All four names share the common link of terrorism of one form or another.
Bin Ladens name will forever be connected with the dark day of September 11,
2001, and the attack on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. McVeigh conjures
images of the Oklahoma City Federal Building he exploded. Todd Beamer and
Cassie Bernall offer 21st century models of Christian virtue and heroism,
Bernall in her 1999 admission of faith in God that caused her death at
Columbine, and Beamer in his effort with others to attack the hijackers over
Pennsylvania on 9/11, saving D.C. from another airplane missile while
surrendering his own life. But something beyond chronological proximity and
relation to terror link these four people. What else could they have in
recreational \re-krEAshenal \ a of, having the
nature of, or providing recreation
recreation \re-krE-A-shen\ n 1. refreshment in
body or mind, as after work, by some form of play, amusement, or relaxation 2.
any form of play, amusement, or relaxation used for this purpose, as games,
sports, hobbies, etc.
It is a radical thing to be so convinced of ones ideology that you lead 19
men to train for years to fly commercial jetliners on suicide missions into
It is a radical thing to so love Jesus when staring down a gun barrel facing
the question, Do you believe in God? that you reply with a yes.
It is a radical thing to bomb a building to make a point.
It is a radical thing to fight the fear of imminent death and to think of
others as did Todd Beamer.
The thing that separates Beamer and Bernall from Bin Laden and McVeigh is
this: their causes were radically different. Go through the annals of
time and you will find that many of the most significant movements in history
have not been caused or led by diplomats or kings, but by radicals. Both great
evil and great good have been accomplished by radicals. The same can be said of
any endeavor involving peoplesports teams that beat the odds to win when they
should not due to a radical commitment of players, or businesses making radical
changes to press into the future. More than any, religious causes have been
furthered or harmed more by radicals than by the nominally committed.
Just read the book of Acts. God took a band of believers, a covey of
Christians, a den of disciples, and He changed the world. He used the most
unlikely to do the impossible, because they were radicals. He took the most
radical religious zealot of his day, a terrorist in his own right named Saul of
Tarsus, who persecuted the church in the name of God. And God turned that
radical for religion into a radical for righteousness.
Today, North America needs a generation of radicals for Jesus. Our nation is
radically lost. In fact, by one estimate 41 percent of the population, more
than 100 million, are radically unchurched, those with little or no real,
personal knowledge of the biblical message of the gospel of our Lord. The only
way the radically unchurched will be reached is through a generation of
believers radically committed to following Jesus!
Too many in the church today have turned Christianity, which ought to be our
greatest passion, into a pastime. Trading their birthright as
radically saved children of God for the pottage* of recreational faith, many
settle for a view of the faith that considers a strong Christian to be someone
who 1) attends church regularly, 2) gives money, and 3) says yes to the
nominating committee. A Christianity with such a low bar leads to a laity who
are underchallenged and overindulged. It is no wonder we see an alarmingly low
concern for reaching the unchurched around uswe have turned churches, which
should be hospitals for sinners, into hotels for saints!
Just how does one become a radical for Jesus when so many are recreational
in their faith? Here are some ways to start:
Live what you believe 24/7/365/ UJCB (until Jesus comes
back). Recreational faith gets excited about Jesus on Sunday much
like a fan gets excited about a ball game; an radical faith lives in pursuit of
Him constantly. How does this work? Start looking for ways to penetrate
the unchurched culture in your normal traffic patterns. I eat in restaurants a
lot. A few years ago I began asking the server if I could pray for him or her
as I said a blessing. This has opened incredible doors to witness, and has
allowed me to lead unchurched people to Jesus.
Be real, not remarkable. In Acts 4:13 early
believers were described by unbelievers as unlearned and ignorantnow put that
on your rsum! The only thing impressive about the early church was that they
were unimpressive! But their enemies marveled at their boldness. Why? Because
their opponents realized they had been with Jesus. There was nothing remarkable
about the early followers of Christ. But they were real. The
postmodern culture in which we live asks less, can you prove
Christianity? They want to know, can you live it? They want to see real, daily,
life-changing, mistake-making, God- loving, Christ-honoring Christianity.
The first time I led someone to Christ on the Internet, I failed to answer
many of her questions. But, although separated by the firewall of text-based
communication, and also by her often angry questions about God, she kept coming
back for more of the gospel. When she came to Christ, she commented that my
answers did not bring her to Him (nothing like a blow to your ego to help a
professor stay humble!); the difference was made by the fact that she could
tell my devotion to Him was real.
Take risks for the gospels sake. As a teenager I
played high school football. It taught me a lot about life and gave me a nice
pair of matching scars on my knees from operations. Today I enjoy watching
football on television.
I get excited and yell at the television like most fans. It is much safer to
watch football than to play it. I have no scars from sitting on the couch. But,
it is just not the same. The scent of freshly cut grass, the adrenaline from
the first contact, the camaraderie shared by the team, you just cannot
reproduce in a living room.
It can be a fearful thing to step out of the safety of a Sunday school
classroom and knock on the door of a friend to speak to him about Jesus. It was
for a couple of ladies, each in their seventies, who I took witnessing one day.
They had been believers for more than 50 years, yet neither had ever gone out
to share her faith. They were nervous, it was a risk, but what a grand time we
had. They loved it so much they went out and did it themselves the next week.
God forbid we sit idly by in the warmth of our sanctuaries and let the world go
to hell, because we failed to step out and risk our reputations for the sake of
Jim Elliot, another radical from the past who lost his life on the mission
field, once said missionaries are just a bunch of nobodies trying to exalt
Somebody. No more making excuses about what you cannot do for God. Get busy
serving Him and watch Him work as you share Christ with the people you meet in
your real world. See what God can do with a radicallike you!
Dr. Alvin L. Reid, professor of evangelism at Southeastern Baptist
Theological Seminary, lives in Wake Forest, North Carolina. To learn about his
ministry visit www.alvinreid.com.
Adapted for On Mission from Reids book Radically Unchurched:
Who They Are and How to Reach Them (Kregel, 2002).
*In Genesis Essau trades his birthrightan inheritance of immeasurable
worthfor a bowl of stew.
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