On becoming a radical Christian

What would you think if next Sunday, as soon as your pastor started his sermon, everyone looked down at their laps and hardly looked up again? A very boring sermon perhaps?

David Platt in his book Radical suggests a different picture: “Imagine being in Sudan. You walk into a thatched hut with a small group of Sudanese church leaders, and you sit down to teach them God’s Word. As soon as you start, you lose eye contact with all of them. No one is looking at you, and you hardly see their eyes the rest of the time. The reason is because they’re writing down every word you say. They come up to you afterward and say, ‘Teacher, we are going to take everything we have learned from God’s Word, translate it into our languages, and teach it in our tribes.’”

What makes Christians in Sudan or Mongolia or Uzbekistan or Cuba or Vietnam so intent to consume enormous quantities of Biblical knowledge? Is it merely that they have never heard it before or that they appreciate it more because of persecution? Platt offers this explanation: “They were not listening to receive but to reproduce.”

Recently I was reminded that getting in motion to become a reproducer starts with paying attention and looking for opportunities. Instead of offering  prayer at the close of his sermon, my pastor instructed us to do it. That is, he asked each of us to meet with a person nearby and pray for each other. I preferred to pray with my wife and not make the effort to trouble myself with someone else’s problems.

But as I turned, the Holy Spirit directed my attention to someone behind us and down the row a bit. He was alone and no one was approaching him. I was prompted to get up, move over and start practicing what was preached. It turned out that he has some deep needs and ended our prayer time by asking for further contact and accountability. We were able to bless each other.

How would our attitudes toward church change if we looked for ways to convert what we hear into what we do? What if we constantly asked ourselves, “How can I use this to teach someone else” as we listen to the Bible lesson? This will take effort and time. But it is axiomatic that if we aim for nothing, then we will surely hit it.  

An upcoming post will offer practical ideas for progressing from  religious consumer to disciple reproducer. When we listen to a sermon or lesson at church with the intent of practicing it or teaching it to others, we will fulfill God’s purpose for church.

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2 Responses to On becoming a radical Christian

  1. Thank you for your thoughtful remarks. I think most of us who take sermon notes have trouble writing everything we want to remember. I’ve tried looking at the pastor’s notes on the church website to get what I missed. That helps, but it does not provide the same benefit as when it goes through my brain before hitting the paper. Also, reading old sermon notes has been a great boost to put things into action. I’m often stunned by the powerful truths I had forgotten even writing, and the passage of time gives a valuable new perspective. Most importantly, note taking should come from a constant desire to put the knowledge into action to serve God and others.

    Regarding taking the time it takes to get involved in helping others, when I think about how I usually spend (waste) the time after the service, time given looking for someone to bless isn’t even inconvenient.


  2. Kathleen says:

    Just wanted to say thank you for your latest post. I know it’s not
    just for me but thank you for letting me participate in reading and
    benefiting. I, most of the time, take notes while I am listening to a
    sermon. Sometimes I am frustrated that I can’t write fast enough and
    by the time I write half of what I wanted to, I have forgotten the
    other half. I know everyone is different about this but I cannot help
    but think that some of it has to do with the desire and passion to
    know more about God and His Word so that you can pass it on to others
    as you expressed. I think about how your pastor had the congregation
    “close in prayer” and the memory that “out of the ordinary” event will
    have on some of the people in your congregation–not the least of
    which will be the one lone man who you got out of your comfort zone to
    pray with. It takes time (which is at a premium for everyone) to get
    involved in other people’s lives, but the dividends are out of this


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