Updated: Nov 21, 2019
I was pointed to a blog article by someone offering the opinion that the “radical” Christian life has become a new kind of legalism.
Is this true? The “radical” or “missional” model pushes believers to show their commitment to Christ in radical sorts of ways. It could go so far as to state that Christians don’t need some special call or calling to become missionaries, we already have that. All that’s left, then, is to act on it by selling our worldly houses and goods and to move overseas, preferably to a dangerous, limited access, unreached people group. The “missional” drum beaters hold that the comfortable middle class life should be set aside to participate in sacrificial outreach, hospitality for the sake of witness, ministry to the outcast, the down-and-outers, the “unreached” in our midst. “Missional” people are ready to seel suburbia to move to urban settings, where “real life” lives.
It’s kind of ironic and funny that “missional” people don’t really understand “radical” people, and vice versa. That’s because their actual ministry end goals are so different. “Missional” is “transformational” (they say) and local. It is in fact, in my perspective, a reincarnation of the “church growth” movement of the 1980s, only without the buildings and real estate. “Radical” is entirely aimed at the unreached and unengaged people group concept toward fulfillment of the Great Commission. Without some softening of the hard edges, “radical” people should all aspire to move overseas, whether short term or long term, and seek the least accessible places to the Gospel for the sake of Christ.
I don’t think “legalism” is the right word. Maybe “elitism”. Nevertheless, the accusing blogger makes an OK point from the view of someone who is outside the “radical” camp. And I can see where he gets it. The Radical book was later tempered a bit by the Radical Together book.
The call to be missional or a missions-minded should not mean that a “normal” life is short on spiritually. However, the real point is that so many Christians are simply pursuing their own selfish “American Dream” and not acting like “world Christians.” A World Christian can live in the suburbs, get married young, have kids, etc., and still own the fulfillment of the Great Commission as a motivating factor for how they spend their money, what lifestyle choices they make, etc. for the furtherance of the Gospel. I certainly don’t think that regular Christians should uproot and move overseas, or even to urban contexts. We need lots and lots of World Christians who will pray and give generously for those few truly set-apart, cross-culturally trained representatives of the church who do give up “normal” life to take the Gospel to the unreached.
I have experienced that sting of criticism from the committed Acts 29 types and “house church” “missional” folk who judge a normal church for being too uncommitted and not radical enough in outreach. That’s a pendulum swing too far. The truth is in the balance. We need to challenge folks to put Christ and His Kingdom first in their lives, including lifestyle choices of sacrifice and generosity of time, talent, and treasure to support missions. But, it is a mistake to judge those who don’t go on a rugged, pioneering missions trip or relocate to some missional context as second-class spirituality.
To apply my own oft-repeated cliche: “It’s not a problem; it’s a teaching opportunity.”