All The Radical I Can Manage

It’s been several years since David Platt’s Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream took evangelicalism by storm. It lit a fire under thousands, hundreds of thousands, to attempt great things for God and go to the maximum length to serve him. It was soon joined by other titles pushing people to break out of comfortable, suburban Christianity and came at a time when “mission” was the driving word behind many church movements, and being “on mission” was the call. “Radical” was the Christian target at which all this life and mission was aimed.

In more recent years and months articles have been penned questioning this “Radical Christianity.” Accusations ranging from calling it “the new legalism” to claiming it feeds people’s egotistical need to do something great have been bandied about. Smarter men than I have taken this on, and I have no intention of doing so. (I haven’t even read Radical.)

No, what comes to mind for me when I encounter this see-sawing debate is something simpler, baser. Just this: sometimes faith isn’t radical; sometimes it’s just holding on. It’s not intellectual in the slightest and neither is it particularly well-argued. It doesn’t seek to change the world or do anything dynamic. It is not on any mission and it’s not a unique use of gifts. It is just holding on tight because that’s all it can do at the time.

The push to be radical, on mission, a world-changer is not a bad thing in itself. It is the kick in the pants many believers need to snap out of consumerism or laziness. But for numerous others it can seem like a crushing weight. Sometimes life is just too hard and stuff is too broken. It’s all I can manage just to keep my world from flying to bits, let alone change anyone else’s. That’s so far outside of reality it sounds more like the twilight zone. No — reality is simply clinging to what I do know of God, His Son, and His faithfulness and just not letting go.

Maybe this is radical in its own right. It refuses to be a flight of fancy or a passing whimsy. No emotion drives it and therefore it won’t fall apart when the emotion ebbs. Faith in these crumbled, crushing times is radical because of its single-minded, iron-willed determination to hold on tight. It is the radical work of a man clinging to a life preserver instead of the radical achievement of the one who built the ocean liner, the one that is heading to the sea floor.

Sometimes all the radical I can manage is that death grip on faith as I’m tossed to and fro. No, it’s not society-reforming, world-altering, life-changing mission. It’s just how I make it; without it I wouldn’t have a life at all.

I live in the Nashville area and spend my days helping churches with leadership development. My nights are spent writing and rooting for Minnesota sports teams. I also podcast a bit. I'm the author of The Pastor's Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity, Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt is Not the Enemy of Faith, and The Curious Christian: How Discovering Wonder Enriches Every Part of Life