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The New Legalism: Missional, Radical, Narcissistic, and Shamed

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A few days ago on Facebook and Twitter I made the following observation:

Being a “radical,” “missional,” Christian is slowly becoming the “new legalism.” We need more ordinary God and people lovers (Matt 22:36-40).

This observation was the result of a long conversation with a student who was wrestling with what to do with his life given all of the opportunities he had available to him. To my surprise, my comment exploded over the internet with dozens and dozens of people sharing the comment and sending me personal correspondence.

I continue to be amazed by the number of youth and young adults who are stressed and burnt out from the regular shaming and feelings of inadequacy if they happen to not be doing something unique and special. Today’s Millennial generation is being fed the message that if they don’t do something extraordinary in this life they are wasting their gifts and potential. The sad result is that many young adults feel ashamed if they “settle” into ordinary jobs, get married early and start families, live in small towns, or as 1 Thess 4:11 says, “aspire to live quietly, and to mind [their] affairs, and to work with [their] hands.” For too many Millennials their greatest fear in this life is being an ordinary person with a non-glamorous job, living in the suburbs, and having nothing spectacular to boast about.

Here are a few thoughts on how we got here:

(1) Anti-Suburban Christianity. In the 1970s and 1980s the children and older grandchildren of the Builder generation (born between 1901 and 1920) sorted themselves and headed to the suburbs to raise their children in safety, comfort, and material ease. And, taking a cue from the Baby Boomer parents (born between 1946 and 1964) to despise the contexts that provided them advantages, Millennials (born between 1977 and 1995) now have a disdain for America’s suburbs. This despising of suburban life has been inadvertently encouraged by well-intentioned religious leaders inviting people to move to neglected cities to make a difference, because, after all, the Apostle Paul did his work primarily in cities, cities are important, and cities are the final destination of the Kingdom of God. They were told that God loves cities and they should too. The unfortunate message became that you cannot live a meaningful Christian life in the suburbs.

(2) Missional Narcissism. There are many churches that are committed to being what is called missional. This term is used to describe a church community where people see themselves as missionaries in local communities. A missional church has been defined, as “a theologically-formed, Gospel-centered, Spirit-empowered, united community of believers who seek to faithfully incarnate the purposes of Christ for the glory of God,” says Scott Thomas on the Acts 29 Network. The problem is that this push for local missionaries coincided with the narcissism epidemic we are facing in America, especially with the Millennial generation. As a result, living out one’s faith became narrowly celebratory only when done in a unique and special way, a “missional” way. Getting married and having children early, getting a job, saving and investing, being a good citizen, loving one’s neighbor, and the like, no longer qualify as virtuous. One has to be involved in arts and social justice activities—even if justice is pursued without sound economics or social teaching. I actually know of a couple who were being so “missional” that they decided to not procreate for the sake of taking care of orphans.

To make matters worse, some religious leaders have added a new category to Christianity called “radical Christianity” in an effort to trade-off suburban Christianity for mission. This movement is based on a book by David Platt and is fashioned around “an idea that we were created for far more than a nice, comfortable Christian spin on the American dream. An idea that we were created to follow One who demands radical risk and promises radical reward.” Again, this was a well-intentioned attempt to address lukewarm Christians in the suburbs but because it is primarily reactionary, and does not provide a positive construction for the good life from God’s perspective, it misses “radical” ideas in Jesus’ own teachings like “love.”

The combination of anti-suburbanism with new categories like “missional” and “radical” has positioned a generation of youth and young adults to experience an intense amount of shame for simply being ordinary Christians who desire to love God and love their neighbors (Matt 22:36-40). In fact, missional, radical Christianity could easily be called “the new legalism.” A few decades ago, an entire generation of Baby Boomers walked away from traditional churches to escape the legalistic moralism of “being good” but what their Millennial children received in exchange, in an individualistic American Christian culture, was shame-driven pressure to be awesome and extraordinary young adults expected to tangibly make a difference in the world immediately. But this cycle of reaction and counter-reaction, inaugurated by the Baby Boomers, does not seem to be producing faithful young adults. Instead, many are simply burning out.

Why is Christ’s command to love God and neighbor not enough for these leaders? Maybe Christians are simply to pursue living well and invite others to do so according to how God has ordered the universe. An emphasis on human flourishing, ours and others, becomes important because it is characterized by a holistic concern for the spiritual, moral, physical, economic, material, political, psychological, and social context necessary for human beings to live according to their design. What if youth and young adults were simply encouraged live in pursuit of wisdom, knowledge, understanding, education, wonder, beauty, glory, creativity, and worship in a world marred by sin, as Abraham Kuyper encourages in the book Wisdom and Wonder? No shame, no pressure to be awesome, no expectations of fame but simply following the call to be men and women of virtue and inviting their friends and neighbors to do the same in every area of life.

It is unclear how Millennials will respond to the “new legalism” but it may explain the trend of young Christians leaving the church after age 15 currently at a rate of 60 percent. Being a Christian in a shame-driven “missional,” “radical” church does not sound like rest for the weary. Perhaps the best antidote to these pendulum swings and fads is simply to recover a mature understanding of vocation so that youth and young adults understand that they can make important contributions to human flourishing in any sphere of life because there are no little people or insignificant callings in the Kingdom.

Anthony Bradley Anthony Bradley, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics in the Public Service Program at The King's College in New York City and serves as a Research Fellow at the Acton Institute. Dr. Bradley lectures at colleges, universities, business organizations, conferences, and churches throughout the U.S. and abroad. His books include: Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America (2010),  Black and Tired: Essays on Race, Politics, Culture, and International Development (2011),  The Political Economy of Liberation: Thomas Sowell and James Cone of the Black Experience (2012), Keep Your Head Up: America's New Black Christian Leaders, Social Consciousness, and the Cosby Conversation (2012), Aliens in the Promised Land:  Why Minority Leadership Is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions (forthcoming, 2013). Dr. Bradley's writings on religious and cultural issues have been published in a variety of journals, including: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Detroit News, and World Magazine. Dr. Bradley is called upon by members of the broadcast media for comment on current issues and has appeared C-SPAN, NPR, CNN/Headline News, and Fox News, among others. He studies and writes on issues of race in America, hip hop, youth culture, issues among African Americans, the American family, welfare, education, and modern slavery. From 2005-2009, Dr. Bradley was Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO where he also directed the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute.   Dr. Bradley holds Bachelor of Science in biological sciences from Clemson University, a Master of Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Westminster Theological Seminary.  Dr. Bradley also holds an M.A. in Ethics and Society at Fordham University.


  • Mind blown.

    Though there are plenty of points made in this that I would agree with, as an outside non-religious person observing in. I think some issues must be taken to task as a whole, not just within the religious demographic.

    Suburbs versus the city, the initial flee from cities was still a neighborhood-network oriented fashion that you saw in the city. What came after that ultimately became the suburban issue encountered of seclusion, NIMYism, car-centric problems. Materialism is only comforting to a point, I think youths have realized this and the transition back to the city is, and has been, occurring. The external motivation among religious youth might be different, though their internal motivation might be more inline with youth as a whole.

    To be special, this is pushed on all youth and is exemplified in awards just for being a participant. As youth matures, hears the same message–this time interpreting it as “how do I differentiate myself from others?”–they feel a conflict between what they’re being told and their personal objectives. Why is a generation being pushed by their elder generation to do more, be more, when that elder generation didn’t follow their same words?

    I’m very frustrated over all this, my borderline Generation X and Millennial–I feel like I’m entitled to be pissed off and that’s about all I get from these stereotypes.

    • RogerMcKinney

      My married children got caught up in the “move to mid-town” movement, too. They now live in a suburb because of the price of housing. You have to be pretty wealthy to live the millennial dream unless you will move into a dangerous neighborhood. And most of those who move back downtown will relocate to the burbs when they realize how awful the schools for their kids are downtown. I have seen many young couples curse the burbs, until they have children.

      The movement to the burbs began because of Eisenhower’s highway program. Cheap gas and good highways made commuting easy. And the whole point of the highway program was to imitate the Soviet Union’s big government projects and boost employment. Even Republicans back then thought the USSR had created a better economic system. The space program and the many highway/infrastructure programs we have had were all to imitate the Soviets and implement their system as much as possible without the dictators and atheism.

      • To your point, Roger. Here’s an analysis from Joel Kotkin:

        Some demographers claim that “white flight” from the city is declining, replaced by a “bright flight” to the urban core from the suburbs. “Suburbs lose young whites to cities,” crowed one Associated Press headline last year.

        Yet evidence from the last Census show the opposite: a marked acceleration of movement not into cities but toward suburban and exurban locations. The simple, usually inexorable effects of maturation may be one reason for this surprising result. Simply put, when 20-somethings get older, they do things like marry, start businesses, settle down and maybe start having kids.

      • The rumors of USSR excellence were primarily spread by (gasp) economists who believed central planning was possible, and effective. Turns out Mises was right about this, and the majority of kids probably got poor indoctrination (schooling) and the economy was not so great.

        • RogerMcKinney

          Exactly, and the “great” Paul Samuelson, author of the best selling econ text ever, was among the worst. In his late 1980’s edition, just before the collapse of the USSR, he predicted that the USSR would overtake the US in wealth within a decade.

  • I wonder how much the guilt and associated shame of “white flight” is part of the anti-suburban impulse.

    • You forgot to mention the exodus of blacks, particularly middle class blacks and those in the professions, who have been fleeing cities and moving to the suburbs for decades. For the same reasons most people cite when they move to the suburbs: job opportunities, better schools, less crime, more space, responsive local government, peace and quiet. I wonder if Pastor Taylor worries that he’s being ignored by the Holy Spirit out there in Plainfield.

      Blacks’ exodus reshapes cities

      CHICAGO — Kendall Taylor grew up on this city’s tough South Side and is a pastor at Lodebar Church and Ministries in his old neighborhood. But he lives 35 miles away, in Plainfield, Ill.

      “I didn’t want my children to grow up in the same environment I did,” says Taylor, 38, who bought a house in Plainfield with his wife Karen, 38, in 2007. They have one son, Jeremiah, who is 15. Taylor’s mom, sisters, nieces and nephews still live in Chicago. The youngsters, he says, “all want to come and live with me” in the quiet, but fast-growing suburb of about 40,000.

      nephews still live in Chicago. The youngsters, he says, “all want to come and live with me” in the quiet, but fast-growing suburb of about 40,000.

      • ozark2ozarks

        But this is a recent phenomenon and not a reason for the original development of the suburbs.

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  • ozark2ozarks

    Echoing duggie, the history of suburban development lends some credence to those who want to leave the suburbs in order to follow Christ.

    Wouldn’t following Christ authentically necessarily lead to a radical and special existence? Is striving for this a sin?

    “One has to be involved in arts and social justice activities—even if justice is pursued without sound economics or social teaching.” Though justice is pursued unwisely by some, it does not invalidate participation in social justice activities. If sound economics were necessary for ministry, then many churches would be in trouble.

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  • Modern American Christians rarely feel the “Holy Spirit’s guidance” toward suburbs, so many don’t go. Why? Because suburbs don’t tend to inspire uncomfortable, adventurous, or ambitious feelings, tools supposedly wielded the Holy Spirit to reveal people’s life directions. How could it be God’s special will for your special life to be comfortable, normal, and only mildly successful? I think a misunderstanding of God’s will undergirds the widespread misunderstanding of vocation.

    • Mike Stidham

      There’s also a false dichotomy here between cities and suburbs, leaving out a wide part of the world that is rural. I see pastors building megachurches in tony suburbs, I see young radicals going back to re-evangelize the cities abandoned by suburban flight, but in all the talk of “God loves cities”, somehow those on farms and in small towns distant from urban centers are omitted. What is the remedy there?

  • RogerMcKinney

    Excellent perspective on the new “radicals!” They are the new Pharisees in that they add their own ideas of holiness to God’s in the Bible and make them equal to God’s. The new “radicals” aren’t radical enough in that they multiply burdens on Christians and motivate followers with massive guilt instead of preaching the Bible and relying on the Holy Spirit to motivate people. They’re the opposite of “my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” just like the Pharisees.

  • Disappointed in this article. There really are billions of people in this world who have never even heard of Christ and there really is a western christianity that has sought more comfort than sacrificial living. There is much that could be said but I don’t think I will add anything helpful to the discussion if you have already read Platt’s book and your take away is a new legalism. I see the danger of a new monasticism that some could embrace in light of Christian sacrificial living but to coin those who seek to spend all for the kingdom as embracing some New Legalism brother is almost shameful. In love, you have not represented this “movement” or the Christian pastors who are encouraging greater sacrificial living well.

    Coram Deo
    Kyle Howard

    • Hi Kyle thanks for your comment. This other article on Platt I wrote may explain more of what I mean. I’m not sure how Jesus teaching on loving your neighbor leads to a “new monasticism” but that’s not what I’m arguing for. What Platt presented is actually not radical enough because he never calls people to love among other things as I explain here.

    • gondolin25

      One of the most frightening mission fields in the world today is the “Christian” family. It’s scary that people see ordinary callings such as raising Godly children to stay and grow the Kingdom as somehow “monasticism.”

      • bkelile

        I was thinking that the problem with this “missional way” the author describes is that it fails to see the home as a mission field, and the parents as missionaries.

        • Mark Guinn

          Actually, guys, there is a very strong pull in missional circles towards the home, towards seeing your children as your first discipleship responsibility, and seeing the family unit as ministering together holistically. I actually agree with a lot of what the article says but you’re creating a “straw man” out of the missional movement that doesn’t reflect the truth. Peace.

          • Mark, you should come to large cities like New York. For the sake of being “missional” couple will delay having children for 10-15 years in their marriage or not have kids at all. And I do know of couples that were so “missional” that it created the conditions for divorce. I am happy to be corrected but if you can point me to missional circles that promote early marriage AND are against birth control, because they understand that the family is the primary vehicle of church growth instead of evangelism, I’d be happy to read whomever you suggest.

          • I’m a little confused – somehow you keep referencing marrying early and having children as being examples of some kind of Godliness. If a couple chooses to care for orphans in lieu of having children, or decide to wait 10-15 years to do so, why is that a problem for the Kingdom? Paul and Jesus didn’t have children, nor did they marry. Whatever your arguments are against missional narcism, these examples don’t hold water.

          • Hi David, I want to be clear before I respond, you said, ” If a couple chooses to care for orphans in lieu of having children, or decide to wait 10-15 years to do so, why is that a problem for the Kingdom?” are saying that you don’t see anything unusual about this?

          • Anthony, whether or not it’s “unusual” or not isn’t the question. Most everything in the Kingdom is unusual.

          • It may be unusual for a young man to decide not to get married in order to serve the Lord, but by no means is it un-biblical.

          • Being missional creates conditions for divorce? I’m sorry Mr. Bradley, that is a stretch. Being sinful creates conditions for divorce. I went to a mainstream Christian college in the middle of nowhere, and divorce rates for students coming out of that college were the same as the non-Christian college. And these people didn’t come from cities, and didn’t live in large cities either.
            And, I’ve known many “mission” oriented folks that already have children, that want children and have gladly adopted children from all over the world.
            I’m being a tad harsh, but this reads as a bit of a caricature.

          • Yes, Abhi. I have seen it happen in real life. I am not making this up. I used to be a seminary professor and most of my friends are pastors and have many stories I could tell you.

          • Eugene Scott

            Abhi & Anthony –

            Being missional doesn’t create conditions for divorce. Just like being (insert whatever the opposite of missional is here) doesn’t create conditions for divorce. Repeatedly refusing to die to self – be it in a city, suburb or a rural community – creates conditions for divorce.

            Everyone has ‘seen examples in real life’ supporting every position imaginable. Those personal experiences don’t establish universal, absolute truths.

          • Michelle Bertrand

            I think that living your life through the eyes of what others want from you is death. Living your life to please the Christian crowd. Living your life to get that pat on the head from your mentor or pastor or whomever, brings death. Living to fulfill the current Christian trend is not living in relationship with God. It is not living from an understanding of what God wants from YOU (not them). This understanding only comes from knowing him and seeking him and being with him in quantity and quality. Being filled with the Spirit of God. Is there anything more wonderful? So many people just look for that Moses to tell them what the requirement is. After listening to a David Platt sermon on youtube I was so icked. I don’t know why but I had to listen to two Leonard Ravenhill sermons and a Paul Washer sermon before I felt better.

          • Beth

            The planet is overpopulated. Christ instructs Christians to take care of orphans.

          • E. Stephen Burnett

            The latter statement is true and Biblical. The former statement repeats the long-discredited Paul Ehrlich myth.

          • mpb

            Here a problem that can come from being “missional.” pursue large amounts of education, Seperation in marrage, don’t get married, do not have children, live in the city, live an active life style, be involved in important things, have a large circle of influence, have large social network, be very social, and on and on. And of coarse label it all with, “missional minded, driven, lifestyle, ect.” But just remove the missional labels. And if possible what do I see? I see a very selfish lifestyle of one who wants to live for themselves socially, actively and exciting. someone who does not want to have to sacrifice anything in their preferred way of living. someone who wants to make sure they get their me time out of life. now this is by no means what it always is but just one way that it can easily be exploited.

          • Jessica S.

            Exactly my point about adoption! Thank you!

          • Jon Oliphant

            In one of your articles you quote Tim Keller. I am engaged to be married and my fiancee and I are reading through his book on marriage (The Meaning of Marriage). My understanding is that Keller’s congregation is a majority of young singles. His book presents a biblical perspective on marriage and the importance of that in the lives of believers. I have not read anything where he has told people not to marry in order to be more missional.
            As a side note, where does the Bible say that the family is the primary vehicle of church growth instead of evangelism? I am a reformed presbyterian and so am committed to covenant theology. I believe God does work through families to bring about His plan of salvation. But I also think He works through evangelism. I struggle with the thought that one is better than the other. Maybe I misunderstand you (and I am happy to be corrected) but I think both are equally important in the advancement of the Kingdom of God in the world in which we live.

          • Did Paul not encourage followers of Christ not to get married (if they could handle it) for the sake of the kingdom? Couldn’t a couple likewise decide to put off having children in order to take in or care for orphans? Is adoption only “legitimate” if the parents are incapable of having children? Is it not legalism on our part to impose upon a young couple who seeks to follow Christ that they must have children biologically and not rather choose to care for orphans?

          • So you’re saying that missional might be tending to legalism, but if it could be shown to oppose birth control, it would be more acceptable. That’s a strange definition of legalism

    • Also Kyle have you read this Christianity Today article by Matthew Lee Anderson: “Here Come the Radicals! David Platt, Francis Chan, Shane Claiborne, and now Kyle Idleman are dominating the Christian best-seller lists by attacking our comfortable Christianity. But is ‘radical faith’ enough.” Many people have concerns about this “radical” language.

    • RogerMcKinney

      That’s a pretty harsh judgment of American Christians. Do you really think you have the scriptural authority to do that? How is it possible that you have the power to see into the hearts of tens of millions of Christians, something I thought only God had the power to do?

      Guys like Platt are the new Pharisees in that they attempt to dictate the exact application of Bible principles of sacrificial living and condemn all who disagree.

    • RogerMcKinney

      PS, it simply is not true that there are billions who haven’t heard. The world has been well-evangelized except for a few dozen small people groups. I was a missionary to a Muslim country decades ago and have kept up with the latest research in missions. The truth is that there are billions who have heard and rejected the good news.

      The idea that just telling people about Christ will cause many to convert violates scripture and flies in the face of reality. When I was a missionary, I knew of great, Godly missionaries who faithfully witnessed to Muslims for 40 years and saw not a single convert. At that time the average missionary to a Muslim country could expect to see one convert in his lifetime.

      In fact, the greatest movements to Christ in the 20th century happened only after all of the missionaries were kicked out. China saw an explosion of growth in Christianity after missionaries were kicked out in the 1950’s. I was in Iran in 1976 at a time when the Shah allowed active missionary activity and missionaries saw almost no converts for decades, in spite of excellent witness. Iran has seen tens of thousands of Muslim converts after Khomeini expelled all missionaries. Western missionaries aren’t nearly as important as Americans like to believe.

      • Will Love

        You are assuming of course that by having “heard” means that that particular “people group” has heard the gospel. There are in fact billions of individuals who have never heard the gospel and that even being so here in America.

    • Thanks, Kyle. I agree 100%.

    • M. Cummings

      I like what Kyle J. has said, above. I agree that any behavior, mindset, or value that we add to the finished work of Christ does qualify as legalism. So in some churches, if you don’t have beer in your fridge you are less of a Christian. But as one who has lived in the inner-city of Philadelphia for over 20 years following the call of John Perkins and others who challenged us to “relocate, redistribute, and reconcile”, I don’t think the problem is too many Christians moving into the cities or being “missional” with their lives, Mr. Bradley’s conversation with one Millennial notwithstanding. The problem is actually the reverse. Not enough people are sacrificing comfort for the footsteps of Christ, and we need books like Radical and churches such as Redeemer to shake us up and move us out of our comfort zones. Will they do this perfectly, without any touches of legalism and “guilt”? Of course not. But we should appreciate them for trying rather than writing them off as “legalistic” and, with our consciences exonerated, settle back in our 5-bedroom houses for the World Series.

  • Isaac

    We all have a propensity toward legalism. In our insecurity we justify our own station in life while dismissing that of others. Neither “Radical Living” nor “Ordinary Living” can save us from the root of all legalism, a self-justifying heart – only Jesus can conquer that terrible thing. God save us from ourselves! Me, most of all.

    • Gay Specht


    • jeffwiesner

      Amen. Our sinful hearts can make any good thing an ultimate thing, thus turning it into a bad thing.
      Even calling out the new legalisms can become a new legalism, should it be self-righteously motivated (I’m not presuming upon the author).

      • RogerMcKinney

        Actually I don’t think it helps to define legalism as everything sinful we do. Legalism is a particular type of sin in which one group of Christians try to restrict the God-given freedoms of others by inventing rules of behavior that go beyond what the Bible says about Godly behavior. It adds to the Bible the preferences of individuals and makes them equal to God’s word.

        It’s called legalism after the heresy of Judaizers in the NT who insisted that Christians follow OT law from which Christ freed us. Modern legalists don’t want us to follow OT laws as much as their own. But the goal is the same: to restrict the God-given freedom Christ died for. They continually subtract from the list of approved behaviors until the their version of the “Godly” life is very narrow.

    • RogerMcKinney

      Have you heard Chuck Swindoll’s series on grace? It’s pretty amazing. We need more preaching like his.

  • I agree with a lot of the article is saying, but let’s not swing the
    pendulum too far back and say that being missional is bad. I think the parable
    of the talents is very helpful here. Both the servant given five and the one
    given two are praised, though the “real profit” (as opposed to
    percentage) was varied greatly – the one given two talents didn’t even have as
    many as the one with five started with! But had the one with five talents still
    only had five talents, he would have met the same fate as the one with one

    Some people are great oral speakers, writers, etc, who need to use those
    talents promote the spread of the Gospel. But some not so much. Paul said

    Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I
    myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of

    Where radicalism is mistaken is this idea that God has called everyone to be a
    St. Paul, but Paul himself even recognized this was not God’s plan. Paul was
    what God called him to be, but he mentions constantly in his letter that he was
    grateful for his helpers who were less visible, as well as the lay people of
    the churches he had founded, both for their material help and spiritual
    encouragement, but also for simply keeping true to the Gospel they were taught
    and being an excellent example of how people called by Christ should live. In
    other words, Paul’s human brain was thinking “imaging how quickly the Kingdom
    would advance if everyone had my gifts!” but God had informed him “Not the way
    I’m going to do this.” But let’s not mistake that for the fact God did call
    Paul to be exactly what he was and that God used him in great ways. Who can say
    how the Church would have developed without the plan God had for Paul?

    The answer I am going to propose can only be done with Christians who have a
    close walk with God. They need to be examining themselves and their situation,
    trying to discern which role God has in mind for them and understanding, as the
    OP said, they need to bear in mind that there are no small players in the
    Kingdom of God. Missionaries are obviously vital in the Christian faith. But if
    missionaries were all there were, then governments opposed to the Christian
    faith would be on the correct path to getting rid of the faith by
    imprisoning/killing them. However, the seeds, which became fruit, of the
    missionaries were common, every day people who lived as God had called. You couldn’t exterminate them because they were everywhere – they became your craftsmen, businessmen, teachers, doctors…in other words the Gospel ingrained itself in society and the only way to kill the Christian movement would be to mortally wound your own society. Bearing this in mind, every believer needs to ask, “What is
    God’s will for me at this moment?” And the truth is it can change at any
    moment. The lay person can be called to abandon it all for the Gospel at any
    minute. And the missionary can be called back – either to rest, pass on the
    torch, or because the mission that he was called to and gifted for is complete –
    to a quiet life that honors the Lord in ways only the Lord will know. Speaking
    from experience, living a holy life when God is your only audience can be 100
    times more difficult than presenting the yourself and the Gospel in dramatic,
    public way that inspires people. But both are necessary – otherwise people who
    weren’t in contact with lay people on a regular basis would never hear the
    Gospel or the Gospel would die or pass with the missionaires.

    • gondolin25

      I think I agree with a lot of what you are saying. But you lost me when you reverted to purpose-driven language. I’m really tired to people talking about asking what “God’s will for my life” is. There’s only one answer to that question and it’s already revealed — His revealed will for believers is written down in plain language. His secret will is, well, secret. Yet it sounds like believers expect to find out God’s secret will out of time — and they act like that is the secret to fulfilling it.

  • It is not legalism to
    long to live for Christ and not this passing world. To live as if you really
    believe that Jesus is more valuable than your life, your family and your stuff
    (Luke 14:25-33). To live as if you really believed that the Christian life is a
    life of carrying a cross not living in a nice house with a god who wants you to
    live for this passing world. We in America are heading down the same path as
    Europe, where massive churches are full with 4-10 people on a Sunday morning.
    This guy can have fun with his mediocre America comfortable Christianity and
    call those who feel like there is more to life than growing old and dying
    having only achieved a nice house a nice car and a good education – legalists,
    but he is wrong.

    We live in a culture that rejects God’s word with pastors who
    promise that love for the world is the path to God. The truth is the men I
    admire from church history Calvin, Luther, Knox, Huss, Bunyan, Taylor, Mueller
    just to name a few, these
    were men who believed that the Christian life was a life to be lived, not a
    life to be watched from the safety of an American Churchianity that is happy to
    share an inoffensive gospel and fill up its buildings with money paying good
    family men who live for the world while they bury their talent in the sand.

    It is sad that we have gotten so far from the truth
    that David Platt would have to call his book which should be entitled “living
    the normal Christian life”, “Radical”.

    I am thankful that God is raising up a generation
    of Christians in this country who want to live for Him and are willing to die
    for Him if He asks. And yeah I understand that to this current evil age that
    will look quite “Radical”.

    In the past when we saw young people stirring with a
    desire to live for Christ we saw it as evidence that God might be calling them
    to a life of ministry. Now they are legalists?

    Sounds to me like this guy has found a treasure
    hidden in a field that was so valuable to him that he quickly went home took out
    a few hundred from the bank gave up nothing else and went out to add that field
    to his already good life.

    I don’t need a treasure like that, I want one that
    is worth giving up all for.

    • RogerMcKinney

      No one is saying it is wrong “to live for Christ.” We simply disagree about what it means to live for Christ. I can’t find the lifestyle of the “radicals” in the Bible.

  • bkelile

    There was a good article written about the “radical” movement that ran in Christianity Today a few weeks back. It’s worth the read and goes in depth into the movement and the problems it presents.

  • Pingback: We Need More Ordinary God and People Lovers says Dr. Anthony Bradley()

  • You only point to the Acts29 missionals. But you know about Fitch and McKnight and friends. Is this part of your embargo on Anabaptism? (teasing). I find the motivation to do something big consistent with the broader propaganda of heroism (Metaxas) and social justice advocacy (Wallis). I think the faithfulness of the mundane is so crucial, but that it should be mixed with frugality and hospitality.
    That does not have to mean going across town to invite someone whom you still see as “other,” but more often it means inviting your neighbor who has a grudge against you, or whom you have a grudge against.
    The legitimate “radical” move would be to stand up against systemic injustice through sacrifice, appeals to end privileges and regulations, etc. Most of these actions get captured when done visibly, and lose their virtue.

  • Tim

    The criticism doesn’t seem to connect specifically with any particular teaching. It’s all very vague. Who exactly is implicitly or explicitly espousing narcissism? How so? What exactly is legalistic in the command to obey the Bible (That is what Platt is shooting for.)? If it’s not biblical than how so? What is your understanding of legalism? Are we actually charging people with works-righteousness heresy (e.g. legalism)? Really? Are we charging Platt with this since his name was brought up? This is a dangerously unclear and unfocused article.

    “Why is Christ’s command to love God and neighbor not enough for these leaders?”

    What leaders? Platt never discusses the command to love God and neighbor? Nonsense. Platt is calling the church to love God and neighbor, especially in the Great Commission. Where exactly is the problem? Did he not say everything you wanted him to in one book? He seems to run into this problem a lot.

    Ordinary biblical Christianity is radical. Ordinary Christianity is awesome. It does include the Great Comission. It doesn’t take superheroes to do it. It takes ordinary, faithful Christians.

    I am all for resisting tier-based Christianity. I am all for pushing back against narcissism, celebrity-culture, etc. But this article seems to create a false dichotomy between Platt/Piper exhortation to fulfill the Great Comission and the biblical exhortation to live godly, loving, ordinary lives.

  • Tim

    The criticism doesn’t seem to connect specifically with any particular teaching. It’s all very vague. Who exactly is implicitly or explicitly espousing narcissism? How so? What exactly is legalistic in the command to obey the Bible (That is what Platt is shooting for.)? If it’s not biblical than how so? What is your understanding of legalism? Are we actually charging people with works-righteousness heresy (e.g. legalism)? Really? Are we charging Platt with this since his name was brought up? This is a dangerously unclear and unfocused article.

    “Why is Christ’s command to love God and neighbor not enough for these leaders?”

    What leaders? Platt never discusses the command to love God and neighbor? Nonsense. Platt is calling the church to love God and neighbor, especially in the Great Commission. Where exactly is the problem? Did he not say everything you wanted him to in one book? He seems to run into this problem a lot.

    Ordinary biblical Christianity is radical. Ordinary Christianity is awesome. It does include the Great Comission. It doesn’t take superheroes to do it. It takes ordinary, faithful Christians.

    I am all for resisting tier-based Christianity. I am all for pushing back against narcissism, celebrity-culture, etc. But this article seems to create a false dichotomy between Platt/Piper exhortation to fulfill the Great Comission and the biblical exhortation to live godly, loving, ordinary lives.

    • gondolin25

      I think it’s important to acknowledge that the writer here does see a problem in his own experience, whether you have experienced it or not. As an example, sometimes I think I felt like people put me on a pedestal, just because I pursued Journalism as a vocation, and it was rare thing in their mind for a Christian to do so. “Awesome, we need more Christians doing that!”

      Actually, in reality, there isn’t much special about what I studied. I’m not out there converting souls with my writing. There isn’t something extraordinary about my position as a reporter/editor. The world might think so since they have no problems pushing agendas through this medium. I’ll take ordinary means for spreading the gospel any day of the week. I’ll love my neighbor and cultivate proper attitudes toward coworkers and clients. I’ll elevate the preaching and sacraments to their proper place within the church. But that’s what everyone is supposed to be doing anyway.

      However we look at it, there is a fine line between “don’t waste your life” and you aren’t doing enough/radical enough/shame on you.

    • RogerMcKinney

      No one sees a problem with calling the church to love God and neighbor. Hows does a Christian do those? The problem lies in specifying one way to do that and excluding all other ways. The “radicals” are saying that unless you do what I am doing you are not fulfilling those commands.

      The Bible does not give details on how to fulfill those commands. The activities promoted by the “radicals” are not in the Bible. To claim that Christians must follow their programs or they’re not fulfilling God’s commands is exactly the same thing the Pharisees did: they put their personal preferences equal to God’s word.

    • RogerMcKinney

      No one sees a problem with calling the church to love God and neighbor. Hows does a Christian do those? The problem lies in specifying one way to do that and excluding all other ways. The “radicals” are saying that unless you do what I am doing you are not fulfilling those commands.

      The Bible does not give details on how to fulfill those commands. The activities promoted by the “radicals” are not in the Bible. To claim that Christians must follow their programs or they’re not fulfilling God’s commands is exactly the same thing the Pharisees did: they put their personal preferences equal to God’s word.

      • But aren’t some of the non-radicals saying if you do it your way, you are overdoing it?

        I don’t think the key issue is in how one should love one’s neighbor. I think the key issue is determining the size of one’s neighborhood. Some think it consists solely of the people you live around. Others will concede that it can include the people whose paths you cross. But in the global digital age of information and democracy, is our neighborhood too big to walk through?

      • But aren’t some of the non-radicals saying if you do it your way, you are overdoing it?

        I don’t think the key issue is in how one should love one’s neighbor. I think the key issue is determining the size of one’s neighborhood. Some think it consists solely of the people you live around. Others will concede that it can include the people whose paths you cross. But in the global digital age of information and democracy, is our neighborhood too big to walk through?

        • RogerMcKinney

          That’s one of the important points of grace: people get to decide how big their own neighborhood. No one has the grounds for criticizing another for how big he makes his neighborhood because the Bible does not specify how big it should be.

          • Roger,
            Actually, according to the parable of the good samaritan, people don’t get to decide how big their neighborhood is. Grace and mercy come in when we underestimate the size of our neighborhood. I would also add the parable of the sheep and goats to support my point.

          • RogerMcKinney

            The story of the good Samaritan limits one’s neighbor to those we actually come across who are in need. I don’t think that is what Christ had in mind, though. But Christ didn’t enlarge the neighborhood in the parable; he left it up to us to decide.

          • Roger,
            the story of the Good Samaritan has always expanded the definition of neighbor. In Jesus’s time, it expanded it to whom we came across from those who lived next to you. Today, it is further expanded because technology makes us more aware of who is in need, those we have come across electronically, and democracy has increased the neighborhood because we voted in the leaders of our country and thus bear a responsibility for their decisions. In addition, our personal liberties and privileges put us in the position of helping others and thus we bear a greater responsibility and a much larger neighborhood to watch over than what those of Jesus’s time had.

          • RogerMcKinney

            Curt, the definition doesn’t expand on its own. Someone has to expand it through their interpretation. And interpretation must be guided by sound hermeneutics. Jesus expanded it from the definition of his day, which was “Jews like us,” to meaning anyone we meet who has a need. Further expansion of the meaning based on sound hermeneutics would require finding reason within the text or within the NT to expand it.

            I recall the great John Stott complaining about the constant barrage from the media about suffering worldwide because it placed an unreasonable burden on Christians from great distances. I agree somewhat. I don’t think it possible, following sound hermeneutics, to make the parable apply to any person that one hears is suffering. The Epistles seem to limit the responsibility to other church members.

            I certainly disagree we are responsible for elected officials and their decisions. My responsibility for politicians ends with choosing the least evil of the bunch. I have no control over their decisions or actions while they’re in office.

            In addition, the parable sets no standard for giving, while other passages make the Christian responsible for providing for family first, which includes saving for the future. Charity should come out of what is left and church members have first claim on it. Next come people outside the church. But what if nothing is left after helping those in the church? Christians should not neglect family in order to help others.

            Judaism has often set a limit of 20% of one’s wealth going to charity in order to make sure the give doesn’t become destitute and become a burden on others. But they set that figure at a time when taxation was very low and didn’t take almost half of our income.

            The point is that there are a lot of details that God left unspecified for a reason: we are not under the law but under grace and have freedom to serve God according to our consciences. Anyone who tries to specify the details that God left intentionally vague is guilty of legalism, that is, making up new laws and equating them with God’s laws.

          • Roger,

            Where do you get your information that you would say most suffering is self-inflicted? And how about those whose suffering is self-inflicted? Do we wait til they pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

            Some will want to say that there is a “new legalism” when appeals are made to help those in need. That is possible and whether that legalism exists depends on why we help not how we help. But there is another danger that comes along with this issue. That danger is living for oneself. That what we are to do is to build little islands and just be responsible for those islands. Does that reflect the love God showed the world when he sent His son? Does such a mindset fit in with the Great Commission? Or is such a mindset the result of loving the world or trying make our little island into a world we can love and thus violating what it says in I John about loving the world and what Jesus says about making our treasure in the worlds. It also ignores what it says in Hebrews about having no home on earth.

            We could argue the silly little details all you want but the real issue is for whom are you living? Are you living for yourself or for God? Are you trying to be righteously selfish or are you bearing your cross?

            And forget your false dichotomies. Just because you are helping others does not mean that you have to neglect your family. And yes, if you vote for the person to represent you in gov’t and they do wrong things or you have the opportunity to speak out, you are responsible for their actions.

            Throughout this discussion you have sought ways to say how limited we are in how and whom we should help. And you can always justify your position. But when Jesus talks about the parable of the sheep and goats, who do you think will be counted as sheep? Will it be those who helped as few people as they were able because they wanted to watch their own corner of the world or those who reached out to others because they were living for God rather than themselves?

            The parable of the sheep and goats should strike fear into everybody’s heart. There is not one person alive who has not ignored one of the least of these. Not one. And the reaction of the sheep and goats supports that assertion. Both were surprised that they had either ignored Christ by ignoring the least of these or ministered to Christ by ministering to the least of these. Self-righteousness rarely plays well in the Bible.

            You can make every excuse you want for limiting the people you will reach out to. But what reflects on the Gospel the best? Is it someone who limits who they will help because they treasure being comfortable or someone who tests the borders not to prove oneself but because they want to live for God, not for selfish reasons?

          • RogerMcKinney

            Curt, I am an economist and know why most people in the world are poor and it’s self-inflicted. I assume that most suffering comes from being poor. Before any help from others can do any good, they have to stop the self-destructive behavior.

            No one has called appeal to help other a new legalism. That’s a very poor reading of the article and the conversations that have taken place in responses. The new legalism is clear: the “radicals” set up a standard for giving that is clearly not Biblical. That standard, and not the appeal to help, is the new legalism.

            Yes, the issue is whom are you living for? But you have no right judge whether I am living for God by how much I give. That kind of judgment is legalism. Any preacher who condemns other Christians for not giving enough is a Pharisee.

            And no, I am not responsible for the actions of politicians because I have no control over how they act. It’s stupid to make someone responsible for the actions of others, especially when we have no control over others.

            “The parable of the sheep and goats should strike fear into everybody’s heart.” Wow! What a sad way to live! No joy, just fear of never measuring up. That’s an excellent description of legalism. Yes, I argue for limits on what people should give, but only because the “radicals” lay burdens on people that are impossible to bear, just like the Pharisees. The primary emotion of a Christian should be joy, not fear and self-loathing because we don’t meet the unreasonable requirements of Pharisees.

            A proper interpretation of the sheep/goats parable is that the sheep will naturally give to the poor because it is their nature. We are not saved by giving to the poor and the amount we give has nothing to do with our salvation.

            What reflects best on the Gospel? Following the Bible, and not the unreasonable measures of men. Living in joy and not fear, guilt and self-loathing. You can make up all the human rational you want for putting unbiblical burdens on others, but the whole point is that they are unbiblical.

          • Roger,
            And every economist would agree with you, correct? I happen to know a couple who don’t so why throw in you are an expert because you are economist?

            BTW, you are right in that I have no right to judge how you live. But I didn’t. I am simply saying this what God has revealed to us so you can do with it what you want however you are accountable to God just as I am.

            BTW, if you check the Gospels’ account of the Pharisees, they are the ones who limited how God’s Word applied to them and they had no compassion for the poor. In contrast to that, you have th OT prophets who constantly scolded the leaders and the people for their neglect of the poor.

            Hate to tell you this but our joy is in what Christ did for us, not in our performance or how we measure. The Law constantly drives us to Christ. And here is where I will judge you and you can do with it what you want, those who use the Gospel just to feel good about themselves are deluding themselves. That doesn’t mean that they are not saved, but they are still deluding themselves. The Gospel isn’t there as a feel good toy that allows us to escape the world. Rather, it saves us so we can share the love we have received. And our human sinfulness ensures that we can relate to the audience.

          • RogerMcKinney

            Not all economists would agree with me, just the good ones.

            So you think most US Christians (I include myself in that group) are following the Bible concerning giving to the poor? If not, you are judging them (and me).

            Jesus did not criticize the Pharisees for limiting the word of God, but for adding to it their traditions and creating a heavy burden for the people. That was the whole point of Jesus’ saying “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

            No, the Pharisees had no compassion for the poor, but all US Christians do. I have never met a Christian who didn’t. That’s the point of the parable of the goats and sheep: if you have no compassion for the poor then you can’t possibly have the Holy Spirit living in you.

            And true, the rich in the OT not only neglected the poor, they stole from them, but that nobility worshipped idols and were not believers. Using that analogy today means that you think most US Christians are false believers. That’s pretty harsh for someone who claims to be a Christian.

            So Christians need to be schizophrenic? We need joy about our salvation, but fear and self-loathing about our giving to the poor? No one is trying to ignore the world. That’s just dishonest of you.

            “here is where I will judge you…” Your judgment of me means nothing to me. I am Christ’s servant, not yours. But keep in mind that Christ will use your own words to judge you (Romans 2).

            If you’re so certain that US Christians don’t give enough to the poor then you must know what percentage of our income we should be giving (although how I don’t understand because the Bible doesn’t tell us). What is it?

            Again, it’s incredibly stupid to make voters responsible for politicians. Otherwise, it would be better to never vote because voters have no control over politicians. We might vote for them because the majority of their decisions are good and a minority are bad, but that makes them, not us responsible for their bad decisions. I don’t understand this desire you have to wear wool shirts and flagellate yourself.

          • Roger,
            You are responsible for your politicians if their wrongful actions elicit neither a response nor a change in voting from you.

          • RogerMcKinney

            PS, I wonder if you see any limits at all to the Christians
            responsibility to suffering in the world. If not, it seems you place a heavy burden on Christians that we cannot bear. We are only about 1/7 of the world’s population. If we gave so that we starved ourselves to death, the poor in the world would hardly notice our contributions.

            And what about the cause of the suffering? In the parable
            the Samaritan suffered unjustly. In the world most people suffer from self-inflicted wounds. No matter how much we try to alleviate their suffering, their sinful natures and rebellion against God will cause them to continue to inflict suffering on themselves.

  • Tony

    another interesting article that was written a few years ago was Kevin Deyoung’s review of the book Radical. Deyoung also included Platt’s response

  • Jason Pogue


    Thank you for your article. I certainly agree with the your concern of “radical” becoming legalistic, and a great need for robust teaching on vocation. Kuyper has contributed much to this notion of Christ being King over every sphere of life, and crying out for every corner of your domain. For vocation, I would recommend Amy Sherman’s book, “Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good.” Amy has been named by Christianity Today as one of the leading women in evangelical research, and her book won their “Book of the Year” award for Christian Living.

    That being said, I think we need to be careful not to make up false dichotomies in the process. It isn’t that we must determine whether a true Christian must be “radical” or ordinary, urban or suburban, missionary or mother – the reality is the Lord calls us each to different places with different gifts, but we need them all in order to live out lives that reveal the gospel and promote shalom in our communities and the world.

    The reality is following Christ is radical. Radical doesn’t mean you have to move to Africa, but it does mean it is going to cost you. Christ calls us to be the church in both Word and deed. So, does your neighbor know you? Are you using what you’ve been given to help the downtrodden and marginalized in your community? Are you spending rich time with your children, or are you too busy “providing for them” to really know them? Does your faith inform the way you care and relate to others at your place of work? Scripture calls us to these things over and over again, regardless of where we live or what our vocation may be.

    The Christian life is the cruciform life. Reading Paul’s epistles, we find over and over the theme of suffering is always paired with joy. They come hand and hand. The cross and resurrection are inseparable.

    In Christ,
    Jason Pogue

    • RogerMcKinney

      The suffering that Paul wrote about comes from persecution by unbelievers. The “suffering” that “radical” Christians promote is self-inflicted and based on a misguided interpretation of scripture.

      When Paul wrote about afflicting his body, he didn’t mean he beat himself with chains. He meant he allows the Spirit to control physical desires and does not succumb to all of them.

      • Jason Pogue

        I’m not sure how helpful it is to pigeon-hole people into this “radial Christian” construct. I certainly agree that some Christians are promoting self-inflicted suffering. But in fairness, nothing I wrote above makes any of these conclusions you are arguing against. I’m simply saying that Paul’s writing reflects a cruciform life which calls us to make costly decisions for the Kingdom. It isn’t a matter of where it happens, but how we respond to the opportunities we have to stand for the gospel which will bring about a more difficult life. Suffering and joining Christ in both crucifixion and resurrection is a continuing theme across many of Paul’s epistles, and is much more complex than simply suffering inflicted by unbelievers.

        And, though I can see how some have turned it into legalism and down-played the sacredness of every vocation, lets not throw the baby out with the bath water – real change and belief in the heart leads to action. If I’m not living in a way that is seeking to bring Christ’s rule into my work, my street, my city – I’m not sure I fully understand and believe what I’m preaching.

        It is quite easy for us to see the speck in our brother’s eye and not the log in our own. Instead of badgering one another and trying to exert our hermeneutical prowess, we may consider actually listening and learning from one another with grace.

        • RogerMcKinney

          The article was about a movement some have labeled “radical” and “missional.” If you don’t agree with that movement then don’t be offended by criticisms of that movement.

          Yes, suffering and crucifixion are major themes of Paul, but what does he mean by them? He means crucifying the sinful nature and enduring suffering caused by unbelievers. The context is very important. Paul doesn’t mean that if things are going well for you to inflict suffering on yourself to feel more holy.

          Yes, real belief causes real change. James teaches that. But what change? If the Bible doesn’t tell me what changes, then you have no right to make up things and inflict them on others as if your ideas of what Christians should be doing are equal to God’s. To paraphrase Paul, if you think living like a homeless person and giving everything to charity is the epitome of holiness, keep it to yourself and don’t criticize others other for not living like you.

          BTW, you can’t force the rule of Christ on your work, street or city if the people are not believers. That is impossible. All you can do is witness to them, but witnessing does not guarantee they will believe. Most will not.

          Of course you’re offended by my insistence on following sound hermeneutics. Hermeneutics forces people to think hard about what the Bible really means instead of allowing great flights of fantasy. Everyone who like to be creative with Bible interpretation gets highly offended at the suggestion that they follow honest principles. But the principles of hermeneutics are nothing but guides to honestly handling the word of God. Consider this: if you claim an interpretation for the Bible that God did not intend, you’re guilty of lying about what God said. Christians should be much more careful and fearful about how they interpret the words of God.

          • Jason Pogue

            Clearly you are not listening to the point I am making, rather you are arguing with someone else in your reply to my comments. It isn’t all-or-nothing, radical or ordinary. You are creating false dichotomies. There is both good and bad in what the so-called “radials” are saying, and there is both good and bad in what you are saying.

            Paul’s suffering goes far beyond just the spiritual. If Paul’s words of suffering are only about our sinful nature, then your theology is more informed by neo-platonic dualism than by Scripture. Your essentially saying anything we do in this world is for nothing unless it is of a spiritual nature – I’m coming with the hermeneutical assumption that the consummation to come is a restoration of this earth and therefore constitutes that God doesn’t make junk, and doesn’t junk what he made. This world (in the physical sense) and grace are not opposed. The physical things we do matter, although they should never be separated from the spiritual nature of the gospel and the need for Word ministry alongside the physical. We can’t preach without also doing good works, and we also cannot do good works without supplanting it with preaching the Word.

            Finally, I wasn’t offended by your hermeneutic. I am offended and ashamed that you can respond to a brother or sister saying such things as, “Your hermeneutic skills are terrible. I can only guess at the damage you do to the Bible, but if your poor interpretation of my post is a clue, the damage must be substantial,” and think that it is loving of you. Iron sharpening iron doesn’t allow us to forget that our tongue carries the power of life and death, and that our mouths are to be used to edify the body. Furthermore, it is an ineffective way to call people to change. You cannot badger someone into changing their hermeneutic – though if you were just trying to make them feel smaller than you, I suppose this is a good approach. I pray the Lord would soften your heart, and wish you well. I will not reply again.

            In Christ,
            Jason Pogue

          • RogerMcKinney

            That’s probably for the best because I cannot see how this post relates to the previous discussion at all. So you’re offended by my comments to another poster, but his grossly bad interpretation of my posts doesn’t bother you at all. Strange. And what about you criticizing the majority of American Christians for not living up to your Pharisaical standard of holiness? That doesn’t bother you?

          • Dan Russell

            Thank you Jason for your careful tongue. Praying for both you and RogerMcKinney.

  • Pingback: When Missions Becomes The New Legalism | engagingtheadventure()

  • This is so true! Sadly, my grown children suffer much from this cool “new legalism”. My husband and I as Boomers have lived through our own need to be “special” ourselves though we are now learning to value and embrace the 1Thess 4:11 lifestyle you describe. You’ve described it all well. I pray your words will serve to change hearts and deliver the burnt out and others from their wasted lives.

  • Sam Heaton

    Hahahaha. Honestly one of the worst articles I have read in awhile. For many reasons. One of which being the huge strawmen built and burned to the ground. Ridiculous in view of the gospel.

  • Mark Guinn

    I’ve felt the pressure described here, but I think it has more to do with a lack of understanding and discipleship in the area of rest and identity. We are allowed to pursue this stuff with an unspoken motive of proving ourselves, and pursue it from a place of youthful excitement instead of the Father’s timing and his presence in every aspect of life. I’m sympathetic to a lot of what is said here but be careful. We don’t throw out holiness just because many in the holiness movement got legalistic, and we mustn’t do the same with mission and radical devotion. (To be clear, I don’t think that’s what the author is suggesting but it could come across that way and does in many of the comments)

  • RogerMcKinney

    Most of our culture is not Christian. Christians make up a small minority in this country. Criticizing Christians for the non-Christian culture is odd.

    But if you’re referring to Christians as being materialistic, narcissistic and consumerist I would have to disagree strongly. I don’t know any Christians like that and surveys show that Christians do 80% of the volunteering and giving to charities.

    If you’re going to criticize Christians, the criticism needs to come from a Bible verse, and not from a preacher. I can’t find in the Bible the lifestyle promoted by the “radicals”. It’s something they just made up.

    • Brent Rood

      Roger, I agree that most of the culture is not Christian, but most of the culture claims to be. I live in Seattle, so only 5 percent even claim to be Christian but if you live in the Bible belt some 70 to 80 percent claim it. Of that pool of Christians statistics tell us how sacrificial they are. The average Christian gives only 2 percent of their income to Church. The majority of Christians in the surveys have not told one person this last year about Jesus. The majority of Christians alongside the culture spend enough money on Christmas presents for their kids this year to solve the worlds entire water crisis. In terms of finding “in the bible the lifestyle promoted by the radicals”. There isn’t a verse, only hundreds of them. I would feel silly quoting Sunday school memorized verses about sacrifice, missional living, death to self, taking up your cross, giving everything you have, desiring mercy to the poor instead of religious activity. Jesus said you can’t be my disciple unless you are willing to abandon father, mother, brother, or sister. Discipleship is not simply accepting Jesus into your heart, but becoming like Jesus in his radically missional sacrificial life. Are you saying most of the Christians you know are living this way?

      • RogerMcKinney

        Claiming to be Christian doesn’t make one Christian. I know modernist professors at theological schools who deny the divinity of Christ but claim to be Christian. Since the tithe is an OT law concept what is the Biblical percentage that Christians should give of their income? And where in the Bible is the correct number of how many people are we required to witness to in order to be Christlike?

        I simply don’t agree that Christians spend enough on Christmas presents to solve the world’s water problem; that seriously underestimates the problem. But assuming it is correct, so what? Where does the Bible tell Christians that we must solve the world’s water problem?

        Bible principles like “sacrifice, …death to self, taking up your cross, giving everything you have, desiring mercy to the poor instead of religious activity” are very important,” but what specific tasks Christians should perform to fulfill those principles aren’t in the Bible. God has left it to individuals to determine it for themselves. So it’s fine if you decide to do those things, but becomes sin if you use your personal choices as the standard for every other Christian. A lot of “missional” living is very similar to the attitude of the Pharisees who thought they were holier than others because they went far beyond the law in their “sacrifice.”

        Of course I agree that discipleship is more than belief, but I do not agree that it is the same as what you call “radically missional sacrificial.” Those are your personal choices for what you consider the Christian life to be.

        And be careful how you interpret the Bible. It only has one meaning, the one God intended when he had the apostles write. We can discover that meaning by using sound hermeneutic principles. A great deal of what the radical missional preachers teach violates those principles. For example, the Bible never calls Christians to give everything they have to the poor or anyone else. Jesus asked that of a particular young rich man, but in context of the entire Bible, Christians are to take care of their families and save for difficult times so they don’t become a burden on others.

        Another example is taking up your cross. One guy took that literally and dragged a wooden cross all over the country behind him. In context, Jesus meant giving up sinful desires.

        In terms of what the NT teaches, most Christians I know are leading very Christ-like lives. They’re not following the “radical missional” principles because they are unscriptural principles.

        Beware, however, of a movement that makes one look with such disdain on the rest of the church for whom Christ died, and criticize them so harshly, especially because of manmade standards. And be careful that you’re not inventing your own standards, as the Pharisees did, and trying to impose them on other Christians as if they were God’s standards.

        • ozark2ozarks

          This is so very confusing. So it is not appropriate to challenge parishoners to follow Jesus and his teachings which make us uncomfortable because sometimes people do ill-advised things like take up literal crosses? A Christian who is not challenged by the Gospel is not reading it correctly. One should be both confident in salvation and challenged to change. A personal ethic which seeks material comfort above sacrifice might not make this possible.

          • RogerMcKinney

            Your hermeneutic skills are terrible. I can only guess at the damage you do to the Bible, but if your poor interpretation of my post is a clue, the damage must be substantial.

          • ozark2ozarks

            I took your argument to be an all or nothing proposal: because some people misinterpret texts about specific sacrifices all interpretations about specific sacrifices are wrong.

          • RogerMcKinney

            Why not try instead to understand what the author meant?

          • ozark2ozarks

            I was replying to you.

          • RogerMcKinney

            I know. I was the author of the post. Discovering original intent through contextual, cultural and historical clues is one of the chief principles of hermeneutics. In the case of your interpretation of my post, why assume anything? Why not try to use contextual clues to interpret my intent?

          • ozark2ozarks

            I did. Have a good afternoon.

          • RogerMcKinney

            No you did not, or you would not have come up with such a bizarre interpretation of what I wrote. In fact you stated that you ” took your argument to be an all or nothing proposal.”

  • The Gospel interrupts normal life. I wrote this last night when thinking about how un-normal a Christ centered life really is. In the Kingdom, there’s no normal course of events, no predictable consequences from a predetermined set of actions, and no time when Christ’s words “the Kingdom of heaven is like,” doesn’t clash with out natural sensibilities.

    Normalcy paralyzes mission. Normalcy settles for reduced speed limits in order to “save gas,” but in reality only increases pollution, congestion, and doesn’t let the vehicle operate to its potential.

    If being missional is threatening and dangerous and “legalistic,” then it’s only threatening to a system which has monopolized those very things for hundreds of years. If it causes a bit of shame or guilt for being sedentary, then so be it. Perhaps it’s time to ensure that the sins of our fathers are not visited upon the sins of the sons unto the 4th generation and beyond.

    The missional goal is to bring faithful teachings to at least 4 generations. 2 Timothy 2:2 To be salt and light in all arenas of life. To wrench the Hope of the Gospel from the monopolizing hands of the clergy and put it back into the priesthood of all believers.

    The days of cloistering are gone. If our youth are leaving the church at high rates, it’s because they see past the charade of the church’s inability to speak their language. They’re crawling out of the their church bomb shelters and risking life “out there” where the rest of us should be too.

    It’s time for Christ’s people to embrace this sent-ness and reject eons of stay-put-ness. It is not radical to cling to Christ’s command to live as sent in the manner, and with the message “as” the Father sent Him.

    One thing about this article that I can agree with is that both camps suffer from destination disease. It doesn’t matter where you live as sent. If it’s the city, fine. If it’s across the border, then go! If it’s into a seedy part of society, then embrace it with compassion. If it’s the suburbs, then for Christ’s sake love your literal neighbor.

    The truth is that we, like Christ, must go where the Father says to go, Speak what He says to speak, and do what He says to do. And no one can or should usurp those Kingdom advancing directives.

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  • RogerMcKinney

    I can only speak for the Southern Baptist churches I have been a member of over the past 40 years, but none of them taught that only the pastor or missionaries were to do eveangelism. My churches always had evangelism training and encouraged people to see their jobs, clubs and social gatherings as mission fields.

    No, I don’t see Jesus and the apostles emphasizing sacrifice and suffering to accomplish the Great Commission. It’s the same bible, just a difference of hermeneutic techique. As I wrote, I think the “radicals” exhibit some pretty poor hemerneutics and bad theology.

    The techniques that Christians employ in evangelism depend upon their theology of salvation and the answer to the question, how much depends on God and how much depends upon me? Extreme Calvinists insist it’s all up to God and we have no role in the matter. The “radicals” seem to have the idea that it’s all up to us and God plays no role.

    The correct theology is that salvation is mostly the work of the Holy Spirit, but we can be sowers of the seed and harvesters. We can’t make the seed take root and grow. That depends on the hardness of the soil (the person’s attitude toward God) and the work of the Holy Spirit.

    In one way, the planet has already been evangelized: Paul wrote in Romans that no one has an excuse because the witness of nature and conscience prove the divinity and holiness of God. And the gospels tell us that the Holy Spirit continually deals with every person born convicting them of their sin. If people don’t respond to those, they will not respond to our puny witness. Our job is to find people who are responding to that witness and take them the verbal winess about Christ.

    I fear that the criticism of US Christians by the “radicals” belies their bad soteriology. They assume that the US is becoming less Christian because Christians refuse to witness. But proper soteriology would tell them that the US has rejected the witnesses of nature, their conscience and the convicting of the Holy Spirit and made them very hard hearted toward the gospel.

    The “radicals” seem to be unable to grasp that an entire nation can reject God and the quality of the witness has nothing to do with that rejection. Look at the prophets in Israel, from Samuel to Micah. God couldn’t have chosen better witnesses, but Israel as a whole rejecte them and God. Jesus and the Apostels were the best witnesses possible, but most of Israel and the Roman Empire rejected Christ.

    The quality or quantity of the witness has very little impact on the number of people who respond to it. That was Jesus’ point in the parable of the sower and seed. Jesus didn’t berate the sower for the failure of the seed to take root. He blamed the soil.

  • Robert Wallis

    This was interesting and thought-provoking. I agree with one of your main points: that we can take a new insight and passion and turn it into a new legalism. However, I’ve read Platt and a number of folks you describe as the new missional leaders, and I’ve not come away with your impressions. For example, I have no idea where you get the impression to ask: “Why is Christ’s command to love God and neighbor not enough for these leaders?”
    I have been convicted, I think in a good way, by Platt and others, that I have for years enjoyed my safe and happy suburban life in a great church with great friends and done very, very little to reach out to my actual neighbors, to say nothing of unbelievers in general. I think the reason the missional writers use language like “radical Christianity” is so they can get through to people, kind of like Jesus talking about cutting off your hand. In point of fact, what these writers often are describing is basic Christianity. A very good book, for example, along these lines is Everyday Church by Chester and Timmis.
    I suspect that the reason many 20-somethings have left large suburban churches is not because of the esoteric lure of being “missional,” but because they have not seen authentic Christianity being lived out in their churches, homes, and neighborhoods. I’m sure the arrogance and narcissism you describe exists, but I wouldn’t lay the blame on the missional writers (at least the ones I’ve read).
    Perhaps length of article dictated your choices, but I think you should use more concrete examples of what you decry. As a result of this lack, it appears you are knocking down straw men as opposed to dealing with a real and pervasive problem.
    Having said that, it was thought-provoking and a good challenge to those of us who aspire to be “missional” in a more urban setting. I hope and pray we will be known by our love for the church and the un-churched, not by the nickname of “missional.”

  • Alan Hirsch

    All forms of activism can become legalistic in their efforts to to motivate God’s people from being mere consumers of religious goods and services to being active disciples, and so we always need to be watchful. But to call the missional movement a new form of narcissism is profoundly irresponsible as well as utterly ridiculous! Mission IS a form of obligation rooted in our relationship with God through Christ. It is also the work of the Holy Spirit in sending us into the world.

    “Through him we received both the generous gift of his life and the urgent task of passing it on to others who receive it by entering into obedient trust in Jesus. You are who you are through this gift and call of Jesus Christ!” Rom.1:5-6 (Msg.)

    It seems that all Western Christians, including the so-called Millennials, could do with a bit of more missional ginger in the right place.

    • Alan,
      I agree that all forms of activism can become legalistic. But we should also be watchful of those teachings that lead to approaching the Gospel as consumers.

      I very much like the points you are making here

  • The Vicar

    This is a rather strange article that seems to be based on what might be “normative” for Christianity in the West, but not anywhere else. Does God love the burbs? Yes. Is He committed to fulfilling the American Dream? No. When we measure significance by the same means culture does, then we do encourage narcissism, but there is a destiny for all who follow Jesus…it’s called following Jesus where ever He leads. It can be the halls of earthly power, the janitor closet in a high school or a pulpit in an obscure town to share the Gospel with obscure people Jesus’ love. We want systems and regulations and steps clearly mapped out so we can “do it”. However, we have been called into a relationship with Jesus Christ, not some mechanized system. It takes time, it takes listening, it takes the willingness to abandon all “we” have determined as “of worth” to follow Him where ever He leads. Is “If you love me, you will do what I say.” legalism? Sheesh!

  • The Vicar

    This is a rather strange article that seems to be based on what might be “normative” for Christianity in the West, but not anywhere else. Does God love the burbs? Yes. Is He committed to fulfilling the American Dream? No. When we measure significance by the same means culture does, then we do encourage narcissism, but there is a destiny for all who follow Jesus…it’s called following Jesus where ever He leads. It can be the halls of earthly power, the janitor closet in a high school or a pulpit in an obscure town to share the Gospel with obscure people Jesus’ love. We want systems and regulations and steps clearly mapped out so we can “do it”. However, we have been called into a relationship with Jesus Christ, not some mechanized system. It takes time, it takes listening, it takes the willingness to abandon all “we” have determined as “of worth” to follow Him where ever He leads. Is “If you love me, you will do what I say.” legalism? Sheesh!

  • I think the bigger problem is the mistaken notion that all Christians are called to be radical followers of Christ. Of course, that’s nonsense. Jesus didn’t call the 5,000 to leave their nets or sell their possessions. Jesus gave 12 a special/radical invitation. He gave 70 another, less radical, invitation. And since the times of Jesus, the church has consisted of mostly quite everyday Christians. I like this article. It lowers the hurdle (as Jesus did) for the masses who just don’t have it in them to be missionaries–for us working a job and being a kind person is enough. The notion of missional, if it means loving your neighbors and being kind and sacrificial should be replaced with another word: Christian. I think C.S. Lewis was right where in Screwtape he talked about fads in thought. The radical/missional movement is yet another version of “Christianity-And.” And, frankly, most of the radical missional Christians I know look down their noses at all of us other Mere Christians.

  • Mike

    Anthony, would love to get your reply to this, and I’m hoping the fact that I attend your former alma mater, Covenant Seminary, boosts my chances you read this :) I agree with much of what you are saying about this new legalism towards mandatory “radical” missional Christianity, that leaves many Christians feeling shamed and burned out if they aren’t doing the most crazy unique thing for God. I agree thats wrong and can become a form of legalism and self-righteousness. My question for you is, do you think the pursuit of being a missional or radical Christian is really more of a problem in American Christianity, than a comfort driven marginal Christianity that has a large presence in the Western church? Within Christian circles, I’ve certainly experienced what you are describing in your article, yet, for the most part, I find that those Christians and those churches that teach a rich biblical theology of mission, the kingdom of God, the Christian life, along with a wholistic approach to discipleship and image bearing, are in fact much more likely to do the simple things which you speak of such as living a simple life of loving your neighbor, being a Godly family person, being a steward of what God gives you, etc….I find that if you have that gospel of the kingdom vision, you are way more likely to go out into the world (whether that be cities, small towns, or suburbs) in order to be an ambassador of the reconciliation of all things which Christ calls us to. What do you think?

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  • I don’t know if legalism is a term I would use on either Christian or nonChristian who tries to love their neighbor as themselves. I might apply it to people who are trying to do the spectacular to feel significant but since we all do things with mixed motives at best, it is something to be aware of.

    However, those who attempt to live a modest and quiet life could very well be suffering from a self-induced spiritual autism. These people are hyper-vigilant over their own small corner of the world while stimuli from outside that small corner can overwhelming and disruptive.

    But quite often, the kind of thoughts expressed in this article have a purpose. They are to encourage people to conform and comply with the. Don’t rock the boat or you will be trying to hard. This is what we have heard all too often before from the Church and its leaders. For the author doesn’t distinguish between those who, out of love, are engaged in a larger world from those who are submitting the new legalism. Rather, he is drawing a distinction between those who are submitting to a new legalism by being engaged with the world vs those who mind their small corner of it. This is the same old same old from the Church because, as the Left has correctly noted, the Church is another institution of indoctrination for the maintenance of the status quo.

  • Will Puth

    seriously? i must be in iowa, because all i see are straw-men. this is a grossly poor evaluation and pejorative use of “missional” and “radical.”
    i also want to take issue with your statement: “Getting married and having children early, getting a job, saving and
    investing, being a good citizen, loving one’s neighbor, and the like, no
    longer qualify as virtuous.” these are Christian virtues or are they American virtues? Jesus wasn’t married, didn’t have children, quit his carpentry job to become a traveling rabbi, was poor, and was executed by the state for not being a good citizen. I’m sorry, but if Jesus’ life doesn’t fit into your paradigm for virtue besides “loving one’s neighbor,” you might want to reevaluate your assumptions. granted, our lives aren’t going to reflect Jesus in the minutiae, but following Jesus is going to be “radical” and “missional” no matter your social context. in practical application to our realistic lives, we might not look so different from our neighbors because we have jobs, pay taxes, or go to school, but loving your neighbor as yourself is going to be “radical” and will challenge our societal expectations in just about any social structure whether its a farming community or an urban slum.
    unlike what you want to assert, most “radical” and “missional” leaders/authors i’ve encountered are aware that being “radical” and “missional” is about more inspiring yourself and others to listen to what God may be calling you to do than rely on cultural expectations to guide your actions. I would think it would be rather hard to find ones that would state being “missional” is about spiritual exceptionalism. if they did, use those kinds of quotes to make your point. there may be a few that are just in it for the trend, but until they come out and say something contradictory like you did in this article, your ideas are mostly conjectured from an emotional reaction.

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  • Hudson

    Spot on!! I have been thinking this for years. Love will become the “New Law.” Many brought up in this “Don’t judge me!” generation cannot produce a true love outside of Jesus Christ. So, in order to “FEEL” better about themselves they must “PRODUCE” love for their neighbors which does not originate from Jesus’ love for them and through them to others, it becomes a manufactured love. One based on works and not from the heart. This is the way Communism works, once they “Kill” God out of a society, morality must be legislated. Because man cannot produce “True Love” outside of the lover of mankind, Jesus Christ.

    • Love is the new law, the law of Christ. Gal 6:2 Many respected theologians understand the “law of Christ” is either a reference to the 1st and 2nd great commandment or John 13:34 where Jesus gives a new command to love one another as He has loved us. Considering in Gal 5:14 Paul says that all the law is summed up in this “love your neighbor as yourself” it makes perfect sense that in the context of bearing one another’s burdens the “law of Christ” should be understood as a law of love.

      Not a self-imposed legalism, but a Spirit inspired love derived as a response to the radical love Christ has shown us 1 John 3:16-18, 4:7-12.

  • As a “Millenial and someone who grew up in this missional and radical movement” I can really relate to what the author is saying. I used to cry out and pray with so much fervor for what God’s calling my life was. This went on for most of my teen and young adult years. I was so distressed because I wasn’t “serving” the Lord like a lot of people I looked up to. I didn’t have a “ministry.”

    I remember very vividly the day that I was praying so hard while driving once, God spoke to me and said, Cynthia, it doesn’t have to be so difficult. All I had ever wanted (so very selfishly) was to simply get married to the right man, have children and raise them to know and love God. I struggled with this very basic and God-given desire to do so because I was taught that I had to do more, to stand in the gap, to reach out to those in large cities or foreign lands.

    Even after giving up on my other “dreams” (which were really societal imposed norms) and accepting that this was indeed my calling, I really do not believe that I could feel happier or more fulfilled than I am right now, Loving my Lord, loving and caring for my husband and children and training them to do the same. I think we miss a big point that the Lord makes when we as christians focus on so much religion and miss out on true religion which is to Love the Lord God with all of our being and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Everything else falls into those statements. We as individuals will never “reach” every being on this Earth, but if we each start reaching out to those that our neighbors it will have a rippling effect and eventually we will reach those around the world.

    That all being said, we do obviously need missionaries and people called into those fields of service, but for a long time I really struggled with being accepted by my Lord because I wasn’t doing something grandiose because I was taught to fight against this normalcy of raising a family. I’m so thankful that I finally listened to my Lord and let go of all those other expectations imposed upon me as a woman, a member of society and most importantly a Christian. God has truly blessed my life and I am reaching out to those around me by simply living and loving how I believe Christ meant me to.

    Anthony, thank you for writing this article, for a long time I felt like I was all alone with this struggle.

  • Jesus’ love is “radical.” Jesus calls us to love “as I have loved…” (Jn. 13:34). That love is demonstrated by “radical” self-giving , self- forgetting, self-emptying sacrifice on the cross by the creator God for his rebellious children; his enemies. I challenge you to try to live out the life Jesus calls us to in the Sermon on the Mount and not become an offense to the world. The life Jesus calls us to is entirely incompatible with the consumer “lifestyle” glorified by the culture. Even those Paul wrote about in 1 Thess. 4 were subject to persecution because their love made them visibly different from the surrounding pagan culture. But it was also their radical love in the face of persecution that brought about the most explosive period of growth in church history. You should not discourage people from radical love. What there is to criticize about so-called “missional” churches is their apparent readiness to abandon scripture in the name of “love,” but not their zeal to live as Jesus commanded.

  • J. Dean

    People here are missing the point of the article.

    On the one hand, there is a sense in which every Christian is to be aware that he/she is bearing witness in words and actions before an unbelieving world: nobody disputes this. Mr. Bradley is absolutely right about the doctrine of vocation being lost in today’s church, and this doctrine (used mainly by Luther) should be brought up again, as it explains very well how all things done by a Christian are to be done to the glory of God. Vocation also goes a long way in avoiding the trap of thinking that only missionaries and pastors are spiritual in their vocations while everybody else in a secular job is a carnal Christian (don’t laugh: there were speakers in the Baptist school I attended in my youth which came to our chapel services and gave this very impression). I would like to point out that SOME, according to Ephesians 4:12, are called to be pastors and evangelists-and “some” does not mean “all.” One can be faithful to God without being in full-time ministry.

    On the other hand, the concern that legalism is being pushed in this movement is also a legitimate point as well. Yes, to exalt comfort as an idol is wrong, but just because one is comfortable in any way, shape, or form does not automatically mean one is in sin (That IS a legalistic attitude, one found by monastics in Rome). Yes, materialism is a real problem in our society, and I’m sure that there are Christians who struggle with it, but just because one is rich does not mean one is in sin (were Abraham and Job in sin because they were rich? Was the nation of Israel in sin for wanting to go to a plentous land that God promised them, flowing with milk and honey?). Nor does it necessarily follow that rich or well-off people are stingy with their money just because we don’t see how much they give with our own eyes (I recall Jesus instructing us to “not let our left hand know what our right hand does” when it comes to our charity in Matthew 6).

    All that we receive comes from God, and to be sure we ought to be considering setting aside a portion of our gifts for the benefit of others, but nobody has the right to judge whether or not another person is “giving enough” or needs to “give more,” when in truth charity is performed by others that we will never see or hear about. So in truth it’s pretty arrogant to presume that somebody else with more than we have is in sin because they’re not being as “spiritual” as we are because they might have a nice car and we don’t. That is a wrong form of judgment, one based on ignorance.

    Finally, I want to point something out: those in the missional movement like Platt, Piper, and Chan are big on pushing the idea that one might have to question one’s salvation if one is not “doing enough” for the kingdom (Chan is especially notorious for this in his book CRAZY LOVE, which I’ll post a good response to shortly). In response to this, I’d just like to say that in Matthew 7:21-23, those whom Jesus casts out into judgment counter Christ’s pronouncement by pointing to their works for the basis of salvation (Lord, didn’t we do “X” and “Y”?). The accusation made against the missional movement that those advocating “radical” Christianity are taking a step in the direction of works-righteousness is not a baseless one. We are saved by looking to Christ, not by how much we’re doing in the name of Christ, and that balance is not always maintained by advocates of the missional (or as I like to call it, the “Protestant Monastic”) movement. These men come dangerously close to preaching Pelagianism. The warning against legalistic teaching is one that missional advocates need to take seriously. They need to ask, “Are we really giving off a works-righteousness impression to our people?” Because if you as a missional person are constantly putting grace in the backseat while hammering law in the name of duty, or if you are making grace nothing more than the empowerment to be missional, then you ARE pushing legalism. Works are a by-product of grace and are the effect of grace, not the other way around. Push works, and you’ll get legalism; push grace, and you’ll see the works follow.

    As a postscript, let me add these two reviews of missional books. The first is by Dr. Christopher Cone reviewing Chan’s CRAZY LOVE:

    The second is a review of Platt’s Radical by Kevin De Young:

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  • Whoa, reading all the comments and infighting here is the reason I don’t like Church anymore. “Hey, I can out Jesus you!” You all make Christianity too complicated, everything is “wrong”. …just tired of it all. What if you are all frikin’ right, and some people are meant to do it “this” way, and others are meant to do it the “other”. God is bigger than our worldview for goodness sakes. Geesh!

  • everything becomes legalism without the Spirit.
    as far as….”Why Christ’s command to love God and neighbor not enough for
    these leaders?” don’t we remember where Jesus explains what it looks
    like to “love your neighbor”

    I guess the real question is “And who is my neighbor?”

    we all know the answer to that… strangers who we happen to run into,
    unexpectedly, inconveniently and at great personal cost and
    sacrifice…check out Luke 10

    Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
    The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
    Then Jesus said, “YES, NOW GO AND DO THE SAME.”

    I don’t know one Missional pastor (except my husband and maybe Francis Chan) who lives like you are describing. Mars Hill pastors, for example, have lots of kids, are very young, have really nice houses and cars…

    this article is annoying to me because it is clearly uninformed.I am a Millennial, I am about truth, not legalism…If you would have brought up wearing jeans and liberty when it comes to drinking alcohol, I would say yes there is legalism there. but not at all about how to love your neighbor….sadly we are still turning alot of blind eyes to our neighbors.

    • RogerMcKinney

      No one is against loving your neighbor. But the application of that is personal. Not everyone will decide to love one’s neighbor in exactly the same way. Those who insist that everyone has to love their neighbor in exactly the same way that they do is guilty of being a Pharisee.

    • RogerMcKinney

      No one is against loving your neighbor. But the application of that is personal. Not everyone will decide to love one’s neighbor in exactly the same way. Those who insist that everyone has to love their neighbor in exactly the same way that they do is guilty of being a Pharisee.

  • Add the above that pop culture has most people convinced they are the celebrity in their own reality show.

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  • RogerMcKinney

    The harsh criticisms of American Christians is shocking. All have the attitude that they know the motives of most American Christians and they are evil. But harshly judging the motives of others is what Christ was talking about when he commanded us to not judge lest we be judged. Critics should keep in mind that Paul wrote that God would judge us as harshly as we judge others.

    Someone will assert that I am judging the “radicals”, but I’m judging their teachings and theology, which the Bible commands us to do, not their motives. I couldn’t care less what their motives are.

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  • Beth

    Christ’s ministry didn’t happen in the suburbs, living quietly with his wife and kids. Neither did the ministries of his disciples. There’s no reason to make a statement against Christians who choose to follow the model laid out in the New Testament, presented through the gospel as the model to follow. The good news about living quietly in the suburbs and loving your (literal) neighbors: probably you won’t meet too many of these radicals. No need to cast judgment on their mission. Be the light in your world and let them be lights in theirs.

  • Josh Cissell

    I think the word missional in a sense has been high jacked and means ALL kinds of things now.
    I think the author lumped a lot of things together and painted with massive brush strokes. I also think the idea of missional living and doing missions overseas is being confused.

    The missional movement has become a huge buzzword especially in the last year. Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, but most of the people have never actually lived that way. Living like that only really comes with actually experiencing it first hand for an extended amount of time. One can talk about living missionally and never actually even do it. Missional living is actually just discipleship the way Jesus did it. In desperate attempts to fix the problems of the corporate Churches in America, many have tried to make being “missional” a new program. It is a way of life.

    I would say that David Platt and Francis Chan are still pretty much in the box of Church, done the American way. I honestly don’t think they would consider themselves leaders in the missional movement. I think they are just voices calling people to something more than a Sunday morning Christianity.

    The guys that are leaders within what I would call the “true missional movement” (Jeff Vanderstelt (Soma in Tocoma Washington), Mike Breen(3DM ministries), & Tim Chester in England, Hirsch, etc..) have been doing so for MANY years. I think Breen and Chester have been doing this for 20 years or more. Their description of missional would be living a normal life with Gospel intentionality. Living a life where the Gospel infiltrates every aspect of it. Not adding programs to your life, but going about the normal rhythms of life with Gospel intentionality. In more familiar terms, living a wholistic (spelling?) life. This concept isn’t new by any means but it is difficult and the corporate Church of America has promoted a compartmentalized life for a very long time because it is extremely difficult to live life with someone. It is very easy to put on a service each Sunday and give information. This incarnational/missional/wholistic living is very commonly seen in “parachurch” organizations. Young Life is a very good picture of wholistic missional living.

    So I would say that the author would probably agree 100% with the true missional movement in America. One thing I have observed over the last few years is the tendency of “comfortable Christians” that have God figured out, to down play “radical” Christianity. I’ve also experienced that many of those same people go to 2, 3, 4 Bible studies a week and have an answer for everything and want to make sure everyone agrees with their theology. I’ve also seen those same people use normal every day living as an excuse for them not seeing the Holy Spirit work in their lives.

    Maybe if the author had a conversation with some of the people he is trying to lump in the mix he would understand their voice and who they are. Hopefully he may also see that people can be immature in the new things they are learning and through their journey with God, the Spirit will bring them through this sanctification process. Just because someone is immature in how they speak and understand something, doesn’t mean they are wrong.

    Here is a link to Soma’s story.

    This link is to videos giving some info about missional living. The video at the top shows a little about Soma itself. The videos “Everyday Gospel Rhythms” and “The meaning of missional and missional community” are also good to give a person an idea of what these guys are talking about.

  • I’m just beginning to discover the “missional” movement and love the way it is waking up the church. Comfortable Christianity with no heart for the lost is the problem. The author of this article misconstrues the impact of getting Christians to live with gospel purpose. No one is asking people to do anything new but to live life with a gospel centered consciousness. Give God the glory wherever you are! Loving and blessing others is the bedrock of this movement. Shame on him for putting down such an exciting revival in living out the great commission.

  • Your article made me deeply uncomfortable for several reasons, in part because it addresses some of the issues that have been troubling me lately. I grew up in a Christian home, but it was not until last year that I truly started to follow the Lord; since then, I have become involved with Campus Crusade, and have begun to feel a wrenching pain for my friends and family who do not know the Lord. I want to live missionally, I want to tell people about the Lord and how he’s changed my life.

    Here is the main problem that I have with your essay. All my life, I have been around Christians leading quiet lives and working with their hands. These are people that I respect and love, but many of them rarely spoke about how God was working in their lives, or how he was using them in the lives of the people around them. What I saw all my life was people who don’t talk about their faith. What I saw was churches so inwardly focused that they missed the fact that there are people – the neighbors who we are called to love – who are dying in their sins.

    Partly because of this, in my college years, I began to doubt the existence of God. The people around me looked just like all the other good, solid, hard-working citizens; I started to believe that maybe that’s all they were. I didn’t see the power of God in their lives, and I didn’t see it in myself. In my second year of college, I became a closet atheist.

    During my third year of college, I was seriously depressed – about this time last year, I was thinking about suicide almost every day. When I returned to college last fall, I knew something needed to change or I’d self-destruct. I started trying to seek God – though I still doubted his existance – and became a part of Campus Crusade. In the lives of the leaders and the people in the movement, I saw something I wanted. These were people who were committed to living missionally; in them I saw a joy in seeking the Lord, in seeking to live radically for him.

    And then God met me and became real to me. A lot of this was because of the people that God placed around me who were “radical.”

    I agree with you that love, and loving the people God has placed around us, is one of the most important aspects of Christianity. However, when you ask, “Why is Christ’s command to love God and neighbor not enough for these leaders?” I think you are missing something. This is not Christ’s only command. He also gave us the Great Commission.

    This summer, I will be going to Tokyo to tell people about the love of God; one of my best friends is going to be staying home and working. We are both doing what we feel the Lord has called us to do, and trusting in him to use us to reach the people around us. The desire to live missionally doesn’t come from a feeling a shame, but from a joy in what God has done in us, and a need to share that joy with the people around us. If this joy is missing, then living missionally does become a duty and a curse – but I think we are all called to live in God’s joy, and out of that joy should come the desire to live missionally.

    One last thing I want to address is your linking of church departures by youth to missional theology. I can only speak for what I have seen personally, but at least in my home, Hawaii, the churches that are growing the most rapidly are the churches that are most missional. They are also the churches with the largest number of young people, and are generally the most excited for the work of the Lord. Most other churches are declining rapidly as their congregations age and die.

    I hope this didn’t come across as incredibly preachy, but living out the Great Commission is something I feel very strongly about. I don’t think God is going to always call us to take incredible risks, but I think when he does, I believe we can step out in faith, trusting him to lead us, trusting him to use us, and trusting him catch us when we fall. If anyone reading this has the time, please pray for me as I go to Japan, that God will use me, even in my weakness.

  • We are all fearfully and wonderfully made and God’s works are wonderful. There is a calling for all of us 1 Corinthians 12:4-6. While Platt’s life and experiences can be an amplified version we still need to be salt and light. I believe the workplace is a powerful place to exemplify Christ. To be above reproach in your handling of business. To live openly your life as a follower of Christ. To exemplify the fruits of the Holy Spirit in your actions and behavior. I don’t believe Platt’s objective is to shame us into action but rather to be a voice of reason that perhaps being a Christian is more than many are currently preaching about. You can’t be a follower of Christ by intentions and feelings only. If you live out the commandments of Matt 22:36-40 there is no way your life will be “ordinary.” You will have a love in you and a compassion that stands out this world. You will impact the world around you in a meaningful way just by loving others. If you see a need you can’t help but respond 1 John 3:17. As followers of Christ we will be different, we will be something new, something better 2 Corinthians 5:17. Yes, this can be fulfilled in your carrer, in your family and in your local community (even the suburbs.) But there is no doubt that as a follower of Christ, as a person with the love of Christ dwelling inside you, you will be something different, something special, something holy.

    • RogerMcKinney

      I have never heard a preacher preach anything different. I don’t see how the “radicals” are radical if what you wrote is all they intend.

  • It seems like a straw man argument. You portray the “radical” “missional” approach incorrectly. I don’t think the point of Radical is to shame anyone into anything, but rather it serves to portray following Christ in a way that is a better reflection on historical Christian practice. If there is shame involved it is only because we have gotten so far from what it really means (and costs) to follow Christ, and are convicted by the Spirit and the word of God. I don’t know of anyone in the missional/radical movement that looks down on getting married, raising kids, loving neighbor, etc. For people like Platt and Chan they have made it clear that we are not moved to this type of lifestyle by shame but when we truly understand what Christ has done for us we are moved by His radical love to love others. 1 John 3:16-18 and 4:7-12 are two of many great examples of this.

  • amanduh

    It seems to me that this is just an extension of a larger societal problem. On a whole we are told that we can be anything we want to be, that we should make a difference, we hold up exceptions as the norm and expect to be able to accomplish great things with minimal effort or even great things with effort, but we all are told that we can and should be great and that’s not possible. By definition only a few can be exceptional.

    I don’t know whether this is pushing young people away from church in particular. I know that young people are being taught that they are special snowflakes and that they must make their mark on the world in and out of the church. I also believe that it’s a huge problem and leads to depression and dissatisfaction with all aspects of life, religion being one certainly.

  • For a cross-disciplinary perspective, consider Lori Gottlieb, As a parent and therapist, she describes a generational parenting style that has created elevated self-expectations and excessive self-demands among millennials. No matter what they do, they are not confident they are “perfect!” adults as they were always “perfect!” kids. Add to this the 30-year trend of generation-separated congregations spurred by the church growth movement, which has segregated these driven youth from older adults who could share wisdom. We’ve lost our knowledge of being the Body, which makes any mission less effective than it seems. We’re also short on confidence that God knows we are less than “perfect!”, which should be a great relief as we live each day in the grace of His and each other’s forgiveness.

  • 3Dunedain90

    Some excellent observations are made here, yet we need to be careful also not to over-react to what we already see in this spirit as a reaction to lukewarm and jaded suburban Christianity. Given the increased aggressiveness of secularism, polytheism and moral decay within our American culture, it is not surprising that a call to a sleepy church exists that is commensurate with the clear challenges ahead.

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  • God’s law and grace are far more “radical” than Platt writes about in his books.

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  • Brother Bradley,
    Respectfully, I think that you have misunderstood both missional (at least with the missional circles that I am familiar with( and radical. You closed with, “The combination of anti-suburbanism with new categories like “missional” and “radical” has positioned a generation of youth and young adults to experience an intense amount of shame for simply being ordinary Christians who desire to love God and love their neighbors (Matt 22:36-40).” I have yet to see that on any level in my experience In fact, I have see the exact opposite. I have seen what you have argued for in these two contexts. I would like to see examples of the shame that you speak of.

    Can missional and radical become legalistic? Yes! Definitely! Our hearts are continually seeking to usurp God and follow something/anything else. We must always be on guard against it. But again, I have yet to see it among the two examples you have given.

    Thank you for your passion for the Gospel and for desiring to make God look great always. May God bless you immensely.


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  • Anonymous

    I disagree with this article. The impression that I got from reading it
    was a slightly veiled prosperity gospel, you had me at “maybe Christians
    are simply to pursue living well”. If you study the lives of the
    apostles, disciples, reformers, martyrs and so on throughout history and
    compare it to what the author espouses here, it puts one to shame. They
    were all “living well” in their suffering and in bringing the gospel to
    the lost. Look at Richard Wurmbrand.

    So many have and continue
    to go to great pains for the furthering of the gospel. That is radical
    and that is what we should be doing. It doesn’t mean that you have to go
    and be tortured in the far corners of the globe. You can be living in
    suburbia, but what are you doing to make Christ known there? God calls
    each believer uniquely to different locations, so whether you are living
    radically in the United States or elsewhere, you are fulfilling the
    Great Commission.

    I would rather take the narrow path that seems
    radical than go the broad way that leads to destruction. A lot of the
    sentiments of the article sound like the characters in John Bunyan’s
    “Pilgrim’s Progress” which attempt to dissuade the protagonist from
    seeking the kingdom. A true Christian is separated from the world and IS
    radical. False converts are lukewarm and will be tossed out.

    did not see a clear message in the article as to the ultimate goal of
    the Christian. Is the ultimate goal to merely espouse virtue or model
    piety for a neighbor or preach Christ? If the preaching of Christ is not
    our number one concern, then we should be examining ourselves. When one
    speaks of maintaining a family (if you have one to maintain) and such,
    those are all secondary tasks to following Christ and it is assumed that
    the believer will of course take care of all practical necessities.

    • You could do something “radical” and resolve not to post comments on blogs anonymously. Certainly, not when making baseless charges about the prosperity gospel, which has been roundly condemned by Acton scholars, including Anthony Bradley.

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  • I am disappointed with this article, Anthony, not because I want to defend “missionals” or “radicals” but rather because from this article, I am under the impression that you are assuming that people who live untraditional lives or that may have the desire to do not value the “pursuit of wisdom, knowledge, understanding, education, wonder, beauty, glory, creativity, and worship”. Caring for human flourishing and worship are not mutually exclusive. People are a lot more complex than you think, and so is their relationship with Jesus. Without worship and wonder and friendship and creativity, of course one would get burnt out. Guilt and shame can never sustain us. Only Christ’s love and beauty can.

    I think it’s okay for students to wrestle with things like this, but ultimately, the wrestling should never EVER end in shame or guilt. As I have grown older, I have started to see the beauty in living an ordinary life in love. But my heart’s desire isn’t to. My hearts desire is to take a small part in peacemaking, not out of some crazy legalism or guilt but out of my yearning to see the Lord’s world in peace. I’ve yet to know what that looks like. Maybe it will lead me

    Sometimes, I think the pressure is just on ourselves. Most of the pressure I’ve felt is on myself.

    I definately do not agree with churches that pressure their congregants to be “missional” just because everyone else in the church is missional or the pastor just values it. But, I also come from a place where most churches I went to had this same disdain for “radicals” and “social justice” do-ers and focused on family and ordinary jobs as if you can’t care about racial reconciliation and poverty and live it out of a thankful heart towards the Lord. Most of the girls were focused on getting a date and a lot of the women were already pregnant. The visions and dreams that were shared there were limited. It was discouraging because I felt like a part of my heart and my vocation was being reduced and belittled by the pastor and I felt guilty for never going on a date (something WAY out of my control). So, it goes both ways. Shaming and guilt and discouragement and legalism happens both ways.

    You can live an ordinary loveless life with a good family and that become filthy loveless rags. You can do the same with missional endeavors.

    I like my generation because I think we’re learning to dream bigger, even if we don’t always know what to do with those dreams. We are not perfect. We need so much grace and beauty.

  • I sometimes stuggle with these feelings myself – but I don’t blame them on David Platt or Francis Chan. The feelings originate in my own prideful heart. If we (I) feel ‘inadequate’ or ‘marginalized’ by the ‘radical’ christians – than I misunderstand the Bible and the more modern term – Radical Christianity. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 3-13 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.4For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function,5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.6Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;7if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching;8or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
    9Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;11not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;12rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,13contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

    David Platt and Francis Chan are referring to ‘Radical, Crazy – LOVE’ not just for the missionaries who are risking their lives for the Gospel but for you and me and every Christian. Every body has parts that are assigned more critical roles (by God and by HIS design) -other parts are less critical – but still necessary. A young couple who gets married early in life and start a family has many ways to be radical in the Kingdom. The problem resides in our own hearts and minds

  • Katmoncue

    The legalism you describe is not exactly new. When Christians share stories about far away adventures in serving Christ, they usually share the exciting highlights (and today, the exotic travel adventure opportunities), especially when looking for continued support from those who are “homebound”. The “homebound” can then be drawn into envy or longing to be at the center of attention and the unscrupulous (or pastors who are “well intended”) can play with these emotions.
    New versions of this article are needed periodically to remind all of us to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit rather than succumb to the awe of the latest craze in outreach/missions. Most missions are accomplished friendship by friendship whether close to home or far away. Anyone who shows their relationship to Christ by their everyday living usually has a decent grip on the Godly relationships you describe here.

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  • Beth Bilynskyj

    think Corinne Ware’s four quadrants do a good job of describing the
    main types of Christian spirituality in her book, “Discover Your
    Spiritual Type:” Mind/sage; Heart/charismatic; Soul/mystic; and Activist/Prophet. (For example, see and )

    We tend toward the extremes. Evangelicals have done the thinker thing
    (Protestant scholastics) and the feeler thing (pietism/charismatics) and
    now we are doing the social justice thing.

    like the only type remaining to be explored (or exploited?) is
    mysticism, so it’s only a matter of time until those young adults who
    are “shame-driven by the pressure to be awesome and extraordinary” and
    who are “expected to tangibly make a difference in the world
    immediately” discover the quadrant of the soul. Be on the lookout for a
    wave of books and conferences and retreats focused on solitude,
    silence, mystery, intuition, and listening to God. It’s the next swing
    of the pendulum.

    Thatsaid, I still think one of the most powerful witnesses in our society
    is to have a strong Christian marriage and raise kids who love Jesus and
    their neighbors. The forces against such an ordinary, quiet life are
    so strong that when it actually happens, it is a remarkable and
    beautiful thing.

  • I really appreciate the insight the author made concerning a performace-motivated and driven mentality embedded in this movement. I think it is a healthy dosage to us all, in whatever mission work we do. In the end, if anything we do is not out of a God-centered desire, but a desire to serve ourselves–our need to feel significant or what have you—it is idolatory. And legalism and spirtual idolatry are inseperable.

    However, I wonder if a counter argument cannot be made here. It is true that “to be church” is not biblical, but could it be merely semantics? After all, the Bible does say “be My witness,” “be salt and light to the world” which inevitably implies csome sort of conscious actions, doesn’t it? Merely doing something actively does not imply legalism automatically.

    Anyway, my biggest question is: are we now critiquing the motives or the actions? What would the author say about the complacency of the suberbers who live indifferent to the sufferring or the needs of those living in the cities? Should we be concerned about them at all or we should just be content with our quiet lives? How do we show our love for God and man in such a context?

    • Virginia,
      I do not think quiet lives exist outside of being Amish. Things are too interdependent. But as for the point you made in the first paragraph, it seems that most deny the tradeoffs that come with serving self first. This puts us in a catch-22 situation with regards to our current systems.

  • Kad

    Those are some important things to ponder. Two things to remember: 1) relationship with god, 2) relationship with others. Life is unbalanced without either, whether in the city or suburb.

  • war.critic

    Your point regarding the neurotic and self-absorbed drive underlying some young people’s search for a deeper and more holistic and historically rooted Christianity is well made and well taken. Your underlying endorsement of therapeutic American bourgeois Christianity, however, is troublesome. It is not the middle way of “simply being ordinary Christians who desire to love God and love their neighbors” that you suggest, but the other extreme that must also be rejected.

  • Cole

    Thanks for this Anthony. I just finished reviewing Platt’s “Follow Me” and find myself agreeing with much that was said here.

  • Cole

    Thanks for this Anthony. I just finished reviewing Platt’s “Follow Me” and find myself agreeing with much that was said here.

  • i enjoyed this article and was a bit surprised to read some of the comments.

    i didn’t sense a corrective against missions or evangelism per say but toward the idea that our methods must be special, unique or radical!

    as a graduate of a Christian college and then seminary, i received my fair share of chapel services and motivational speeches about how special and unique I and my ministry would be. i was destined to be great!

    after failed church plants i found myself on staff at a church and attended the usual circuit of pastor’s conferences that paraded those who had “made it” because of how special, creative and awesome they were. i was still holding on to this idea that to be a successful minister was to one day make it as a speaker to one of these conferences, or have books published and be affirmed by the church as a visionary hero. once everyone else knew how special i was, then i had made it.

    i live a normal life now (as normal as life gets). i have not withdrawn to monasticism but i see myself as a missionary where God has planted me. i actively pursue being a disciple, pastor and a missionary to those around me. i also compare myself against ministry superstars a lot less than i used to do.

    and this is what i got from the article. the way we compare ourselves with each other, and the freedom to accept who we are that Christ has made us … even if it’s boring. by their very nature, not all of us can be the conference speaker, or on the cover of a magazine or become the poster child for most the radical missional church ever.

    I’ll end my long comment with a little Henri Nouwen:

    “You are tempted to think that you are a nobody in the spiritual life and that your friends are far beyond you on the journey. But this is a mistake. You must trust the depth of God’s presence in you and live from there. This is the way to keep moving toward full incarnation.” Henri Nouwen, “The Inner Voice of Love”

  • Dean Broyles

    I must confess that I disagree with the author’s premise. It seems like he is overly pacifying Jesus and by extension his followers. Jesus was anything but conventional, as the author implies. Jesus was radical and He calls us to a countercultural and radical life–what some have called the upside-down kingdom. If that makes me a missional narcissist (whatever the heck that is), then so be it. I have been called worse. I think culturally disengaged Christians are disobedient cowards and wimps. Pick up your cross and follow Him.

    • RogerMcKinney

      No one disagrees that Christians should “die to themselves”, “take of their cross” or any of the other catch phrases that the “radicals” like to toss around. That should be clear from the article and the posts agreeing with it. It’s simply dishonest to claim that those of us who disagree with the “radicals” don’t know or desire to follow the Jesus.

      The disagreement is over how to apply “die to yourself” and “take of your cross” to daily life. What specific actions does a Christian take in order to fulfill those directives?

      The “radicals” err in thinking their actions and only their actions demonstrate fulfillment of those commands and criticize those who don’t follow their actions as being lazing, cowardly and worldly. In other words, they have added to the word of God by making their lifestyles the standard of Christian living and therefore equal to the word of God.

    • RogerMcKinney

      Show me in the Bible where Christians are commanded to be “culturally engaged.” And I don’t mean the actual words, anything related to the concept would be fine. If the concept isn’t in the Bible, then you are guilty of adding your own ideas to the Bible and making them equal with the word of God. I would think Christians would be a little bit fearful of doing that.

  • TeamRed_vs_TeamBlue

    May I suggest abandoning superstition, and instead embracing Reason? There’s no guilt involved, I promise.

  • stefanstackhouse

    Jesus himself made it pretty clear that His kingdom would be built from the grassroots – the yeast or mustard seed model. This actually is a radical model, because it is a totally counter-intuitive way to change the world. It is also missional, because it doesn’t let anyone off the hook – everyone is to be involved, and everyone CAN be involved.

    Jesus was a lot more impressed by the widow that put only a few coins in the collection box that with those who gave megabucks, because those were all the coins that she had. Ordinary, unexceptional people in ordinary, unexceptional places doing things that are anything but ordinary or unexceptional, but maybe still not attracting all that much attention to themselves: that seems to be what our Lord has in mind for most of us.

  • The missional movement is very much youth driven…so I highly doubt it’s the reason why youth leave the church. At the heart of the missional movement is evangelism/disciple making, and it simply seeks to do that in a different way than past generations. You are highly mistaken if you think that the movement itself is merely the creation of new moral goods that can provide things to feel good about.

    • It’s youth-driven but by a tiny minority of youth. The actual mass numbers are drifting away, so it’s self-evidently not working. The most recent longitudinal research is showing the present generation to be the least engaged in virtually any measurable good work than the preceding two generations at equivalent ages. Instead, there is a hyper-engaged tiny minority, leading — well — not many people at all.

  • As someone who spent time as a student at The King’s College, I was interested in this article from Prof. Bradley. I, too, sometimes even wonder how I could possibly justify working a “regular” job when I could get a “world changing” job. I recognize that this is a harmful attitude. As I work now in the humanitarian industry (yes, that’s what it is) I wanted to write a response for my organization. You may click through below.

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  • Timothy Coomar

    I love the Acton Institute but this article is little more than a hit piece on Tim Keller which never manages to get more than skin deep all while missing the point completely. Not really much to engage with as you are simply stating what is already a given for all sides of the field.

  • Susan Watson

    Love this! Especially since the newest church fad is to preach and teach on the “seven deadly sins”. Where did that come from? I never new that one sin was deadlier than another! =( Another old trap to fall into is recycled for today.

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  • David Taylor

    Thank you for the thought provoking article. I am drawn to this new movement because it causes me to question my Western and American version of Christianity. Secondly, I see these authors (ie Piper, Chan, Platt, etc) as prophetic voices who God has raised up to call God’s people to himself and to covenantal faithfulness. And lastly, the call to discipleship, grounded in the whole of scripture (not just selected sections), is the very means God uses to accomplish his purpose in discipleship. In other words, Gods commands come with the power to fulfill them. As Augustine said, “command what you will; give what you command.” Yet one can indeed be missional and radical and live a normal, God centered, Spirit led, ordinary life!

  • David Taylor

    Thank you for the thought provoking article. I am drawn to this new movement because it causes me to question my Western and American version of Christianity. Secondly, I see these authors (ie Piper, Chan, Platt, etc) as prophetic voices who God has raised up to call God’s people to himself and to covenantal faithfulness. And lastly, the call to discipleship, grounded in the whole of scripture (not just selected sections), is the very means God uses to accomplish his purpose in discipleship. In other words, Gods commands come with the power to fulfill them. As Augustine said, “command what you will; give what you command.” Yet one can indeed be missional and radical and live a normal, God centered, Spirit led, ordinary life!

  • Danelle Rottner

    Thank you for the article, Anthony – I have been waiting to hear this articulated! Working with adolescents and young adults in ministry and counseling for the past 15 years has clearly affirmed your instinct, and I am thankful for your thoughtful, honest, and biblical challenge.

  • It takes a LOT of temerity to call Tim Keller to task. Hesitation seems warranted at the very least.

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  • Gert from the Well

    I’m afraid the gospel directly contradicts your argument.

    In Luke 9:22-24 (NRSV), Jesus speaks to the disciples

    “saying, “The Son of
    Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief
    priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

    Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny
    themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”

    Following Christ is not a part of one’s life, it is a way of life. Discipleship is every Christian’s “vocation”. The reason the church is losing members, especially with young people like me, is because it has sold out the gospel. If the culture warriors and business-class pharisees would read the words of the prophets they might understand how far they’ve missed the mark – and the reason that their faith is meaningless . Don’t believe me? Start in Isaiah 57 and read on for a few chapters.

    The futile idolatry of those who think the Gospel of Christ can be reconciled with “being a good citizen” is so widespread that it causes many young Christians (like myself) to question giving up hope in the church – nor for lack of faith – but because the weeds are choking out the good seed. Radical Christians reject this citizenship, because as Ephesians 6:12 puts it :

    “our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against
    the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this
    present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly

    Radical Christians are audacious enough to take the reformation to it’s logical conclusion. Reading the Bible for ourselves, we reject hierarchy and dis-interpretations of “biblical” hucksters. Try it out – read the Bible for yourself, without help from Wayne Grudem, et al. You might, like me, come to the following conclusions:

    You can’t be a Christian and swear allegiance to the flag that crucified Christ.
    You can’t be a Christian and oppress women, the poor, workers, or any “outsider”.
    You can’t claim to be committed to Christ and also hold back for yourself. Look up Acts 4-5 and read about Ananias and Sapphira.

    This is not “legalism”, this is consistency. Christianity is an Either/Or kind of thing. You cannot serve two masters, you must love one and hate the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

    Hate money. Hate the power and prestige the rulers of this world promise those who would only sell theirs souls. Hate the prosperity gospel, the patriarchy gospel, the patriotic gospel. Reject the struggle for wealth, embrace the struggle for the Kingdom. Love Christ, and do what he says. The Kingdom is now, among us. Fight against the forces of domination and exploitation. Put on the armor of God and stand in the breach.

    We all will die, we have only a choice of how to go. Take up the Cross.

    • RogerMcKinney

      You sound like a Muslim. I have watched the Shia men in Iran beat themselves bloody with chains in imitation of the suffering of Ali. If the desire to suffer makes one more spiritual, I would say those Shia Muslims are far more spiritual than the “radicals” who only give up on money.

      If we hate money, how are we to pay taxes, give to the poor, send missionaries, build hospitals, or do any good work. All good work requires money.

      You sound more like a spoiled Westerner who feels guilt that he lives in a nation so blessed by God when he didn’t do anything to deserve it. Of course, many generations before you worked very hard to give you the life you despise so much.

    • RogerMcKinney

      You sound like a Muslim. I have watched the Shia men in Iran beat themselves bloody with chains in imitation of the suffering of Ali. If the desire to suffer makes one more spiritual, I would say those Shia Muslims are far more spiritual than the “radicals” who only give up on money.

      If we hate money, how are we to pay taxes, give to the poor, send missionaries, build hospitals, or do any good work. All good work requires money.

      You sound more like a spoiled Westerner who feels guilt that he lives in a nation so blessed by God when he didn’t do anything to deserve it. Of course, many generations before you worked very hard to give you the life you despise so much.

      • Roger,
        It seems that you have difficulty coming to grips with how this nation was so blessed. It was blessed through quite a bit of exploitation.

        It isn’t that some hate money. The Scriptures are clear however when saying that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.

        • RogerMcKinney

          I don’t know what you mean by exploitation, but if you mean
          theft then economics has proven that no nation can achieve wealth through theft. There is only one way nations can rise from the poverty of the 1700’s to the wealth we enjoy today and that is through saving and investment in better ways of production.

          • Roger,
            So ethnically cleansing the land of Indians and kidnapping Blacks to be slaves and then using them for prison labor during Jim Crow I does not count as exploitation?

          • RogerMcKinney

            I don’t know if “exploitation” is a good word for them. Ethnic cleansing of the native tribes was pure theft of their land and murder. Both were major government failures. The sole purpose of government is to protect life, liberty and property.

            But neither helped economic development. In fact, slavery slowed down the economic development of the south. It’s well known in economic history that slavery in the Roman empire prevented development because it prevented the development of labor saving equipment.

          • There were those who economically benefitted from slave labor and they spread that gain to others. But whether you want to say that the whole economy benefitted from slavery or not is not the issue. And you can’t blame the gov’t for this because it was driven but wealthy individuals who would have resisted gov’t control if they did not get their way.

            Capitalism grew from both of these sins and I would agree that the word “exploitation” does not fully describe what went on. But it was part of the mix. And capitalism continued to benefit from the first set of Jim Crow days afterwards. Just as today, sweatshop labor and neglect of environmental needs feeds immediate profits.

          • RogerMcKinney

            That’s standard socialist propaganda. It’s the job of the government to protect the liberty of the people. That has never been the role of the market. Slavery was a massive government failure. Only hard core socialists try to make slavery a market activity.

            And so what if slave owners would have defied the government? The state had the power to kill them. The market never has that power.

            It doesn’t matter that some individuals benefited from slavery. They would have benefited more by ending slavery and paying wages for the work. Slavery has always and everywhere kept people poorer than they would have been if they ended slavery. Economic historians make the end of slavery in Europe one of the more important events toward economic development. Of course, you don’t care about real history or economics.

            And how can you say capitalism benefited from Jim Crow laws when the definition of capitalism excludes such discrimination or slavery.

            If you knew anything about developmental economics, you would understand that regimes with Jim Crow-like laws hinder economic development. They never enhance it. So to say that capitalism benefited from it is just dishonest and ignorant.

          • I wouldn’t reduce the gov’t’s job to one task but it certainly is the responsibility of the gov’t to protect the liberty of the people from either outsiders or those inside the country.

            And no, what I wrote was not typical socialist propoganda. It is called history. And your waving your hands at it and calling it names does not change it.

            The market demanded the cheap labor because that is one way by which capitalism thrives. Of course another way is to rob others of their natural resources. And so the market made deals with the gov’t. And the problem you have is that you do not have an answer for history here.

            In reality, it is you who does not care for real history and economics. It seems that you want to protect the moneyed-interests just as those who wrote the Constitution did. BTW, it was Madison who was afraid of expanding the vote to all because he was scared of agrarian reform.

          • RogerMcKinney

            It is history only in the sense that the incidents you describe actually happened. But your filtering of evenets and interpretation are socialist propaganda. As is your economics. What you write contradicts everything in the field of economics, especially developmental economics, and economic history.

            So let’s be clear: you are anti-economics as a science. All socialists since Marx have been anti-economics because Marx, and all socialists since, could not refute the arguments of the science. You think socialists hold the truth and all who disagree are just lackeys for the wealthy.

          • Roger,
            Same old line. What I say is propaganda. And the old economics is a science bit. Economics is a science, but it is a social science, not a physical or pure science. And what “laws” that govern economies depend deeply on the system one embraces.

            The economics we have embraced is not just destructive of others, it is self-destructive. And we are seeing that all around us.

            Go ahead and cry propaganda again. Just like history, the facts on the ground will catch up with your words and prove you wrong as history already has. You are an ideologue. Ideologues don’t care about facts. And when challenged, they have one defense. They cry propaganda. Of course, by the time this becomes undeniable to all around you, it is too late.

          • RogerMcKinney

            One has to know both socialism and economics in order to know which is an accurate portrayal of reality. I have studied both. I probably know Marxism better than you do. Calling the principles you espouse socialist propaganda is not an insult; it’s just the truth. They contradict the science of economics and reality.

            But that introduces the subject of epistemology: how do you know something is true? History is so vast and contradictory that any idea no matter how crackpot can find support in it. One can interpret history only with sound theory of how human being act in it. As you wrote earlier, economics is the science of human action. So only with sound economic theory can one interpret history without bias.

            Before you criticize economics you really ought to learn some of it. You have uncritically swallowed Marxism. At least I can say that I have honestly evaluated both. Before you try to persuade someone of your views, you ought to provide a disclaimer that says you reject economics without having investigated it and hold exclusively to Marxist thought.

    • Mandy Barnes

      That’s what I love!!!!! Amen!!!! My savior Jesus Christ deserves for me to strive to be extraordinary for the Gospel!!

  • Martial_Artist


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  • Arlene Rauen

    I so appreciate your talking about something that might be hitting people’s hot spots.I have no idea your background or those you hang with(ex.first generational Christians) but it seems like there is a missing of the heart in all this…you speak a lot about what we do verses what we believe…and if that is a tendency with the youngers then that would be my biggest concern…If we sit so close to God in our daily walk with God then we are bound to hear His heart beat on the what & where of the details of our life….I would hope that the intentions with us olders as we share our input is just that we all only have one life to live and if you sink deep into God’s word, His love(not rules) will guide us to the specifics of what God has individually for us…Just some thots :)

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  • Edie_VA

    One way to “love your neighbor” is to start a business and grow it, hiring other Americans. Today the USA has the lowest work force participation in 30 years. Unemployment causes social tension within families and society. Not to mention people with insufficient family income are unable to pay bills, run up credit cards, etc., which again leads to terrible social and familly consequences.

    Imagine if 10,000 Americans started companies which eventually hired 250 people. That’s 2,500,000 jobs, and families with resources to pay the water and light bills on time. Once the employer gets to 250, if he or she wants to repeat the process with another company hiring his fellow citizens, do so – or else start donating profits to charity.

    Remember, the funding of our social welfare net for the weakest depends on commerce, with businesses and employees paying taxes to the federal government which has over 80 programs to help the needy.

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  • Adam Bryant Marshall

    I wonder if another way in which Millennials are responding to the “new legalism” (aside from leaving the church) might be their gravitation towards more traditional denominations – the sorts of denominations their Baby Boomer parents left a few decades ago.

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  • Curt Day

    Ordinary is a relative measurement while lukewarm is defined precisely in Revelation. Though I share some of your concerns, there is also a valid point on the other side.

    My concern with the article is that the approach taken could lead to too narrow of a definition of the word neighbor. In addition, I thought the description of the missional movement was overstated.

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    Reading this comment revealed more to me than I wanted to know about some “radical” Christians’ assumptions about Christians who simply make different decisions in their faithfulness. Now I wonder: does this viewpoint hold that the only possible sin to commit is being a “comfortable Christian”? Are there no dangers in what the apostle Paul called rules enforcing ascenticism and un-Godly self-denial? Either “side” has its dangers. But we can no more condemn every Christian who chooses a “suburban” life to raise a family and work with his hands and live quietly, while still quietly changing that part of the world, than we can condemn every “radical” for being self-righteous. Neither deserves such condemnation. But I see more of this coming from the “radical” believers. If their method of proclaiming our Gospel of joy and life change in Christ is as acidic as their interactions with Christians who only challenge their potential excesses, it is a joyless, guilt-driven, top-down, authoritarian, and pyramid-scheme-style “mission.”

  • Nicole S

    Great article and narcissistic salvation, mission, churches, pastors, believers are so obvious in America today. You are so right “love” should be enough, but narcissistic love is fake and self centered legalism will only be discerned by those who know God.

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  • Wesley Woods

    the youth this author says are burned out by radical Christianity missed the point of what David Platt is writing about. i am currently reading Follow Me, and he is talking about how the American church has turned Christianity upside down by making it all about the individual. God did all the work and we just accept what he already did. American Christianity make missions about foreign countries, but Jesus tells his disciples that their mission field begins in Jerusalem where they were and then extends into the whole world. when Americans think church they think of a building, but the first church building did not exist until the fourth century. the church’s mission field is the very community that the church resides, and if that church fails to reach their local community then they are failing in the great commission. real radical Christianity is discipleship and living out Christ’s teachings.

  • M Green

    Hits the nail right on the head. There IS sanctity and sacrifice in living quietly, minding our affairs and working with our hands. It seems to me that we are ALWAYS trying to force the hand of God. Some people try to force His hand by refusing to go when He tells them to go, and some do it by going when He tells them to stay put.

    I’m not a Millenial–by some accounts, I’m at the tail-end of GenX. I spent SOOO long trying to find greatness–feeling like I was wasting my life because I couldn’t. When I let that all go and trusted God, I found peace and fullfillment–and I AM participating in something great. I’m focused soley on raising the next generation of our country. ALL jobs come with the mundane. If you focus on that, then NO job appears great. I don’t ever look at changing diapers or teaching my children or running the household like I once did. They are simply the signs that remind me in the lulls of the push for greatness that I am, indeed, still involved in an important job–a GREAT job.

  • jfred

    I have to highly disagree with the idea of legalistic missional living contributing to young people leaving the church. Young people are leaving the church because 1. their parents aren’t pouring God into them…that’s the church’s job. 2. The children are spending 8 hours/day in feministic, humanistic, anti-God settings (otherwise known as the public school system). It took several yrs for that garbage to be undone in my own life–and I only spent half my yrs there. 3. Everyone in the church and in life are age-segregated, so children and teens aren’t learning from others, nor are they teaching others below them. They do not live in a community of wisdom and guidance….teens live with other teens…and the lemmings follow each other. 4. They don’t see that God is real, and working in this world. Honestly, I think adding some radical and missional things to their lives would help them realize and KNOW the one, true God. 5. Our culture…and our churches, worship mammon, pleasure, and pride. hmm. 6. Children can be raised well, in a Christian home, with regular discussions about God and His work. They can have their parents invest hours and time and love into them. They can have an amazing group at church who invest and pour into them…and then, at age 18, they are released into the bowels of hell, otherwise known as public college. 20+ yrs ago, when I was of college age, my best friend’s suite mates “read” that girls kissed 100 guys before she would find the one she’d marry. They then went out every weekend in hopes of meeting that goal. This was Gen X, and prior to the “hook up” generation. Goodness only knows what the “rule” is now. But kids, in their almighty quest for more education so they can live in debt and made gobs of cash after graduation, are living and breathing and sleeping and eating and drinking with the enemy. It’s a free for all. And I’ve seen great Christian kids just stop. It’s sadly amazing.

    While I agree that a philosophy can become legalistic, I do not agree that this is causing the vast turning away from God that is taking place.

  • Erik Merksamer

    Anthony, I could not have said this any better:
    “Being a Christian in a shame-driven “missional,” “radical” church does not sound like rest for the weary. Perhaps the best antidote to these pendulum swings and fads is simply to recover a mature understanding of vocation so that youth and young adults understand that they can make important contributions to human flourishing in any sphere of life because there are no little people or insignificant callings in the Kingdom.”

    Thank you for assembling these thoughts together! I have been trying to find ways to communicate the very same ideas. Blessings to you as you point towards freedom!

  • Rebecca Bec Cranford-Smith

    Just read a blog that suggested being “radical” or missional for Christ is a new form of reactionary legalism. Is it a reaction or a prophetic cry? The blog calls for ordinary Christians? Does ordinary mean nominal? You can be an ordinary Christ follower and not be nominal. But Christ followers aren’t just Christian because Maw and Paw went to First Baptist or hallelujah revival center. Christ following is about loving others and transforming the world. the vast majority in the bible-belt claim to be born again Christians and yet racism, sexism, nationalism and other world systems continue to flourish. Romans 12:2…Be ye not conformed- or is it be ye right-wing? It’s hard to tell the difference in Churchianity in the south. Just because you aren’t starting a ministry, protesting wars, standing with the oppressed of xyz country or holding orphans doesn’t mean you are ordinary. Sitting with the elderly, spending time with the autistic, caring for the lonely, rescuing animals, and even baking cookies for the church is radical! Anytime you walk in love you are radical. In my opinion anyone following the way of Jesus is far from ordinary.

  • Bueller

    I think a lot of us miss the point because we cannot appreciate the diversity of God’s calling, i.e. vocation, upon the whole body of Christ. We are narcissistic in the sense that we think our version of holiness is the only version and miss the fact that God calls us all to be extremely diverse and extremely spread out in order to shine His light into all lands, all peoples, all workplaces, etc… We have yet to truly learn to appreciate His ways of guiding us all to differentness.

  • stvnhthr

    When it comes to grace, being a legalist is no better than being a liberalist. Self righteous behavior is just as bad as self indulgent behavior. The real problem for legalism and liberalism is they both focus on our performance and our actions. Behavior is not to be our focus, but the Savior is.

  • Mike Stidham

    And the nail is hit on the head. Church history demonstrates that it is the usually the second generation of a message or movement in which the extremes become the norm. So while Platt, Chan, et al., may be preaching a very normative (though radical to us) message, those who will repeat it will put the message through their own filters and make it “if you don’t interpret and follow this teaching EXACTLY this way, you don’t love Jesus.” And this dynamic almost always happens with the very best of motives on the part of the followers.

  • youre all ridiculous

    busy, busy, busy.
    It’s absolutely absurd to suggest that Missional christianity is to blame for 15 year olds leaving the church. It’s more likely that they have been raised under the tyranny of orthodoxy that refuses to allow them to be human beings, driven by their parents need to fit in on Sunday morning. As parents, we can’t go around blaming another persons approach to faith for our failure to model the loving relationship that Jesus shares with us.

    As far as missional christianity is concerned, it seems that lots of folks need someone to tell them how to live like Jesus. Instead of reading their Bible’s and applying what they have learned, folks generally want to be taken by the hand and told what to do. The fear of hell fire and damnation for missing a tittle or a dot that is forwarded ad nauseum by “the church” has created a culture that leaves us feeling insecure and in need of “church”. Honestly, I was quite enamored by the idea of missional faith but discovered that, like all other denominational approaches, the details and practice don’t meet the theoretical standards advertised.

    In the end, I think that God understands His creation and that we make a much bigger deal of programs and practice than He does. If the Holy Spirit is guiding your walk in faith, that should be good enough. Proof of the work is love in action.

    Be blessed.

  • Anne Stark

    Legalism, sadly, will almost never die out. It just takes on a different appearance on the outside. Just as the author mentioned, the anti-good-person legalism turns into the anti-suburban-have-to-be-special-and-radical legalism of today. And who knows what it will be ten years from now.

    As someone who grew up spiritually in a community like this and also struggled with anxiety disorders, this is a seriously unsustainable lifestyle. You literally cannot have infinitely high expectations of yourself and expect to live long under the weight of the shame you will inevitably receive from every angle in this type of community. There’s always a new thing to be “convicted” of, another sin to brood over, another secret to tuck away carefully so that we can silently suffer alone in our brokenness.

    I don’t give a shit about these “Christian” responses of “well it’s not your expectations because with God anything is possible.” Literally, I could never hear that statement again and would be perfectly be fine. I no longer believe in a God who’s sole purpose is to force us into deeper trenches of performance-anxiety and a desperate desire to be enough so that more people can “know him”…and then what? Be subjected to the same heart wrenching anxiety I’ve had to deal with in a religion like this? No thanks.

    Thank goodness for grace, love, and good solid therapy, because I might have left this earth or at least have left the church had I not encountered authentic expressions of these things. I’m finally starting to see that I can still be a part of christianity without joining in on all the bullshit anymore. Hallelujah.

  • daveme7

    There are a couple more words-consumer Christianity. If you believe Christ just died for your sins-you are selfish, narcissistic, or devoid of the love of God(because you would stop looking inward and look outward.)

    Hypocritical with a big H. we shpuld notn be putting people in a “us” v “them” and “in” vs “out” categories-unless you claim fundamentalism-you are now a part of the out group. Same thingwith ministering to those outside the margins as they relegated fundamentalism to be outside the margins.

    I could write a book about this stuff(actually am trying to do just that.)

  • Blaine Samuel Holmes

    When does following the Word of God become legalism? The Great Commandment, to love one another, is just part of the life of a believer.The second is the great commission which says to go to all the world. The Bible tells us to be radical in our walk, to step out and take a risk. It says that anything that we put before Him is an idol . Where is the legalism in that? God tells us that He has a purpose for our lives and is it legalism to walk that path if it calls you to the inter city? The only way to live a Christian life is by the Bible not different books.

  • Hallelujah! I’ve felt this so often for so long, and not been able to articulate my discomfort with this modern church. Thank you.

  • Usario60

    too late to join the discussion—but just wanted to “Amen” the article. I too fret a bit about over-use of the term legalism. And I suspect “missional” as popularly used is too vague to use for tidy categorization. Still the article resonated with me. Missional is sometimes now used in the never-ending us/them approach to fellowship…..defining who’s in and/or out. We seem to need to refine “norms” that easily get turned into “law”. So ….it can be a problem.