It was the week after Christmas in 2010. A mantle of deep snow covered the ground here in central Indiana. Dave Empson and I were meeting to discuss the 2012 Indianapolis conference. I had chosen a theme for the conference and had worked on the individual sermon topics as well. Just in passing Dave asked if I had read Radical by David Platt. I hadn't even heard of it; but on Dave's urging I picked up a copy which I read while flying to Haiti the next week. By the time we landed in Port-au-Prince the conference had a new theme and the sermon topics had fallen into place.
If you haven't read Radical I urge you to do so. Platt's basic thesis is that the American church has bought into the American Dream ratther than Christ's vision for the church. He writes: "Somewhere along the way we...missed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable. We (settle) for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoing ourselves." He recalls the words of Bonhoeffer: "When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die."
The fact is that the teachings of Christ were considered very radical. Take a look at Luke 9:57-62 or 14:25-33 for examples. The early church was considered very radical. It was said of them that they had turned the world upside down for Christ. Those of you who are familiar with the history of the Restoration Movement know that it was the most radical Christian movement in America in the early part of the nineteenth century. But what about the church of today? An honest evaluation will reveal that with few exceptions there is very little radical about the modern day church. People of God, it is time for the church to be RADICAL...AGAIN! The world cannot and will not be won by business as usual.
The 2012 conference will certainly not be business as usual. We're calling it "a disturbing conference that demands a response." And that's what it will be. In the weeks to come I'll be introducing the topics to be developed and the speakers to to develop them this Novemeber. However, if you choose to attend, and I hope that you will, expect to be challenged. Many churches in American ask for three hours a week from their people: one hour of worship, one hour of Bible study, and one hour of service. Many professing Christians aren't even giving that. But how does that statck up against the teachings of Christ that we are to die daily, taking up our cross to follow Him? Is it any wonder that North America is one of only two continents where the church is not experiencing growth (the other being Europe)?
At ICOM 2012 we will all be called upon to reassess our beliefs, our commitments, our priorities, and our stewardship of life. We'll also be presented with some pretty radical opportunities to use our lives for the glory of Christ and the salvaiton of a lost world.
We live in a far different world than the one in which many of us grew up. Last week I was meeting with Jerry Williams, for 38 years the senior minister of Ben Davis Christian Church on the westside of Indianapolis. He said, "John, did you notice that the crosses have come down?" At first I didn't know what he meant. But then he reminded me that two churches had historically flanked Ben Davis, one next door and the other only a couple of blocks away. Both had crosses on display, identifying them with the Christian faith. But the one next door was now a Muslim mosque and the other a Hindu temple. And THE CROSSES HAD COME DOWN. Wow! What a powerful visual reminder of the changes that are taking place, most of them anything but good. Yes, it's time for the church to be RADICAL...AGAIN!
Platt closes his book with this reminder: "You and I stand on the porch of eternity. Both of us will soon stand before God to give an account for our stewardship of the time, the resources, the gifts, and ultimately the gospel He has entrusted to us. When that day comes, I am convinced we will not wish we had given more of ourselves to living the American dream. We will not wish we had made more money, acquired more stuff, lived more comfortably,taken more vacations, watched more television, pursued greater retirement, or been more successful in the eyes of this world. Instead we will wish we had given more of ourselves to living for the day when every nation, tribe, people, and language will bow around the throne and sing the praises of the Savior who delights in radical obedience and the God who deserves eternal worship. Are you ready to live for this dream? Let's not waver any longer."
On a personal note, over the last week I've had the opportunity to preach at Wheeler Mission in downtown Indianapolis and last Sunday at Redeemed Christian Church, a new congregation of Nigerian immigrants. My daughter, Jennifer Boston, returned this past weekend from doing medical missions work in Columbia, South America. Oh, yes, Indianapolis also hosted a little event know as the Super Bowl (congratulations, Giants). It was a run-through in preparation for next fall's ICOM; and I'm now convinced that Indy can handle it. This Wednesday through Friday we'll be having ICOM planning meetings to further fill out the program for this fall. Please pray for those meetings and all of us involved in that planning.