The link pointed to an article by Anthony Bradley titled “The ‘new legalism’” that included the subhead, “How the push to be ‘radical’ and ‘missional’ discourages ordinary people in ordinary places from doing ordinary things to the glory of God.”
Roger commented on the link saying, “Don't think you're ‘radical’ enough? Glorify God, no matter where you are placed, and you'll be just that.”
Some agreed. Some didn’t.
Radical versus the suburbanite
The term “radical” is a direct reference to the popular book by the same name authored by David Platt.
I’ve not read it yet, so I can’t really comment on its themes beyond how Bradley characterized them in his article. He claims those pushing the “radical” agenda have created an “unfortunate message” that says “you cannot live a meaningful Christian life in the suburbs.”
I have heard people speak to this and read articles in Christian periodicals that make this claim ring true.
I’ve also read a few books that were wrapped around the “missional” theme. Bradley labels the missional movement as being somewhat narcissistic. Not sure I agree, but that’s for another post.
In his article, Bradley seems to be claiming these themes merge into a movement for a kind of “radical Christianity” that pushes for every Christian to engage in dramatic, visible, vocal, very risk-taking actions. But they are doing so merely in a “reactionary” manner to what is viewed as a placid – and therefore somehow less than holy – suburban lifestyle.
Bradley is onto something but I'm not sure he realizes what it is.
Your faith is too loud
Growing up in a Pentecostal church, I was frequently faced with loud, fervent exhortations to, essentially, be Christian, well, louder. I was supposed to be more vocal about my faith, even to the point of being somewhat confrontational, or, as it were, radical.
I tried. God knows I tried.
But frankly, I didn’t feel fruitful as much as obnoxious in my attempts to turn up the volume. It was a manner of being faithful that just didn’t fit. Yet, I felt guilty and like I was failing. I thought something must be wrong with me.
Now I know better.
I’m an introvert. Introverts can be radical, but you probably wouldn’t notice it. We’re very quiet and low-key about it.
Bradley’s article kicked off with a reference to Paul’s directive given in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 to, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (NIV).
Bradley bristles at what he sees as the push of the missional radicalists against this call to quiet living.
Frankly, I think Bradley is right. And so are the missional radicalists.
It’s just that each is not right for everyone in the same ways.
The foolish battle for being the better
The rub here is that each of us is made “fearfully and wonderfully” in a variety of personalities and styles. A huge part of this was intentional and some is probably influenced by the Fall.
The upshot is that we are all different.
Some are extroverts. Some are introverts. But all are God’s people.
As Paul beautifully explained in 1 Corinthians 12, we are all part of one Body (Christ) and indwelt by one Spirit, and that “the body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body” (12:12, NIV).
The rub is that extroverts have little patience for us, their quieter brethren, while we introverts find them very off-putting.
The truth is that we need each other and it would be helpful to really understand this truth.
Be joyfully who you are as He made you
As an introvert, I have no reason to feel guilty about not being drawn to more in-your-face types of ministry. I can be quite effective in many other, quieter, more solitary ways.
It’s not that I can’t get up and deliver a sermon or do a bit of face-to-face evangelism – I’ve done both and more – it’s just that these are not what I’ve been primarily SHAPEd* for and they exhaust me. Although, I'd take the preaching over the door-to-door any day!
(*SHAPE is a great acronym about which you can read more here: Who you were is okay – in Christ.)
In fact, as an aside, while many deride the existence of a variety of different churches, I see it differently. The proliferation of churches is, in part, an expression of the diversity of believers. The variety ensures that there is a church for everyone to plug into. It means that if you aren’t in a church, you really have no excuse; you just haven’t searched hard enough to find one that fits who you are in God’s image.
So, all that to say this: Quiet faith is still faith. It doesn’t have to be shouted to be real or effective. And just because it’s loud doesn’t make it better.
It’s okay to live a quiet faith in the suburbs or a loud, hip-hop faith in the city. Neither is to be considered a more holy way than the other.
Each of us, just as we are, has a place in God’s Kingdom, now and forever.
Let’s not turn our noses up at our differences, but rather embrace them as the precious gifts from God that they are.
But I wouldn't mind if you were a tad quieter about it.
Here are a couple of good books on the subject: