Over the past ten years or so amongst many Western Christians there have been two schools of thought in regards to serving Jesus or living out our faith that has unfortunately been thrown into the ring and pitted against one another.
In one corner you have those who grew restless from the mental assent Christianity that permeated through Western Christianity for the better part of three decades. A Christianity that involved people who merely came to church gatherings on Sundays and maybe Wednesdays, paid their tithes, volunteered in the nursery once in a while but left the majority of the “ministry” to be done by paid clergy, professional evangelists or foreign missionaries. These folks have basically said, “Hey wait a minute, this is not what I see in the Bible. It is not a calling for a select few to do God’s work while the rest of us merely attend meetings acquiring a knowledge that puffs up.” And we have seen some very powerful books that have been written by folks in this camp as a response to that conviction that honestly, the Body of Christ so desperately needed. Most notably are probably books like “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan and “Radical” by David Platt. Such books really brought to the forefront both what the implications of truly being saved by grace are in our lives and a challenge to truly live out those implications faithfully in our lives.
In the other corner you have those who have basically responded to this challenge by swinging the pendulum completely in the other direction. Their contention is that books like Crazy Love and Radical focus too much on having to do or live a life of radical sacrifice and service in order to be a faithful Christian. They argue that most people are not called to do or live out their faith in an extreme fashion. They stress that people need to be taught how to be faithful in the every day. And that through such faithfulness they will honor God and maybe even make some disciples along the way through living our lives faithfully in the natural rhythms that we live our lives in. There have been a series of blogs and books that have been written in this camp to express their views. Most notably is Michael Horton’s “Ordinary” (Which in my humble opinion even went so far to make a mockery of Platt’s book by choosing the same color scheme and very similar design.) and a book entitled “Becoming Worldly Saints” by Michael E Wittmer.
So who’s right and who’s wrong? Well the answer is they are both right and both wrong. Let me explain.
As much as I love books like Crazy Love and Radical I have seen firsthand what can happen when a person reads books like that without being firmly rooted in their hearts in the doctrines of Grace. They may have very well put their faith in Jesus and His completed work on the cross but they really are not grounded in it. So when they read these kinds of books and then begin to try and live out their faith in a more “radical” way it often leads to fatigue, guilt and an attitude that is usually more associated with works-based religions rather than of someone who is solely trusting in the work of Jesus to be seen approved by God. These kinds of people often end up operating out of a place of obligation. Meaning they are someone trying to please God through works rather than working out of a place of grace because God is already pleased with them because Christ’s righteousness has been bestowed on them. And the results can be devastating.
And on the flipside as much as I understand Horton and Wittmer’s hearts to point people back to Christ, I have also seen just how lethargic and dead a group of Christian’s can become when they are not encouraged to step out and live a life that requires greater faith than just being faithful in the ordinary every day. I was part of a church plant filled with young passionate Christians who really wanted to make an impact in their city, but leadership was heavy on living “faithfully in the ordinary” and never really challenged people to every try to do more than. (At least not that I heard) And after about three and half years the church died. Although leadership probably wouldn’t agree with this being a part of the reasons as to why, it is in my opinion certainly a contributing factor in it. I say that because over that amount of time I had countless people come to me and express their frustration about the lack of intentional outreach and mission beyond just the rhythms of normal life. And for those very reasons many of them left the church. Although there were of course other factors, but this factor in my opinion was something that drained the life out of the once budding enthusiasm that drew so many young people to the church. This is certainly not a knock on the church or what we tried to do as a church. I loved the church and am still dear friends with many who were a part of it. But I guess my point is that while we 100% need to be faithful in the everyday but we also need to dare to dream and be challenged to step out of the boat and walk towards Jesus on the water to do greater things sometimes.
Personally, I have a unique perspective I am both a full-time foreign missionary in Romania and I work for our organization planning and coordinating our annual global mission projects. Why is that unique? Well because it has taught me that we must be both radically faithful in the ordinary as well as making it our practice to live lives and do “radical” things that require radical faith the ordinary. Let me explain.
Many people often think as a foreign missionary that the everyday is always in the thick of the action where you always stand in the midst of radical opposition and every single day is exciting. Well here is a news flash; real life is not like that. For me there is very much a faithful routine and grind to my life that I have to walk in faithfully. Time set aside to learning language and culture, building relationships and discipling people through those relationships, faithfully serving with the church plant I am a part of, working for our organization (which I will talk more about in a minute), and just the regular things we all have to do in life. Yes these things are routine. Yes I have a schedule. Yes it is very much the same thing as waking up back in the States and going to work (actually in some ways it is harder). Are there times for “exciting ” times of action in ministry here? Sure and I very much welcome those times but that is not what my life looks like in the everyday. And honestly, I have learned so much being here about how valuable it is to honor God in the ordinary everyday routine and to be faithful in it.
Yet at the same time, I am in the midst of planning a large global mission project in Rwanda for this summer. (You can check it out here: http://realministries.co/mission-projects/ )This involves planning and coordinating with people on three different continents. From trying to recruit a team to actually do the project to dealing with the complications of cross-cultural communication barriers such an endeavor often leaves me feeling stretched to say the least. And the more I feel stretched the more my faith and trust in the Lord is demanded. Even now we are in the midst of the bulk of fundraising and have even called the Body of Christ to stand together with us in unity over a hundred day period of time and be a part of it. (http://realministries.co/100-for-100-in-100/ ) To do all these things and even move forward with each step requires an enormous amount of faith for me. For example if the Body of Christ doesn’t participate with us and contribute financially how will the project happen? Or even if we do raise all the money but have an insufficient team how will the work get done? Or what if the people on the ground in Rwanda don’t follow through and do their part? You can see how all of these are linked together and really challenge my faith. But it is through these things and doing these things that not only is my trust and faith in the Lord grown but because of the intentionality of it and willingness to be put in such a position outside of simply being faithful in the ordinary every day, lives will be impacted for all of eternity and the long term ministry being done on the ground in Rwanda will receive the adrenaline shot that such a project can give.
It is worth pointing out that in both of these things, being faithful in the every day and stepping out to do things that require greater faith, I am constantly in need of more of His grace as I at times struggle with both. However, it is in this place of needing more of His grace that I see the doctrines of grace become more alive and vibrant in my faith walk. Greater faithfulness and stepping out in greater faith are still only possible through the grace of our Lord.
So I say all that to encourage you if you are a Christ-Follower to yes be radically faithful in your ordinary everyday context. Work honorably. Live on mission and minister and make disciple within the rhythms that God has sovereignly given your life. But also be willing to and know when God will call you to intentionally plan and do the things outside of the ordinary. Things that will require you to not just dream about doing great things for God, but walk in the faith required to see them realized. After all, we may be little ordinary people but we serve an extraordinary God and throughout history He has used the most unlikely ordinary people to accomplish the most extraordinary things for His glory alone.