POSTED ON JUNE 30, 2010:
What is Radical Faith?
No bullhorn or bombs are required to speak your own gospel
I can still vividly remember the entire scenario in my head. I was walking through a crowded downtown street just after a huge sporting event. All of a sudden, above the exiting crowd, I saw a man perched atop a ladder with a bullhorn in his hand.
I stepped out of the crowd to avoid getting trampled and listened for a few minutes as this young man explained, in rather vivid terms, the spiritual state of everyone walking by. In a nutshell, we are all born sinners; we are living in sin; we are damned to hell; and if we don't repent today, the end will not be good.
I can still remember the lump in my throat. It wasn't because of guilt. I was ticked off. I would probably have walked right on by nine out of 10 times. I'm still not sure why that day was any different.
I stood there on the street corner and waited for the young man to finish his tirade before I slowly and unassumingly walked over in his direction. I started up a rather casual conversation with the young man.
I praised the young man for the courage it takes to stand up in front of a mass of total strangers and berate them. Courage I'm not sure I could muster up. I spent the next five minutes getting to know this young man's story and how he came to believe in Jesus Christ.
At the end of those five minutes, I realized this young man had come to faith because of another person in his life who had invested in him. Another person who had shown him the love of Christ and taken the time to talk to him about the real questions we all have.
As our conversation concluded I didn't scold the young man or tell him how disappointed I was with his approach, I simply reminded him that the majority of people walking by today are hurting and lost and looking for the same hope that he had once been searching for. I simply recommended that he share that same story of love and hope that had drawn him to a relationship with Jesus Christ.
I honestly applauded this young man for his willingness to do something. The problem is that a guy standing on a ladder screaming at people walking by already reaffirms the negative image of God most people have already developed. If we are honest, most people see God as a judge who is constantly tipping the scales, and you usually end up with the short stick.
I'm not saying that confronting people with the truth of the gospel is always bad, but many times when this is done outside the confines of a personal relationship with an individual, it can actually be more devastating than positive. When we act as a spokesman for God and come across as judgmental and vindictive, people will associate God with those same characteristics.
As a teenager, I was always afraid to share my faith. I thought that to be radical in my faith meant that I would need to stand on the cafeteria table and yell at everyone -- bullhorn optional.
I'll never forget the moment that changed the way I shared my faith. I was a junior in high school sitting at my lab table in Chemistry class with three other students. I had sat at this same table with these same people for months. The conversation had gone from weekend parties to attempting to see who could outdo one another in regards to crazy experiences.
I'm not even sure how the conversation got to this point, but in the midst of it all, someone decided to take a shot at me. The conversation went from gloating over the crazy drunken endeavors of the past weekend to making fun of me for my different lifestyle. You can only imagine what a group of students in high school are capable of coming up with.
I stood my ground that day and defended why I had chosen to do things differently in my life. I simply told them the story of how God completely transformed the way I lived. That was the end of it, or so I thought.
In the weeks to come, two out of the three people at that table ended up coming to me in the hallway at school asking for my help in their personal lives and questioning me about my faith. I never stood up on the cafeteria table or screamed it from the rooftop. I never even really shared the whole gospel story.
I learned that day that true radical faith was actually someone who was willing to live it out. More than being preached or yelled at, people want to see something that's different. Our culture is increasingly skeptical of what people say and demand the proof through our lives.
I redefined radical that day. Radical was no longer measured by the shock factor or random acts of unthinkable courage. Radical was now truly living out the faith that you profess. It's about taking advantage of the opportunity to share how and why you believe what you do. I think it's time we put down our bullhorns, stepped down off our ladders and allowed our lives to do the talking. We might just be surprised at how loud our lives actually are.
Matt Nelson is the lead pastor at City Church.
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