We need revival! We need a new work! We need a radical change!
Many a conversation among church leaders seem to center around these statements. I myself have had many discussions with people both my own age and much older who are desperate to see a radical change in our churches. In fact there has been a book published by David Platt called Radical, that is all about how we need to get back to the “radical” life to which Christ has called his church. However, is the radical approach the only way to change the church? Is there room for realists in the body of Christ?
To truly understand this we need to define what the difference is between a “radical” and a “realist”.
“A radical is one who holds or follows strong convictions and extreme principles, usually in an uncompromising and direct method.”
“A realist is one who is aware of and understands things as they are, and seeks to work within a system to enact change.”
Perhaps putting it more simply we should say that a radical would be more likely to tear the system apart and start fresh and new. A realist, however, would be more likely to stay within the system to enact a change.
How does the Bible showcase these two different viewpoints, and how can they work together to further His kingdom?
There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Elijah was a radical! From calling down fire to prove God’s power to calling the priests of God to eradicate the priests of Baal, Elijah was always making what most people of Israel would call controversial decisions, yet there can be no doubt that he was used by God to move the people of Israel back to God. In all of Elijah’s activities though it is his challenging of the king on which we should focus.
The radicals among us can identify with Elijah’s confronting of the king (Kings 18). Isn’t that what we are called to anyway? Confronting the problems in our government and church from the front and taking a stand. To be the person standing in the breach, drawing a line and saying “You Shall Not Pass”*. The heads of our churches are saying that this is what God calls us all to do. That we are called to be standing between the armies of the world and the people of God with our only options being corruption or death.
Is this radical path the only way?
While Elijah may be a well know radical of our Christian history, there is in this same story (Kings 18) the tale of a much lesser known man Obadiah. Of this man’s life we have little to know knowledge, he may be the same Obadiah from the prophets, more than likely he is just another man with the same name. The only thing we are told of this Obadiah is this:
“Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly, and when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water” – 1Kings 18:3b-4
So the entirety of this man’s legacy is that he feared the LORD so much that he would take the prophets of God to hide and shelter them from an evil queen. Notice, however, what these verses do not say. They do not say that Obadiah confronted the queen about her evil. They do not say that Obadiah quit his position to live in the wild with Elijah. In fact, we find out in later verses that he was still a trusted servant of the king who was causing all of Israel’s problems, yet this man “Feared the LORD“.
So which path is the one God wants? How should these very different ideas deal with each other?
The answer to these questions is shown in the next segment of these verses. (Kings 18:7-16) As Obadiah is on a mission for the king, he finds himself confronted by the Elijah himself. When Obadiah sees him he bows in homage to this man who has put himself on the line for God. These two men then converse about there different “ministries” and discuss a mission Elijah has for Obadiah. They meet as equals, neither one condemning or challenging the others methods.
We as a group of Christians need to continually be taught this truth, “There is no wrong way”. Christians get caught up in saying that radical life is better, or an organic (realistic) life is better; when the honest answer to these struggles is both are valid avenues to change. Instead of trying to undercut other styles of change we should be building up our fellow Christians in there unique situations and agree that as long as we are moving toward change in Christ that we are on the right path.