If you happen to be someone who interacts with young evangelicals on a regular basis, chances are you’ve noticed the current theme of published challenges to a comfortably cultural form of Christianity among churches in the United States. David Platt may be the most visible right now, along with Francis Chan, in some ways following Shane Clairborne’s critique, with Ken Idleman pushing it forward.
Their theme of the difference between professed adherence and tangible transformation as the test of kingdom membership is certainly biblical, and one I affirm. Yet in my reading so far in this area, there has been a sense of something missing in the diagnosis, and so also with the prescriptions offered.
Matthew Lee Anderson seems to have had the same sense, and he’s offered some potentially useful suggestions in one of the best articles in Christianity Today I’ve read in a long time. Having just finished Anderson’s book, Earthen Vessels, I’m quickly becoming a fan (apologies to Pastor Idleman*).
If I had read this article prior to the discussion of Romans 6 we had in class Thursday, I would have required everyone to read it. This line, “It’s really hard to read these books, one after another, and confidently declare yourself a Christian at the end,” illustrates the difficulties we face when challenged to be “completely committed” without attention to wholeness of human existence and the mundane, boring, unlikely to be discussed in a book daily activities that need “radical” transformation.
We read the life of Jesus in the Gospels, the life of Paul in Acts, and Paul’s letters, and too often it seems we think that every moment of every day of their lives was occupied by the astonishing activities recounted. A revolutionary, radical discipleship will prepare a person for that, but it’s first practiced and lived out every day at home, at work, and in all the places between, where hardly anyone is likely to see it in action, and even those who do are unlikely to grasp the significant work of God’s power behind it.
Anderson is right. For the church to experience the life envisaged by Clairborne, Chan, et al, will require more attention to less spectacular practices of Christian discipleship.
*Author of Not a Fan.