The Secret Behind Becoming a Radical Christian


There it is. I wish it was something that was deeper and more profound. I wish I had some witty antidote or could break new theological ground in it’s unveiling or even wish that I came to me in a vision that I can now share with the world. But truth be told – I’ve learned the secret behind becoming the Radical Christian that is so hotly talked about and debated these days simply by sticking around.

Why did we start listening to some southern white boy with dreads, dawned in clothes he made himself, living in the ghettos of Philadelphia? Because it was crazy. Why do we keep listening to Shane Claiborne? Because he’s still living there. He’s still making his own clothes. His still championing the poor, the Gospel, the messages he was espousing since day one. He’s still there.

Why did I read some book that challenged everyone’s understanding of God’s crazy love, written by another Southern California mega-church pastor? Because it was a New York Times Bestseller and I like edgy things. Why do I keep listening to Francis Chan for wisdom and council? Because he’s continued to press further and further into the vision that Christ has placed in his heart and the message on placed in his mouth.

Why do I heed every word about faith and church that comes from my 93 year old grandfather who does little by way of today’s “radical faith” definition? Because he’s shown a dedication to his community of faith that is unmatched and unseen any where else in my life. He’s been a bedrock voice, support, challenger, and encourager in his family of faith for more years than I can imagine.

What is it about my grandmother’s life that humbles my greatest theologies, paradigms, programs, and experiences in ministry? Her 50 years of teaching Sunday at the same church. If I’m conservative and say she had 6 kids every year she taught Sunday school, that’s 300 kids the spent an entire year with! Judging by the attendance at her funeral a few years back, she had well more than 6 kids each of those years.

We debate what makes radical faith. We die on hills we call social justice, faith alone, modernity, post-modernity, depth in tradition, life in relevancy, and a thousand more hills with a thousand more names. Here’s the deal: We worship a God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He’s sovereign over that which makes your soul burn deep and bright and hot for the Gospel of Christ and his Kingdom come. Yet, whatever it is that is burning deep in your soul leading you to make great sacrifices, go on great adventures, invest deeply, and submit continually here’s my plea: STAY WITH IT!

In four years, my parents will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. In a country where approximately half of all marriages end in divorce, 40 years of faithful marriage is radical. In a country of church shopping, splitting, and reinventing 50 years of faithful attendance, service, and membership is radical. In a country where everyone wants to be the change in every #trending cause, 20 years of dedication to serving the homeless, advocating the end of human trafficking, or raising generations whose faith sticks past adolescence is radical. If we set out to be a radical Christian today. We can call myself radical today. If we set out to have longevity in our faith, mission, and call in Christ, we’ll be remembered as a Christians who undeniably lived radically.


We follow a Speaking God

Last night I taught on Abraham. We looked at how Abraham’s life was shaped by his belief (and unbelief at times) in the spoken promises of God over his life and future. Afterwards I gave everyone 56 seconds to text me one question they were left with from the teaching, to which I would answer one of the questions in another 56 seconds. My attempt to give permission and allow space to people’s real questions about God. I got this question from one of my adult volunteers.

Why doesn’t God speak to us in the present day the way he spoke to Abraham?

I love that they asked this question because we ALL ask this question. Yet few of us have the courage or bravery to speak it or explore it. Here is my answer to this question.

I very much believe that he does and is speaking to us today. When we read we often read as though God pops by for a spot of tea and says, “Oh by the way – here’s exactly what I want you to do.” But I wonder if we assume face to face conversations, loud booming thunder from heaven, or writing in the sky too often. I wonder if we assume these things in hopes to appease the discomfort within us when we know our soul desires to hear our Father’s voice but has lost the recognition of that voice.

So often, probably more often than not, when people hear the voice of God in scripture they are either A) in silence & solitude or B) in the wilderness – away from distractions. Let’s look at a few people who heard the voice of God.

Abraham was a 75 year old nomad – accustomed to the quiet. Moses was an 80 year old shepherd heard the voice of God in the desert (A burning bush is one thing, but recognizing it as the voice of God would not have been an obvious observation!). David was a shepherd through his entire childhood, then a fugative who spent most of his life on the run living in caves & in hiding running from King Saul, then as King had much time alone.  Nearly all the Prophets resided in the wilderness in solitude. Zachariah and Samuel both heard God’s voice alone in the Temple. The disciples & both Marys heard the word of God spoken in and through their time alone with Jesus.

Then there is Jesus. He heard the voice of God during baptism (outside of Jerusalem), during prayer before dawn, and on a mountain top with 3 friends. He also discerned the voice of God as he walked about and interacted with people. How? The same way I can pick out my daughter’s singular laugh on a playground full of children or my wife’s voice in a room full of women, because I spend hours, days, years, cultivating a recognition and unrelenting love for their voice.

I read this last night after youth group and thought this spoke poignantly to the question,

“Religion has accepted the monstrous heresy that noise, size, activity, and bluster make a man (and woman) dear to God. But we may take heart. To a people caught in the tempest of the last great conflict (alluding to Revelation) God says,”Be still and know that I am God,” and he still says it, as if He means to tell us that our strength and safety lie not in the noise but in the silence”  – A.W. Tozer

I am so guilty of this – creating spiritual “noise” in hopes to rouse God’s attention and take notice of me or surrounding myself with “noise” so that I am safe from hearing words of correction, vision, or change that God has for me. Then I simply complain, “Why don’t you speak to me!” I surely think God’s answer is, “Why don’t you listen as I am speaking to you now?”

We follow a speaking God. His Son is called the “Word” (John 1) and are filled with the Spirit speaks God’s word to us (John 15:26). Let’s pray that God would help us listen rather than that God would speak louder.

Complaining About My Gold Medals

Imagine this: Michael Phelps wins his 18th gold medal. He stands on the podium, gets his medal, watches our flag be raised, but has is noticeably frustrated or annoyed. Then in the press conference the reporters ask him how he feels about winning yet another gold medal to which he responds in an outburst, “The whole race was unfair! The swimmer in the lanes next to me kept splashing me and running into my lane! Not to mention I’m pretty sure my touch pad was broken because I swear I got a faster time than it recorded. And another thing, was that water colder than usual? Seriously, I have goosebumps, how do they expect us to swim in these conditions!”

Ludicrous right? Who wants to hear the most decorated winner in the history of the Olympics complain about a race in which no one else in the world could finish before him. Take your medal. Wave to the camera. Move on. You don’t get to complain about being a victim when you keep coming out the winner.

In the past 30 minutes I’ve taken two significant blows to my near social and financial future. A new friend just found out him and his family are going to be moving to San Diego and the tire repair man said he can fix the problem I called about no problem, but he saw a problem I hadn’t called about that he can’t fix. Awesome. So stoked. Is today a Monday?! Why is this all happening to me?!?!

In Luke 6:27-36 Jesus calls us to something greater than just being nice to people who are mean to us. He calls us to love them. Not just in our minds but in our actions. When we are in a position to actually and literally love those who make life most difficult for us something amazing happens, we reject idea that I’m a powerless victim and respond with empowered love and grace.

A few thoughts: Often times we believe we are victimized by people as well as circumstances. Both can be our enemies. I can think of people who I would consider enemies because at my worst I feel like life would be easier without them. The same goes with circumstances. Also, there is a difference between acknowledging and processing the pain of being on the receiving end of hurt and living in the place where we feel hopeless or helpless to be a part of any fruitful life after that experience.

Let’s remember a few things. What was it that Jesus told his disciples about the hatred and hardships that are to face us in this world? “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Also, as children of God we are co-heirs with Christ. What then is our inheritance? Eternal life as sons and daughters in the Kingdom of God!

God has written a new story for those who have placed all their belief, faith, and lives in him. That story ends with Victory. Redemption. So next time I feel like I’m due a little pity party or feel like I am a helpless and hopeless victim of life, I’m going to picture Michael Phelps complaining about all his gold medals. How embarrassing he would feel at the end of his career looking back on that moment. I’m thankful that what I have in Christ is greater than 18 gold medals, and I really don’t want to be the guy who complains when I already have everything.

I’m Trying To Ask For Too Much

Christina and I were talking with our friends Isaiah and Kat Whelpley when we began talking about the things that we pray for. I was telling them how uncomfortable I was praying for specific healing and for specific movements of the Spirit. Who am I to try to manipulate the will of God? Finally at one point Kat said something I’ve never forgotten.

“Evan, when I get to heaven, I hope that God tells me that I spent my life asking far too much of him. I would rather him say that then have him ask why I asked so little of him.”

My gut reaction to what she said was to tell her how backwards her statement was but then I realized the beauty of what she had said. God would never tell us we were asking too much of him because God filled the whole Bible with commands, encouragements, and stories showing us his great desire to be everything to and for us!

It’s amazing, as I look back on this past summer, how little I actually ask of God. I mean, there’s been some major stuff that has happened this summer and decisions I’ve made that will have lasting influence. On the flip side there are things that I never gave a second thought to whether or not I should be seeking the wisdom, provision, or rebuke of God.  Maybe I have this innate desire to show him how capable I am. Maybe I want to free him up to help all those big prayers from people in dire circumstances. Wouldn’t God get frustrated if I got dibs on his time/provision/power just before an orphan from the Congo prayed for safety, shelter, family, and healing? Whoops, my bad.

I was able to worship with an old community of friends tonight and was reminded the subtle dangers of vague and ambiguous prayer. In my general prayers for health, wealth, and blessing or my ambiguous requests for patience, love, and strength two things tend to happen. I lose my sense of trembling and awe in the presence of God because it becomes increasingly harder for me to see or recognize the answers to these prayers. Also, in the midst of vague or ambiguous prayer I become increasingly self reliant because these prayers are generally a blanket covering for things that I know I can manage if I get in a real bind.

Tonight we read passages out of Luke 8 tonight and saw how boldly specific peoples’ requests, statements, and actions were of and to Jesus.

Keep my daughter from dying.

Heal my bleeding.

We are going to drown!

Even a demon says, “Do not torture me!”.

All statements that leave little room for ambiguity.

Hebrews 12 says that Jesus is the initiator and perfecter of our faith. Within my prayer life lies a very clear barometer of my intimacy and faith with my walk with Jesus. I believe that one of the greatest ways Jesus initiates faith within me is through prayer. As I pray He reciprocates through gifts of visions, knowledge, and calling that speaks to what lays ahead of me. He then perfects my faith when I see that which he revealed to me come to pass. But between the initiating and perfecting lies my work of believing. Jesus gives me the boat, oars, wind, compass, and lays before me my destination, I need to be the one who pulls up the anchor.

I can never set God up for failure through any of my prayers. His reputation is not at stake every time I ask him for specific healing, provision, reconciliation, vision, or wisdom. What is at stake is the depth of faith I am willing to live by and the amount of new creation I’m going to experience by the Creator.

Yeah, this week I’m going to spend all my time trying to ask God for too much. Pray for me. My week may have a few of these moments….

“Where is your faith?” Jesus asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this?” Luke 8:25

Our First Block Party

What if nobody comes? Even worse – what if everybody comes but nobody talks to each other? Who will bring the food? Are we hosting or just facilitating? Maybe we shouldn’t bother and just go about it a different way.

These were the questions and thoughts that were brought up when my wife and I first floated the idea of organizing a neighborhood barbecue last July. The notion came about innocently enough as we were trying to be intentional about building relationships with our neighbors over individual dinner invitations.

We should have Jason and Adrienne over for dinner! Oh and we should ask Megan when she has a free night because she seems like so much fun. What about Ross, Jill and Jake? We see them all the time and Jake and Brylie seem to have fun – yes, we’ll have them over for dinner too! What about the three people we haven’t met yet? Would that be weird to invite a stranger over for dinner? Wait – how many dinners are we planning on so far? Whew…that’s a lot of scheduling….

So in lue of planning nine different dinners with nin3 different people or families that live in our apartment complex we thought it would be fun to just do it all together! It was then that we realized that one of the prayers we had been praying ever since we’ve been married, now had an opportunity to be lived into and fulfilled. We’ve prayed for years that we could help establish a greater sense of friendship and community among the people we live in close proximity to, be it the woman across the way or the family down the street. We wanted to actually be around our neighbors so we could practice love them!

This was daunting. Mostly because we were doing the initiating. We had no idea if our neighbors had ever done something like this before or if they’d want to do something like this with us. I mean, if they all said, “No” then all we’ve done is created an everlasting awkward moment with each of our neighbors for the rest of our time living near them. But what if it went well….   What if everyone did come? What if everyone had a great time, got to know each other better and began making deeper connections with people they have always seen but never known before? What could our neighborhood look like?

For Christina and I, the possible joy of our hopeful outcome far out weighed our insecurities of our feared outcome. So we invited all eight apartments to a potluck BBQ dinner. We had five neighbors show up and one neighbor call us day of in regret that something had come up that kept her from joining.

It was a rich time full of laughter, great food, relational connections, insight, and rest. It is sad think that we would have missed all this if we allowed our fear to speak louder than our hope. I took a picture that I will keep for a long time because it is yet another tangible reminder of what it looks like for my family to trust that when we take risks on Christ, the joy of the unknown more often than not exceeds our fears of the same unknown.

Unmet Expectations

Have you been in this type of place before? The place of unmet expectations, unanswered prayer, and unaided pain which Christ did not show up for. Many of us are still in this place now asking Christ,

“If you could have prevented this pain, WHY DIDN’T YOU?!”

If there is comfort to be found in this place let me offer this story from the Book of John. Mary, Martha and Lazarus, three of Jesus’ close friends, called desperately for him to heal Lazarus from a life threatening sickness. Christ’s response to this request was a bit less than what was expected.

But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days.

Considers this the first unmet expectation of Christ. Lazarus did die. They wrapped him up, put him in the tomb, and started grieving. Then, days later, did Christ show up to the scene. Martha said to Christ with all the emotion of a grieving sister and a seemingly betrayed friend, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” This is often the point when people walk away claiming the God is an unloving, manipulative chess player and we are simply his pawns and puppets.

Christ then says to Martha, in the midst of her brokenness and unmet expectations in Christ,

“I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?

How could she believe? Martha would have been justified in telling Christ to get lost but that was not her response.

Martha allowed her FAITH to have more authority than her EMOTIONS!

Martha responded by claiming, “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.”

She had no idea that Christ would then walk to Lazarus’ tomb, weep over his death, then in front of all the mourners and those whose expectations were unmet Christ raise Lazarus from the dead. Thus being the second unmet expectation of this story. No one was expecting Christ to raise Lazarus from the dead!

It is a terrifying place to be when when our expectations are not met in Christ but then are asked to continue to believe in something greater than the reality we see in front of us.Christ does not tremble or fall back in the midst of our emotions? Christ embraces, empathizes and reframes our emotions so that we can grow in our faith, love and dependency of him. Like Martha when we allow our FAITH to have more authority in our lives than our EMOTIONS we position ourselves to have Christ EXCEED the expectations we have of him.

I pray this week that no matter the circumstance we find ourselves we authentically bring our emotional selves to Christ while allowing our faith in who is says he is ground the decisions we make. When habitually allow our faith in who Christ is to frame our expectations of  Christ we will continue to have unmet expectations, those that Christ faithfully exceeds.

Leading From Our Tears

In Christ’s public ministry we read about him not just crying, but weeping on two different occasions. As a new father I have had a crash course in deciphering and witnessing the difference between crying and weeping.One can be conjured up in order to get something in return while the other is a response that comes without preemptive thought or planning. Weeping is the overwhelming outpour of a breaking heart that disregards all rules, motives, and stipulations. It is honest hurt and brokenness.

One of the places Christ weeps is in Luke 19:41-44 when He is entering Jerusalem for the last time. Before entering he is stopped in his tracks. He literally cannot continue walking with the overwhelming knowledge of brokenness He knows to be filling the city and people He loves. This is where Christ changes my emotional commitment and involvement with my city and the community around me.

My good friend JC Elliott is a youth pastor in Stockton, CA. He once asked me this while my family and I still lived in Stockton – “Evan, would you ever tell a kid in your youth group he’s worthless, ugly, hopeless, and has no chance to succeed? Would you ever let someone else say that to a kid? Then why are we so careless in the way we talk about Stockton. It will not get better if nobody believes it can get better. That change begins with howwe talk about our city.”

JC’s comments were less on our words but speaks more to the place that we’ve allowed our hearts to settle into. In our world it seems we’ve figured everything out, settled down, and slowly allowed cynicism of the “bad and broken” to take root. On person who speaks powerfully to this is Dr. Paul Farmer was quoted in the book Mountains Beyond Mountains saying, “Cynicism is a coward’s greatest weapon.” This is how I am working on battling the cynicism or indifferencefor the people in the city and cities closest to me.

Become Emotionally Invested: When Christ wept in Luke 19 it wasn’tbecause of His impending crucifixion. His death was voluntary. He wept because He allowed himself to become emotionally invested in the people. He did not view them as a “pet project” that was going to boost his resume, appease his conscience, or improve his standing with God. He plainly andfully loved the people in his city and could not walk away with out giving them everything He had.

Cultivate Knowledge of the Bigger Picture: Christ wept when He arrived at Lazarus’ tomb – then raised him from the dead. Christ wept when He saw Jerusalem – then He gave his own life for them. The realities of our earthly circumstances are not limiting factors in God’s Kingdom. It is one thing to be emotionally invested – but if there is no knowledge of how cities, communities, individuals, or nations can and will be changed for the better– there’s no hope. Christ held tightly to this as Hebrews tells us, “For the glory set before him He endured the cross.”

Start Small and Work to Radical: “If I’m not doing something radical then what’s the point?” A question I hear often from high school and college students as well as my own twenty-something peers. Christ’s love for the people of Jerusalem and Judea started with attending a wedding and recognizing a place to bless and serve the people around him. We can’t be immobilized by the feeling of an “all-or-nothing” mentality. The sum of many small opportunities to love our city will be the habit of saying yes to bigger obstacles and victories God has before us.

I want to love like Christ loved and weep like He wept. I want to lead my family and my community into the places that break my heart because thatis where God is ready to raise someone, some thing, some city from the dead.

Faith of a Nine Month Old

O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens. You have taught children and infants to tell of your strength, silencing your enemies and all who oppose you. – Psalm 8:1-2

My daughter turned 9 months old this past week. I swear we just got use to finding our way around the diaper bag, the swaddle, and midnight feedings.  I look now and see her standing, sleeping with Lambie, and gobbling down avocados. It is amazing how God uses children to give great revelation of Himself. God continues to give me such insight of who He is and how He loves me as I have the privilege of being a father.

Three things Brylie has taught me:

To trust God and believe He has a purpose for me.

We had 9 months to prepare for her. In that time we came to know everything we possibly could about our daughter before she was born. In the same way God has prepared for you because there has never been a point where God has not known you were coming. If we could plan and know our daughter as well as we did over the course of 9 months – there’s no way your life is a surprise to God. He knows you and has purpose for you.

To hear God’s voice even though I can’t see him.

Something I didn’t know: when infants are born they can only see about 6-12 inches from their own face for the first few weeks. Yet before she had developed her full vision Brylie had learned to recognize my voice and respond to it. I firmly believe that our hearts are tuned to hear God’s voice as a result of being created in His image. The problem is that I’ve turned up the noise in my life or allowed my heart to fall out of tune, making it much harder to recognize His voice. Our vision is so limited compared to God’s view and so it is important for us to rely less on our vision and more on our hearing.

How much God wants to form my identity.

As Brylie’s parents, Christina and I want to be the primary voices speaking to our daughter’s identity and worth. I now realize why Christ (and the whole of Scripture for that matter) speaks so strongly to what our identity as children of God should be. God as our Father doesn’t want to “control” us, He wants to raise us in HIS arms! He wants to set the rhythms of our life and His arms to be the place we’re most comfortable. He wants to tell us who we most resemble and who we are going to become.

As I reflect on these three truths I realize that so often I’m stuck in a life of mediocre, unadventurous, and sterile faith.  In these moments, I see I’m not trusting, listening, or being formed by the one who knows me best. God has a life full of adventure, love, purpose, risk, and relationship that cannot be matched by anyone or anything else in this world. I pray that I will take to heart these lessons from my daughter in being a father.