Is the push to be “radical” and “missional” the new legalism? Does church culture discourage ordinary people in ordinary places from doing everyday things to the glory of God?
Anthony Bradley thinks so. This week he wrote an article called “The New Legalism” on how the “radical” and “missional” focuses of the evangelical church in the last 10 years give millenials a pressure to perform. The pressure—bearing down, crushing, shame-driven, extremely motivational pressure—to be something awesome for Jesus.
Are we stressing you out?
Live58 publishes stories encouraging you to be missional. We talk about radical giving through organizations like With This Ring. We encourage you to give to projects and go on trips and fast from normal parts of suburban life.
The main purpose of Live58 is to help you live a simple, content lifestyle of sacrifice and service so that your eyes (and your schedules!) open up to the needs of others. We don’t want to swing the pendulum. Going from one extreme to the other will simply bring us back to the same spot of shame and desperation again.
Bradley gives us a helpful clue, (though without many practical details): vocation. If each of us search out our vocations, we will find freedom to love God and love others. We will find freedom from making decisions based on guilt or an overwhelmed heart, and we will find the rest we lack. There shouldn’t be a Superman-like pressure to “save the world.”
We just want to do what we can with what we have, steadily growing in a better understanding of loving God, loving neighbor.
The neighbor can live overseas, but we also need to be careful not to overspiritualize “neighbor” and forget about the few next-door—or under our own roof.
As an example of how vocation is the answer to this question, Gene Edward Vieth, a leading scholar on this topic, says that our prayer “Give us this day our daily bread” is fulfilled by farmers, truck drivers, mechanics, and grocers (and many more people) living out their vocations. If these people halted their faithfulness to their calling, we would not have any bread.
In other words, “God is milking the cows through the vocation of the milkmaid” (Luther).
Insert any other service and its professional here: healing through the doctor, loving through the mother, providing shelter through the carpenter.
Similarly, if everyone becomes missionaries overseas, we would lack someone to preach here at home. If all the Christians took non-profit jobs, the non-profits would shut down for lack of major donors.
(Click on each image to learn about each corresponding story.)
All Christians have multiple vocations, and the universal one is love. As a community who seeks to live in freedom and service, not guilt and burnout, we should honor the many ways that we can help the poor, both local and global.
As Erin, a member of our content team, says:
“Any life with God is radical.”
Erin is a David Platt-reading mom and church administrator who also involves herself deeply in overseas giving and prayer.
Here are some practical steps for finding your vocation, or calling, toward everyday and radical service:
Realize that everyday life is God-given and God-ordered. Boredom always brings opportunity for growth.
Look in the mirror—but not too much. Challenge your motives. Are you just looking to escape from something? Do your motivations and goals hurt those around you or ask too much from them? Are your efforts an attempt to make yourself look better? Is the drive to help based soley on marketing from a non-profit or on a gift or vocation God gave you?
Develop yourself and don’t feel guilty about it. Find enjoyable work or activities. Think about what you loved to do as a kid without necessarily being asked or trained.
Surround yourself with similar and different people. Have friends who do the same things as you. But also have friends who do different things than you.
Do what’s in front of you. With travel and technology being so accessible to us today, we have a paralyzing amount of options and possibilities. Serve the people around you. Give to the missionary in your own life. Keep it personal, and as Mother Theresa says, “Do the thing that’s in front of you.”
Raise your children well. Maybe God isn’t calling you to go overseas, but you never know where He will call your children. Even if they are called to simply be faithful in their own vocations, raise them to be compassionate, to make service and sacrifice a lifestyle, to be good stewards of all they are blessed with. Good parenting is radical!
Love your literal neighbor. Get to know the people next-door. Learn their stories and meet their specific needs. Sustain an ongoing friendship with them. Build the community God has literally given you!
Incorporate justice in the small ways. Justice doesn’t only look like physically rescuing girls from brothels. Justice also looks like making wise, ethical purchasing decisions. Justice looks like taking care of the creation God has put under your care. Live justly right where God has you right now.
So go in freedom. Serve with all your heart and a full-bodied, rested action. Take a meal to your friend with a newborn. Spend your vacation on a mission trip—even think about making that place your home, if it seems right to the Holy Spirit and to you. Work faithfully in a job that fulfills you and fills your kids’ bellies—whether that means hammering wood or hammering out justice in a courtroom.
Adopt… the neighbor kids for an afternoon of playing? A forgotten grandma at a state-run nursing home? A baby from Ethiopia? A water project in a developing country? Love God and love your neighbors.
What are your thoughts? Do you have your own response to Anthony Bradley’s article? Let us know in the comments below!