Why “Revolutionary” Christianity Fizzles, Pt. 3

All of us have at one time or another experienced the dissatisfaction with the church and our Christian experience that the purveyors of “Revolutionary” Christianity seek to address. We run to the impassioned books, messages, and movements of “Revolutionary” Christianity to try to remedy our situation with a hardcore or newer version of the faith. But I believe the very premise – that this dissatisfaction must be fixed – is flawed.  If the church had it all together and we were totally satisfied with the output of our Christian lives than what need would we have for a Savior to come and reconcile creation to himself? The very fact that we have been transformed by the life and death of Christ puts us at odds with a fallen creation and our sinful flesh. Maybe we should be worried not that we find problems with the church, failure in our Christian lives, and increasing hostility with the culture; maybe we should be worried if we don’t.

When it comes to the shortcomings of the church, we love to run to Acts 2 to see what a New Testament church should look like. But does anyone ever think to run to Corinthians? They were a New Testament church too and struggled with pride, divisions, and sexual immorality. They were abusing the Lord’s Supper and suing one another in court. Christ has been risen for barely twenty years and his followers have already messed it up. When it comes to living out the Christian life, Paul was second to none. Yet when looking back he declares of his experience in Romans 7:24, “Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?” How about that for a little dissatisfaction? And as for difficulties with the culture, it was Jesus who said, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” Perhaps we should stop worrying about problems, failings, and hostility and start expecting it – Jesus did say it was a narrow, hard road.

We need a solid dose of reality – things are always going to be messed up. Our lives will always fall short of our desire to live for Christ. The church will always manage to royally fail us and the world in some way. The culture will mutate and develop new immunities to our attempts to engage and transform it. So what do we do? The answer is not to go out and get fired up by a “Revolutionary” new book, message, movement, or cause, hang pictures of African babies on your living room wall, and talk about the evils of capitalism while drinking mocha at Starbucks. The answer is a slow, committed, passionate, dogged, pressing on, day by day, courageously normal, occasionally exciting, usually dull, engaging, sacrificial, fruitful, faithful, Christianity that seeks to obey the Scriptures out of a deep transformation by and understanding of the gospel.

We, especially as younger Christians, are attracted to a “Revolutionary” Christianity that promises to enable us to change history, right the wrongs in the world, and put us on the path to self-actualization. But after all the energy and excitement is spent we often find ourselves right where we began or worse. Kevin DeYoung describes it in this way:

Many of us are attracted to a Tasmanian Devil kind of Christianity…splattering, spinning around. You get fired up—praise God for that—and you spin out like the Tasmanian Devil ready to conquer the world for Christ and you blow up into a tree somewhere.

When the demands of “Revolutionary” Christianity meet the hard realities of the world in which we live and the sinful flesh which we inhabit it blows up into a tree somewhere.

Sadly, for many “Revolutionary” Christians, their lives are defined by highs and lows, grand visions, few accomplishments, lots of talk, little action, an occasional sacrifice, and long fruitless seasons. So what do we do? We press on in sacrificial, courageously normal, occasionally exciting, usually dull, sometimes difficult, but always fruitful and faithful lives that follow-through on their commitment to follow Jesus. We study the Scriptures and preach the gospel to ourselves every day until it fully transforms us. We cut down the idols in our hearts and kill the sins – even the seemingly insignificant ones – in our lives. We make the difference we can in the church, culture, and world where we find ourselves; only being known, being dramatic, or being revolutionary if it just so happens to be part of the mission we’re called to. Continuing the quote from above, DeYoung says:

Our generation in particular is prone to radicalism without follow-through. We want to change the world and we have never changed a diaper. You want to make a difference for Christ? Here is where you can start: this Sunday, volunteer for the nursery. Say, “Here I am, pastor. What can I do to serve?”

Teach the 1st grade Sunday school class. Go with the youth group to summer camp. Share the gospel with that friend in your apartment complex. Give a percentage of your income to Christ and increase it until it hurts. Get to know the residents in a nursing home. Go on a mission trip. Meet the needs of the people around you. Love your family. Read the Bible. Spend more time in prayer. And sink deeper into the gospel until it affects every area of your life. You may not bring balance and harmony to the church and the planet, but you may just hear at the end of it all “well done, good and faithful servant.”

-Brian

2 thoughts on “Why “Revolutionary” Christianity Fizzles, Pt. 3

  1. What you call “revolutionary christianity”, I simply call an over-compensation to how our generation perceived the established american church. I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said. I especially like the call to service that was this last paragraph.

    But here’s the challenge. At some point you HAVE to mix it up. Slaughter not just sacred cows, but sacred herds. You’ve got to light fires under our butts. Living radically for Christ should be NORMAL for the believer. We are all called to full time ministry. What we do on Sunday is worship with a lowercase “w.” The rest of the week is the Capital.

    So my question to you is this: how do we keep from overcompensating and turning church into a circus?

    • Great thoughts! We can overcompensate the other way so far we end up wiping butts instead of lighting fires under them.

      I would say, yes, let’s keep preaching radical messages that call Christians to greater commitment; but lets be real about it. Our approach is sometimes like a personal trainer who puts a picture of Arnold from the 80’s on the wall and tells a 45 year old overweight guy with a 60 hour a week job and 3 kids he needs to look like that or he’s a failure. Its just not gonna happen and probably shouldn’t. Then our hearers get frustrated and discouraged when they don’t measure up and just quit trying. Let’s train people to sacrificially meet the needs around them and to patiently grow over the long haul. Let’s also be honest about living for Christ. Its not always an exciting adventure. Sometimes its really dull, difficult, and unappealing. We need Christians who follow through even when life is not an awesome 2 minute missions video with the soundtrack from Gladiator playing behind it.

      One final thought…people need to get the gospel. When they do, they should be motivated to live radically for Christ and we’ll only have to point them in the right direction. They won’t need my clever ‘change the world’ pep rally to actually get off their blessed assurance and do something for the kingdom.

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