Over these last three years, I have longed to shepherd readers of Radical as they have processed through truths from God’s Word that I pray are accurately reflected in the book. One of the things I love most about pastoring is walking God’s people week by week through God’s Word. Every Sunday, we build upon where we have been, and we set our sights upon what is ahead for us as a local church. This shepherding process involves a continual interplay between pastors and people where we are constantly addressing significant needs, asking tough questions, and assessing important issues within the context of our faith family.
For example, when we originally walked through the "Radical" sermon series upon which the book was based, we had question-and-answer dialogues during which we discussed the truths of God’s Word that we were learning. In the days that followed, amid all our talk of radical obedience, I began to sense that our people were losing sight of gospel grace. This led me next to preach through Galatians, where God reminds us of the centrality of grace in the life of faith. Not long after studying Galatians, we walked through James, where God showed us how His grace in our faith works for His glory in the world. This pastoral journey continues year after year as our elders and I teach our faith family all the truths of Scripture while working out how these truths together apply in our lives. Along the way, we guard one another against error, we help one another avoid confusion, and we encourage one another amidst trials.
While this is one of the things I love most about pastoring a church, this is one of the things I love least about writing a book. I am thankful for the opportunity to express on paper some of the truths that God is teaching me and the church I serve. But I cannot include every single thought I have and every supporting truth in God’s Word for every single subject about which I am writing. Such a book would be dreadfully long and decidedly laborious, and the reality is…no one would read it! Further, when writing a book, I obviously don’t have the privilege of interacting with readers in their specific life or leadership situations. I’m not living in their communities or leading in their churches. Personally, I would love to sit down across the table with any reader and ask questions, receive pushback, give pushback, and explore answers for how the truths of God’s Word apply to the circumstances of our lives. But practically, this is obviously not possible.
For this reason, I wrote an ancillary book to Radical soon after it came out called Radical Together. In that smaller book, I sought to point readers to their local churches as the primary place where real growth in Christ and radical devotion to Christ occurs. Specifically, I spelled out the purpose of that book by saying:
"In Radical Together, I want to consider what happens—or can happen—when we apply the revolutionary claims and commands of Christ to our communities of faith. I want to contemplate the force of a people who come together to enjoy God’s grace in the church while they extend God’s glory in the world. And I want to propose that a movement of such people in such churches has the potential to permeate nations with the praise of God."
I know that individual Christians journeying alone—no matter how “radical” they might be—will have a minimal (if not undesirable) effect in the world. Consequently, I long to point followers of Christ to local churches where together they are surrendered to His person and committed to His purpose.
And then, as a follow up to Radical, I wrote a book that came out just a couple of months ago called Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. This book is based on Jesus’ initial life-changing, eventually earth-shaking words to His first disciples in Matthew 4, and in the book I describe its purpose with these words:
"In a previous book, Radical, I sought to expose values and ideas that are common in our culture (and in the church) yet antithetical to the gospel. My aim was to consider the thoughts and things of this world that we must let go of in order to follow Jesus. The purpose of Follow Me, then, is to take the next step. I want to move from what we let go of to whom we hold on to. I want to explore not only the gravity of what we must forsake in this world, but also the greatness of the one we follow in this world. I want to expose what it means to die to ourselves and to live in Christ."
After writing Radical, I received all kinds of questions and comments about specific facets of the Christian life. People would ask me, “What does a radical lifestyle look like? What kind of car should I drive, or should I even drive a car? What kind of house should I live in? Am I supposed to adopt? Am I supposed to move overseas to a foreign mission field?” I found these questions, though sincere and honest, to be a bit troubling. It felt like people were looking for a box to check or a criterion to follow that would ensure they were obeying God. But such questions, if we’re not careful, bypass the core of what it means to follow Jesus. Outside of the commands of Christ in Scripture, we have no specific set of rules or regulations regarding how the radical commands of Christ apply to our lives. Instead, we have a relationship with Jesus.
So the purpose of Follow Me is to lead readers to consider, first and foremost, whether or not they actually have a relationship with Jesus. The frightening reality is that scores of people here and around the world culturally claim to be Christians but biblically are not followers of Christ. So what does it mean to be a follower of Christ and how does following Him transform everything about us, from the inside out, on a daily basis—from the way we think to what we desire to how we live to the way we relate to people around us to our very purpose in the world?
I believe this question is hugely (and eternally) important, and consequently I see Follow Me as a much more foundational book than Radical. For that reason, I would love to encourage readers of Radical to dive into Follow Me (as well as potentially Radical Together). I assure you my aim is not to sell books, for 100% of the royalties from all of these books are being used to promote the glory of God in all nations. Instead, my aim is simply to exhort those who have read Radical to honestly explore the full biblical context behind what it means to follow Christ and to humbly consider the revolutionary practical ramifications of following Him in our lives and our churches.
Furthermore, I also believe it may be helpful, three years after writing Radical, to address some of the most common questions that I’ve received in response to the book. So over the next couple of months, I want to post some brief interviews and excerpts that address questions like:
- Why do you use the word "radical?" After all, isn’t all this talk about radical obedience to Christ really just normal obedience for any follower of Christ?
- Is radical living just a new form of religious legalism?
- How does radical living coincide with ordinary, everyday life?
- Does an emphasis on concern for the poor end up leading the church away from the gospel (the primary message of the church) and distracting the church from making disciples (the primary mission of the church)?
- Are all college students supposed to stop their studies and move overseas, and are all businesspersons supposed to quit their jobs and become missionaries?
- Are you saying it’s wrong for people to pray a sinner’s prayer?
These are just some of the questions that I’d love to help people think through biblically over the next couple of months. I don’t suppose that my answers will be completely sufficient for all, but I do hope they will be pastorally helpful for some.
Finally, after the next couple of months of diving into this discussion, I’m excited to share with you that on Wednesday, August 14, I’m going to gather together with a small group of brothers and sisters in the Middle East to dialogue about what it means to follow Christ—to die to ourselves and to live in Him. This dialogue will be simulcast live (and free) from the Middle East as a kick-off for many churches and small groups who will be walking through Follow Me in the fall. If you would like to participate as an individual, family, small group, or church, you can find out more information about that here.
Much apologies for the long post. But I do look forward to a journey over the next few weeks of thinking through what I’m convinced are truly radical implications of what it means to follow Jesus. More to come.