Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Radical Lab Rats

*Part Nine of the Radical Read-Along with Marla Taviano

Well, I and all my world-wide-web reading buddies have made it through the last chapter in Radical. I am one part relieved to be finished, one part excited about all I learned and one part scared to death because now that I'm done reading, I have to actually do something with what I've learned. I am reminded of the very first quote I pulled from the book way-back-when in chapter one:

“My biggest fear, even now, is that I will hear Jesus’ words and walk away, content to settle for less than radical obedience to him.” (page 3)

Reading Radical was quite the eye-opening journey and now that it's over, it seems it's actually just beginning. In the final chapter, Platt challenges readers to put his theory that something is wrong with American Christianity to the test through The Radical Experiment - five challenges, one year and a life turned upside down (or right side up?).

Being a "detail-oriented-doer-type" myself, I really appreciate that Platt didn't just offer a critique of the Christian version of the American Dream, but actually gave a clearly mapped out process for changing it. Here is the Experiment's challenge and here is my take on each point:

1. Pray for the Entire World
This one seems overwhelming for sure, but the simple idea behind it is that if a whole ton of people prayed for a whole ton of people to go and minister to every place on earth, then we would see a huge awakening. It's based in the idea of "the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few, so ask God to send workers" (Luke 10:2). There is a great resource that Platt mentions here that helps to break down the task of praying for the entire world into little bites at a time. 

I hate to admit it, but I've never been much of a prayer. I think it's just a spiritual discipline I missed learning somewhere along the way, so the idea of praying for the entire world was incredible to me. But the "bit by bit" approach is something I think I can do if I commit to it and assume that this would be a great way for me to start learning how to really pray.
2. Read Through the Entire Word
The challenge is (and it makes perfect sense) that if we started reading through the Word of God every day (along with praying for the nations) then God's heart for the lost and His will for our lives would be so clear and so deeply rooted in us that the next three steps of this Experiment would easily fall into line with our changed hearts.

I was raised in the church, I've called my faith my own since middle school and I have read a good portion of the Bible. But I have never actually read the whole thing, which I find ridiculous since I say I believe this Word which I've never gotten around to reading. I want to know God's heart better and I know that time in His Word is the best way to do that - I just have to be disciplined enough to do it. 
3. Sacrifice Your Money for a Specific Purpose 

This challenge is exactly what it sounds like - live on less and sacrifice more so that you can invest in a gospel-focused ministry.

There are a number of purposes that Devin and I already sacrifice our money for (most of them focusing on ministry to the poor and orphaned) and when I read this challenge I thought, "What if I've already sacrificed, but am to the point where living this "sacrificial" way is the norm? Do I sacrifice even more?"

We live on one income and still give much of it away, we drive one car (one very old car) and live in an older apartment with old, second-hand furniture and have no plans to buy a house in the near further. We live a lifestyle that many reading Radical would consider already "radically downsized." So I was feeling pretty good about this particular challenge. Then I came across this: Who Are the Joneses?  and realized I am still living in luxury and still have plenty of abundance to share.

4. Spend Your Time in Another Context
This challenge involves the importance of serving others and sharing the gospel in another country. While Platt doesn't suggest that you have to go on a mission trip to be a "good" Christian (because that would ostracizes every Christian living in poverty who is unable to afford a mission trip), he does speak to the importance of the experience of seeing and serving people in another cultural context than your own. 

Again, I thought, "Right on! We are going to Uganda in March - score one for the Hansons!" But then I read this article: When Helping Hurts which cautions about short-term missions trips and now I'm all sorts of turned around.

5. Commit Your Life to a Multiplying Community

The final challenge for the Radical Experiment is to invest in your local community and do this with/through your church family. 

This is a complicated one for us for many reasons that I can't really go into, but I will say that we are making steps to engage in the needs of our local community and bring our church along with us. That's all I can really say at this point.

*  *  *

So that's the challenge presented by the Radical Experiment. For those of us who have gone through the Radical Read Along together, we are probably all wondering the same thing - who's in and who's not? 

I look at the five points listed above and think, "Yes! I want to do this, I know I should do this and I know God can help me do this! I know I will be forever changed if I do this!" And then there is the "Buuuttt..." that lingers in my mind. This is a huge, life-alter, turn-me-upside-down-and-inside-out kind of commitment and I won't lie to you - I kinda rushed through reading this chapter. I want to commit to this, but I don't want to do it just because I feel like it's "the thing to do." My heart is (amazingly enough even after all this stretching and growing) not in the right place, my motivations aren't entirely pure. They are laced with peer-pressure and in-the-moment-excitement. This is a big deal and I want to take it seriously. 

I think that yes, my husband and I will very likely commit to this Experiment (or some similar variation of it) but right now, I've got to pray that God will bring my heart to the right place and make sure that I've got the right focus before diving in. I've got to seriously discuss it with my husband. Otherwise, if the commitment isn't genuine, I know that my motivation will just fade off along with my commitment. This challenge is something I really want to allow into my life and it's too important to halfheartedly commit to.

So that's where I'm at. Thank you to all who shared your heart and your stories during this journey - it has been a pleasure to take a little peek into your world.


  1. i read the article you linked to for #4. it definitely raised some valid concerns, ones that my husband and i have discussed. we work for a missions organization, one that sends short term teams. one of our missionaries recently posted on the value of short term teams. here's her article: http://rwandamomma.blogspot.com/2010/09/why-we-do-short-term.html
    i do think that missions can be done very wrongly, both short and long term. i have an acquaintance who lost her faith while serving as a missionary. my mother still bares scars from her years serving on the field. there is definitely a lot to be taken in consideration when going. all that said, i do believe there is value in going.

  2. YES! I read that too (#4) and was very confused after that. I'm still processing what that means.

  3. I've been saving that post (about missions trips) for when I have time to read/process it. I'm a little scared.

  4. Okay, I read it (When Helping Hurts). And I breathed a sigh of relief. Still lots to process, but I'm not scared anymore. :)

  5. That was an incredible article about short-term missions. I was pleased that the conclusion was not to ban all STMs, but to prayerfully seek God as to what would be best for the people you want to minister to.

    But I definitely think your trip to Uganda will be incredible because your 2 girls will get to meet you and Devin! You are investing in their lives every single day and what a blessing it will be for them to get to know you both during your trip there! And your comment about not planning on buying a house anytime soon made me think...Hmmm...maybe Jen and Devin will end up moving to Uganda. I'm excited to see what God has in store for you two!


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