Saturday, December 12, 2015

Is Radical Healthy?

Radical Christian

Radical follower of Christ

Radical for Jesus 

equals . . . 

A Radical Lifestyle, right?

This is what I thought I wanted to be,


 This is what I found for a definition:

a person who holds or follows strong convictions or extreme principles; extremist.

When we first joined Gospel for Asia, 12 years ago, we thought we were being radical--following Jesus no matter what the cost.  We left our beloved state of Colorado, our home that we intended to grow old in, our church community and our ability to earn our own money.  We were going to become missionaries (the most radical lifestyle we could think of), but in the safety of in our own country.  Without having to learn a new language and culture, we would move to Texas, raise our own support by sharing what we were doing and praying people would want to sponsor us.  We took our 4 children, put our house up for sale and relocated to Texas to be radical followers of Jesus!  

We were moved by the shame we felt of being wealthy Americans living in a free country, while other people were starving and were mistreated in other countries. We repented. We surrendered. We wanted our lives to matter, to count, to mean something to advance the Lord's kingdom.

We came with hearts ready to serve at the ministry in anyway we could to make a difference for eternity.  I feel like all the staff came with this purpose, this dream.  I was ready to live radically.  But what did that mean?

As the definition states, we were ready to be extreme.

For 12 years, I listened to the leadership preach sermons about "staying in the battle."  Continually we were encouraged to not "lose our calling."  We were to be "reaching the lost at all costs." We were to be daily "dying to ourselves."

At first these teachings were refreshing.  For we thought this is what "true" Christianity was.  We were tired of living the "normal" Christian life.  We wanted to be different.

I evaluated everything according to the bar of radicalness.  Was I living simply enough?  Could I sacrifice more?  Was I spending my time wisely enough?  

I knew I was saved but I certainly didn't want to waste my life living frivolously for myself.  I did not know this at the time, but what I was really asking God all the time was if I was radical enough for Him. 

I was already "set apart" from the world when I got saved in my early 20's, but now I was wanting to be set apart from even the Christian mainstream world.  With this mindset, I found myself being stripped of everything I was.  If I was to die to myself, then I had to have no desires of my own.  My flesh had to die.  The problem with this thinking is that I did not know what was fleshly and what was just me, my personality, the way God made me.

In all the devotionals given by the leaders, these statements were the ones I remember most:

Your old friends will not possibly understand you so don't confide in them.
Well meaning family will pull you away from God's work.
Retirement is not in the Bible.
While you vacation, or shop, or sleep, people are dying and going to Hell!
Could you not pray for 1 hour?
How many shirts or pairs of pants do you need?
If you quit going to Starbucks every week, you could support a child in India.
80,000 people are dying a day and going to Hell so what are you doing about it?

We were required to attend prayer meetings once a week and had an extended prayer time once a month where we prayed for hours at a time until the wee hours of the morning.  These meetings were touted as Gospel for Asia's success story.  Prayer was a huge priority and talked about regularly. If we weren't doing anything right, we couldn't be blamed of not praying!  And if we were praying constantly for needs on the field then the ministry must be based on prayer.  How could a ministry based on prayer go south?  Even when we were falling asleep and still mumbling something, we felt God was honored by our "beating our bodies into submission." Wasn't this a selfless act?  We were denying ourselves sleep in order to pray for others.  Wouldn't God be pleased?

This only created an elitist attitude in me.  I was more devoted than the average Christian because I participated in these meetings and consistently showed up for years.  Most Christians I talked to couldn't believe we prayed for hours.  Now that was radical!  There's that word again.

These were mandatory meetings required unless we got permission from our supervisor to miss; we were EXPECTED to be there. This was also a part of submitting to our authorities.

Being submissive was another pillar of Gospel for Asia.  We all were taught that Americans have a hard time with this and this was our downfall.  Especially as women, we had a fleshly nature to rise above man and this was sin.  So we were expected to not have a voice.  Our role was to submit to our husbands and support them in the work of the ministry.  We were to raise our kids, keep the house, cook, and take care of anything that would distract our husbands from focusing on the ministry.  I watched as many women, whose husbands traveled frequently to speak on behalf of GFA, were expected to raise their children alone.  If we broke and expressed weakness, then Satan was getting a foothold in our lives and using the woman to pull her husband away from his calling.  We were frequently encouraged to examine our hearts and confess our sin.  If this was a struggle, then we just weren't humble enough.

For me, this was all done to prove how radical we were. But how could I not live under a blanket of guilt?

I didn't follow all the expectations. I went to ladies retreats (non-GFA) the last few years we were there, even though I knew that was frowned upon.  We did take some vacations, mostly went camping, because that's all we could afford. When my husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in Costa Rica, we kept it quiet for fear of how it would look to others.  Even though we used all our points through a Hilton program for the stay and American Airlines points for the flights.  All we had to pay for was any excursions or souvenirs.  But it wasn't just about the money we spent; it was about relaxing. Radical Christians didn't waste time enjoying themselves.

I remember when I realized that KP's (the president of the ministry) daughter got married she went on a honeymoon missions trip to help the poor.  Most thought, "Wow, are they dedicated!  Look at what they have sacrificed because of their love for the less fortunate!" We were all shown pictures of their trip--probably to use this as an example of how dedicated we should all be.

Was I that dedicated?  How radical did I need to be?  What was I trying to prove and to who?

Now that we have left GFA, all I want to do is go back to being who I was before we joined GFA. I want to be a normal Christian.  One who takes one day at a time, is a light to those around me, one who sits at Jesus's feet.

Living radically has made me tired. . . confused . . . somewhat lost

I'm processing God's view of me.  He made me with special abilities and talents, desires and interests.  He made wonderful things in life that are meant for us to enjoy.  He gave us families meant to be reared by both parents. He meant for us to be creative, to support one another in community, and rest.  He made rest.

Being a part of a radical ministry where our performance was evaluated, along with my own views of radically Christianity makes for a lot of pressure.  Getting out of this ministry has given me my freedom in Christ back.  God came to set us free from a yoke of slavery!  Why put yourself back under these radical expectations?

Freedom and Grace are refreshing words to me now!


D said...

Consider finding a copy of the book _Runaway Radical_. My husband checked out out of it local library and I read it too and agreed with some parts and not with others. But it was thought provoking. The main takeaway for me from it was making sure I was Spirit-led, not functioning by a set of me-determined or someone else-determined standards of what was right or radical. And in a sense, being completely Spirit-led is radical in itself!

Oh, how I wish for some in-depth, in person conversations with you ladies these days...

S.T.S. said...

Living radically has made me tired, so true the life style at GFA applauds being poured out and exhausted for The Lord. Yet keeping people to tired to think is a way to control them. I recall proposing to leadership to have the Friday night prayer time meal before prayer meeting, not at 11:30 at night or 9 or 12am or all the crazy late night times, but a normal meal set up before prayer as a true time of fellowship with plenty of time to relax. The response was NO people will go home early keeping people as long as possible, praying was the goal.
Thinking about it it messed up our biorhythms something awful, Saturday was a wash because you would sleep until 10 am, Sunday would be messed up and often we would skip church because we would be so tired. Monday woul be a drag me out of bed day. It was a huge stress, KP would say take time to wait on the Lord ask him what to pray for, yet with 10-14 min scheduled for prayer time, people would just launch into the "list" on the power point.
I'm wondering now if these mandatory meetings weren't designed to keep us tired, un-rested, stressed in the name of suffering to keep staff off balance.

Jenny said...

Great article...
So glad you are finding true freedom in Christ and His grace!
I feel horribly evil for suggesting you move from your Awesome set up and into the house across the street from us, but I can always wish!

God bless you!!!!!!