narrative. In the Christian market it seems the best route to take is to buck accepted wisdom, to tell everyone that what they thought was a good idea really isn’t and that what we should do is overhaul our lives.

This isn’t exactly a new phenomenon, nor is it particularly wrong in itself to call to attention traditional practices of Christians that legitimately do need to be changed. Martin Luther was arguable one of the first christian bestsellers, and for a good reason. His books were lengthy and detailed. Luther wanted to convince his readers of the truthfulness of his position.

Today, however, I wonder if much of what passes for christian literature, is not meant (or otherwise merely has the effect of) producing an emotional reaction.

Take the grandfather of what I’ll call “get busy for Jesus” books. Charles Sheldon wrote In His Steps around the turn of the 19th century in order to encourage his readers to ask the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” The intent of the question is sound, to encourage people to be courageous Christians, but the method is wholly existential. In order to answer the question one is asked to, at some level, pretend they are Jesus. The result is that the answer to what Jesus would do turns out to be whatever the one asking the question subjectively decides.

The alternate to this approach, in case you’re wondering, is to ask “what did Jesus do and say?” This is the difference between a deconstructive and an analytical approach to the acquisition of knowledge.

But that’s the problem. Luther wrote to impart knowledge. Sheldon wrote to impart an experience. And it is Sheldon’s intent that I find in many Christian bestsellers today.

Three modern variations come to mind. Henry Blackaby’s bible study, Experiencing God, Francis Chan’s Crazy Love, and David Platt’s Radical series. Each one has, at its core, a call to an experience. And each one, if closely analyzed, is inherently against the analytical approach to gaining knowledge.

Another common factor in these books is a call to “be radical”. To make sweeping wholesale changes, preferably without much analysis or forethought. Not only is this reckless, but it runs afoul of what Jesus taught about carefully calculating the cost of any decision we make.

Sometimes radical changes are necessary. But more often than not they are merely destructive and should be avoided in favor of slow and gradual change.

One of Luther’s radical conclusions was that the normal, average person was important. That even the most ordinary work could be glorifying to God. That one didn’t need to be a rock-star in order to have an impact on the world.

What is really radical are ordinary people doing ordinary things day after day. What is radical is a family that lasts. What is radical is a responsible financial plan that helps mitigate unforeseen circumstances while allowing for a slow and steady accumulation of wealth to be handed down to subsequent generations.

Here are a couple of other great reviews of David Platt’s Radical:

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What does it mean to be a “good Christian man”?

Close your eyes for a minute and try to picture the model Christian man. Chances are you’ll envision someone who is meek, mild, quiet and complacent. Just like many deacons and elders in the average Church.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Well, for starters, it is far removed from the risk-taking, bold, and outspoken men we find in the Bible. True, many of those men made huge mistakes, but one thing that you can be certain of is that a man who takes no significant risks suffers no significant losses. He also enjoys no significant gains.

I believe that one of the reasons the church has largely become impotent. I base this observation on the lack of willingness by most men who identify themselves as Christians to diligently study and then stand up and defend what they claim to believe in.

A friend of mine who is a former Muslim, specifically a former member of the racially motivated Nation of Islam, described this lack of zeal this way. As a Muslim he was encouraged to learn not only correct Islamic doctrine, but also the doctrine and corresponding arguments both for and against their positions. They were also encouraged to actively engage everyone they came into contact with and to not shy away from agreements and debates.

Now you might say, well that’s unique to Muslims. Yes, it may be true that Islam happens to simply appeal to more aggressive men, after all Muhammad personally took part in the killings and savage warfare found in the early history of Islam.

However we need to also look at Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In fact, any religion or ideology that grows is watered and tended by men who are full of zeal for what they believe in.

Contrast this with the average deacon or elder we described above who is more apt to fight over the color of the carpet or whether to allow the youth to play their “new fangled” praise and worship music than they are to engage anyone in any real debate or discourse that just might persuade them of the truth they claim to have found for themselves.

Big difference, huh?

The difficulty with docile men

One of the central problems that has led to the current, broken, state of the church impotent is the rampant feminizing and belittling of masculine traits within the church’s own walls.1

What happens when you have an entire army made up of docile men? Typically you find natural masculine tendencies perverted and expressed in all kinds of ways that are generally unhealthy.

Instead of healthy debate and arguing you have backbiting and political games. Instead of fierce love of what one has been graciously given you have quiet resentment of what others have, schemes to get it, and attempts of murder (a la James) or assassination(mostly of the character variety) to get it.

The problem with docile men is that they end up destroying themselves rather than the enemy they were meant to fight.

The road ahead

One of the hard lessons I’ve learned (and re-learned) over the years is that the hallmark of real Christian men is their embrace of and perseverance through trials that naturally arise as they stand firm in their convictions.

One of the sad realities of the overly feminized world we live in is that often the masculine traits that can help lead us to grow and advance the kingdom of God are also the most belittled as “disruptive” and “divisive”.

Press on.

We, as Christian men, need to make a conscious decision to follow the examples of the men we find in the Bible. Good Christian men don’t sit idly by while those controversy swirls around them. They don’t bury their heads in the sand and pretend controversy doesn’t exist. They face it head-on because they are wholly committed to truth. In fact, they realize that the only road to unity is not through docile submission but through a ruthless commitment to truth. They realize that true love depends on it.

What the Church needs is a few good men.

  1. Here is a great lecture by Dr. Randy Stinson on the Feminization of the Church and here is a great collection of lectures on the subject from the excellent site, Faith By Hearing. Wintry Knight also has an excellent post on “Why Men Stay Away from the Feminized Church“ []