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Radical church…

I’ve been setting course to church plant after I graduate for a number of years. For the longest time I’ve been contemplating doing something different, better, more innovative, than church as usual.

At the end of the day though, I find many of my ideas haven’t been all that radical.

Just because our church might be more creative, more current, more engaging, work harder, be more balanced, be more missional, more tech-savvy, more relational, and on and on… I wonder if these changes would still just be incremental?

It scares me to think that I might just end up producing more of the same.

The word radical comes from the word root or origins. When I look at the church in the new testament or the history of the early church, that was radical.

What does a radical church look like in today’s context?

{ 13 comments… add one }

  • Parke January 23, 2008, 12:09 pm

    Does radical mean the same thing in Canada and the US?

  • Lon January 23, 2008, 12:22 pm

    haha, great question Parke. there are some differences, but I’m sure we share many similarities. I’d love to hear responses for either or both…

    let me also say that I think there are plenty of churches that have been doing extraordinary work throughout north america. but, if it was going to be different, if it was going to reach the emerging generation, and be radical/true to it’s roots, what would that look like?

  • bradley grinnen January 23, 2008, 12:40 pm


    i’ve often thought about leaving the more traditional role i am in as a youth pastor and doing something much more ‘radical’. however, this last year, God has been whispering to me over and over again…”worry less about ‘form’ of ‘church’ and put more energy into being transformed yourself. ” i can’t escape the feeling that things i’m involved in will only go as deep as i go in my relationship with God. probably a much better way to state what i mean, but whatever.


  • Just a Guy January 23, 2008, 12:49 pm

    Just because our church might be more creative, more current, more engaging, work harder, be more balanced, be more missional, more tech-savvy, more relational, and on and on… I wonder if these changes would still just be incremental?

    Of course they will… Jesus and the early church pretty much set a high standard for “radical” and I’d wager that anyone who comes along these days with something “radical” to that degree is probably someone to be a little weary of.

    At the end of the day, I think a lot of what you are thinking about is merely “form.” From what I’ve read on your blog you’re not talking about a church that has some new crazy take on scripture or doctrine, but rather you are seeking to plant something that maybe looks and feels a little bit different. That, I think, is just form. The message stays the same, the mode changes.

    To that end, I think most change will be incremental… and that’s not bad.

    If the church you plants preaches and lives the gospel in the world… then go for it man! We need a whole lot more of those! Heck, now days that is pretty radical!

  • Lon January 24, 2008, 9:09 am

    Bradley – right on, as always, it starts with us.

    just a guy – thanks for saying that. something i suspected, but needed to hear from another person as well. thanks so much.

  • Brandon Donaldson January 24, 2008, 11:05 am

    Great discussion already, I would concur with the thoughts and direction. It seems the heart is to have a radical people, and the question is: how do we lead and raise up radical passionate followers of Christ? and Can these new forms or new tools help us do that better?

    It definitely starts with us. Lon, you definitely have that heart, and I think that a leader that is consistently and passionately following Christ and seeking his heart and will can aggressively go after new forms and tools to convey it. The tension that follows I believe is a good tension that reminds us as leaders that the form and the tools are never the answer in themselves. Instead, they are just a means to an end. They can come and go…and they will, so we hold loosely to our forms and our strategies. But Jesus will never change, and we can hold tightly to the goal of being and leading people to be fully committed followers of Christ.

  • aaron January 24, 2008, 11:39 am

    I like what i’m reading.
    can i add you to my blog role?

  • Lon January 24, 2008, 2:22 pm

    Brandon – totally true, the forms are just about meaningless when we’ve lost our bearings and veered from Jesus ourselves.

    That being said, what might a core group of radical followers of Jesus do to be the church and lead others to also be fully committed followers? Is there something more than amazing sermons, more than great examples (thought this one is huge), more than opportunities to ask questions and serve…? maybe that’s really it, but I guess that’s what i’ve been wondering.

    Aaron, thanks for tuning in – definitely add me, please do!

  • bradley grinnen January 24, 2008, 4:30 pm


    sounds like some deep spiritual formation which can only happen in community. now, what does that look like? does spiritual formation have to be ‘radical’? i mean, isn’t it radical if it goes way beyond the ‘great sermons’, ‘technilogically’, etc. returning to some of the ancient ways. i don’t know, just some thoughts.


  • Marty January 28, 2008, 12:01 pm

    You used the words “work harder” I’d love to see you flesh this one out. Yesterday I was a part of commissioning service and the words “lead with diligence” jumped out at me. I want to grab a hold of what that means and live it out. I wonder how closely related it is to your “work harder”


  • Lon January 29, 2008, 10:03 am

    Hey Marty, thanks for honing in on that. Maybe it’s because I’ve met very few balanced individuals. I find some people just have a flat-out poor work ethic, and then there are those of us who are so sold out and passionate and willing to throw in everything we got, that we think that’ll be the difference maker.

    In the past i’ve had a reactionary response to perceived laggards in the church, where something within me says just you wait till i’m running the ship, i’ll show you how much i’m willing to put into it, and that’ll inspire others to also throw in their very best, and so we’ll be a new, more radical, more passionate church.

    “lead with diligence” is of course a more healthy statement. It’s not comparative like ‘work harder’ and it carries with it a degree of integrity/honesty with yourself that hopefully avoids manically pouring your guts out for incremental differences.

    In light of this post, i guess i’ve been wondering if there are healthier forms or structures where leaders can lead diligently and effectively and be at peace that they are being true to Jesus and being the church.

    ie. i recently heard a podcast with craig groeschel talking about how he eats at home with his family 6 nights a week. I wonder how many pastors of smaller or larger churches can say this, as they ‘work harder’, without necessarily producing more results.

  • Marty January 29, 2008, 10:53 am

    Good stuff –
    I set out with the goal that I never wanted the “church work” take over family time. In our context the families in Ottumwa are in shambles. It became clear that one of our primary witnesses of Christ was going to be our family.
    I can’t remember missing more then one breakfest and one dinner a week in our first six months. Toby and I would get up and make waffles every morning. I championed bath time in the evening. I would gladly schedule meetings but 5:30-8:00pm were not an option.
    Then the new year happened. The bed times got bumped back an hour. Everything was thrown off. Now three times a week I have something planned during bed time. I hate it! So I made some adjustments. I do family time during the day since I’m “working” more in the evening. I still make 6 dinners a week and 5 lunches a week. Breakfest has a new rhythmn as does bath time and I’m sure they’ll change again in a few months as Lydia gets older.
    I’m aware that my time will always be stolen if I don’t protect it.
    I think your final sentence is the big one – work harder – produce results. I wish that equation was true but it isn’t. Maybe it is work wiser – produce many more results and one of the biggest keys to working wiser is SABBATH! What do you think?

  • Lon February 3, 2008, 6:43 pm

    Hey Marty, forgot to comment back on this one. we could all work wiser… one thing that someone had just mentioned to me, was this idea of not having sabbath as a result of our hard work… but doing good as a result of sabbath. Still, either way, i’ve got to admit, sabbath is still something i’m struggling over.

    i enjoy what i do, so sometimes i feel like my whole life is sabbath… but i think sabbath goes further, to not doing anything, and allowing god to really work. i think sabbath truly practiced as an attitude and lifestyle, can really help escape this need to ‘work harder’ radically different from the way the rest of the world operates…

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