I'm going to stay honest here and confess that parts of Radical chapter four made me really angry and really offended me.
I was angry for a good chunk of this chapter because I felt like Platt was condemning people who felt called to stay in the United States and minister, rather than going overseas to minister. As someone who really does feel called to minster to the United States -- to challenge the Church here; to shake some sense into Christians here; and to show the culture here what Christianity should look like -- I was really offended by what I thought Platt saying.
Fortunately instead of doing what I felt like doing - which was to throw the book across the room (mature, I know) - I continued reading and got a much needed wake-up call of my own when I read the following:
“The statements [of "God has called me to minister to the United States] may sound spiritual, but when we probe deeper, they seem more like smoke screens... They are smoke screens because most of us really are not very concerned about the needs right around us. Most Christians rarely share the gospel, and most Christian’s schedules are not heavily weighted to feeding the hungry, helping the sick, and strengthening the church in the neediest places in our country.” (Radical, page 75-76)
Ouch. Well! There's a thought. A rather convicting one at that.
So now instead of throwing a book, I have a convicted confession to make: Even though I've felt and said out loud and been convinced of my calling to minister here in the United States - I have done very little to act on those convictions. I've done some things, even many things by some standards, but have I made it my calling? Not really. Have I made it what my life is all about? No. Even after my Time Out two weeks ago very little has changed in my life in regards to reaching out to those around me.
Do I still think its my calling? Yep. Do I think I'm just too chicken to embrace it and act upon it fully? Yep. Is that gonna stop me from getting serious about letting God use me here in the United States? I hope not. Because Platt makes the beautiful point that mankind was created for two expressly intertwined purposes (purposes that I don't want to miss out on): To experience God's grace and to extend His glory to the world. We can not (and should not) have one without the other.
“We live in a church culture that has a dangerous tendency to disconnect the grace of God from the glory of God. Our hearts resonate with the idea of enjoying God’s grace. We bask in sermons, conference, and books that exalt a grace centering on us. And while the wonder of grace is worthy of our attention, if that grace is disconnected from its purpose [glorifying God], the sad result is a self-centered Christianity that bypasses the heart of God.” (Radical, page 69)
To paraphrase the rest of Platt's point here, when the message of Christianity is “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” – the central focus of Christianity is YOU. The biblical message of Christianity however is, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life that will bring Him glory in ways that only He could orchestrate.” This make the focus of Christianity God and His glory, not us.
With that said, let me return the to idea of being called to minister in a particular area - whether here or oversees. This is where Platt started speaking my language. He challenges Christians that our mission should not be focused only on where we feel "called" to minister, but also to the world as a whole. Our heart should be for the whole world because God's heart is for the whole world.
“In light of all that we have seen in scripture, certainly God has given us his grace to extend his glory not just to areas of need here but to areas of need around the world. Not either here or there but both her and there… We have created the idea that if you have a heart for the world and you are passionate about global mission, then you move overseas. But if you have a heart for the United States and you are not passionate about global mission, then you stay here and support those who go. Meanwhile, flying right in the face of this idea is scripture’s claim that regardless of where we live – here or overseas – our hearts should be consumed with making the glory of God known to all nations...There is a God-designed way for us to live our lives here, and do church here, for the sake of people around the world who don’t know Christ.” (Radical, page 77)
This is where Platt and I were on the same page and where I think I finally started to understand the message of this chapter. Because yes, I have a heart for America, but I have a heart that aches for the hungry in Africa and for the orphans in the Ukraine and for so many others around the world that need the love of Christ in their lives.
I am compelled to minister to those who claim Christ here in America partly because I think there are a lot of church-goers who have been mislead into believing they are saved and I want them to truly find God. But perhaps even more so, my heart is to minister to American SO THAT American can minister to the world. I want to challenge Christians to truly start living like Christ SO THAT fewer babies lie alone in orphanages and fewer people die from drinking unclean water. This is why my heart beats for America -- because I can envision the difference we in America could make if we let God use us for His purpose and His glory!
So do I think that I use the words "I'm called to minister to America" as a smoke-screen excuse to stay safe and comfortable sometimes? Yes I do and my actions at times attest to that. I also know that God has given me a passion that reaches far beyond my little apartment in Phoenix, Arizona but that currently Phoenix, Arizona is where He has placed me and I want to make the most of where I am - for the sake of the community around me and for the sake of those around the world. I'm guilty of ignoring that passion far too often, but this chapter has really served to put things into perspective.
I was created to experience God's grace in order that my life might show His glory throughout the world. Now, what am I going to do about it?
"Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me."
- Psalm 31:3
for the sake of your name lead and guide me."
- Psalm 31:3