There has been a profitable, I think, conversation going on about books like Crazy Love and Radicals. A couple of younger friends of mine brought the conversation my way.
Here is an article in Christianity Today: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/march/here-come-radicals.html
Here is Ed Stetzer commenting on and interacting with that article: http://www.edstetzer.com/2013/05/radical-christianity-a-cause-to-live-or-a-call-to-legalism.html
And here is Ed interviewing Francis Chan: http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/videos-for-pastors/167677-francis-chan-responds-to-ct-article-on-radical-legalism.html?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=clnewsletter&utm_content=CL+Daily+20130517b
I remembered an older conversation, with Francis Chan, that overlaps with this one. Since it came pre-controversy, at least this controversy, it is worth thinking about: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=3p-SYMis0-w
The main reason I am putting this post up, though, is so I can post one of my young friend's email's. I think my former intern, Daniel Cook has some things to say that are worth considering. The rest of this post is from him. I post it with his permission.
I read the books mentioned in the article (Crazy Love, Radical, Not a Fan...). I did enjoy the books, but I took them at their purpose, and I know others that take them whole-heartedly beyond what their purpose is. I also read the article in CT, and I actually really liked it and agreed with it.
First, let me say why I liked the books. As mentioned in the article, these books speak to the many Christians we all see in church who attend one service morning at least 2-3 weeks a month. They are not involved in serving in the church or are only involved in minor serving roles. We all have a desire to see people fully embrace and grow in their faith and truly experience it. These books speak to that desire and to our own desire to grow in our experience and spiritual maturity. These books seem to also be well-recieved by the youth and young adults who long to be part of something bigger and see themselves becoming major players, even heroes of the faith.
This is where I agree with the article. I want my teens to desire to be a part of something bigger, to see the big picture of the Kingdom of Heaven. See an excellent book that discusses this "The Explicit Gospel" by Matt Chandler. However, what that role in the Kingdom looks like is what I take issue with. Whether Chan admits it or not, many youth (and adults) will take these books a little too far and will not be satisfied with taking a role in the kingdom that is any less than a successful evangelist, political figure for social causes, front-lines warrior for social justice, inventor of the cure for cancer... What happens when many do not reach that role? What happens to the ordinary people like myself.
I will illustrate this in two ways from personal experience. For most of my life until right before I graduated high school, I wanted nothing more than to be an officer in the military. Around 12 years of age, I settled on fighter pilot. Every decision I made from then on was taking me towards becoming a fighter pilot in the US Air Force. I was on the mailing list for the Air Force Academy at 12. I joined the Civil Air Patrol (auxiliary of the Air Force). I got advice from active and retired Air Force servicemen. I had Embry Riddle Aeronautical University as my backup. I read books.... I found out however that only 1% of the entire Air Force actually fly any aircraft whatsoever. That means that 99% of all those who serve in the Air Force are actually acting in support to the pilots who actually do the flying. Yet in all the promotional posters they only show the 1%. Most do not aspire to be a mechanic, cook, or other seemingly mundane worker in the Air Force. What's more, I found out that many who joined the Air Force also worked all their lives to become pilots, but they ended up taking different roles. I talked to one fighter pilot who never wanted to be a pilot, but was in the right place at the right time and was approached by an officer who invited him to be one. I think these books rightly promote becoming the 1% of "pilots," but don't really talk about the reality that most of us will be in the 99% category. What's more, it doesn't really demonstrate the virtue of serving where you are at and being content in being in that 99%. I see very often that people volunteering in my own church don't feel needed or important because they are serving in a minor role like the nursery or just following kids from station to station during VBS. Also, I see the negativity on church boards when they feel like we aren't making a big difference as a church. But we are making a difference in many lives in small (or even unseen big) ways.
My second illustration, (sorry this is a long message) goes back to my college days at ABC. At the end of the year, they would give out awards in chapel. Some of them were to encourage spiritual maturity and involvement. These awards always went to the students that seemed to pray the most and loudest during chapel on National Prayer Day, who went on missions trips during the summer to exotic places, and who did as the books described it, "radical" things. Than there were people like me who had to work a full-time job plus overtime during the summer in a worldly construction-job environment in order to pay for college. People like me who did ordinary things were not viewed as "spiritually on-fire." However, the greatest spiritually growing times in my life were those times where I was just an ordinary guy working with ordinary unsaved guys and being salt and light. During one of those summers I led a hispanic man to Christ and handed out half-a-dozen spanish Bibles and tracks at their request to legal and illegal immigrants from South America. My bosses talked to me frequently about faith. I was of the only representatives of Christ that they came into contact with, and I earned their respect.
In summary, I enjoyed the books and think they make good points. But the CT article also points out weaknesses or areas that are overlooked by these books. I agree wholeheartedly with the CT Article and think more Christians need to hear that message too.