Thursday, March 08, 2012

Is My Christian Experience Normal? by Jim Venable

I have asked myself that question often throughout my life in reference to a number of different stimuli. One of the first times was years ago when I read Watchman Nee’s book. "The Normal Christian Life". If you have read this, or any number of other books, I imagine you have joined me in my painful awareness that my day-to-day Christian experience does not, in most instances, align with the Christian walk God intends us to experience as normal or average.

About a year ago Lora and I were jolted once more with the realization that what we are living is a faint shadow of what God desires, perhaps demands. This is after years of walking a disciplined life, while recognizing and trying to share the insights God has deposited in us regarding hunger for spiritual maturity. In general, we were, and are, students under His tutelage.

On the heels of the "Monday Night Live" series studying "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan our daughter pointed us in the direction of another book with a similar focus. The book is called "Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream" by David Platt. The journey initiated by our reading this book has been both scary and exhilarating. We are learning to use the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19, 20) against the backdrop of Matthew 10 as God’s plumb line for us as we become disciple-making disciples. If we are not serious disciples and serious disciple-makers, is it possible we are not disciples at all?

Three examples from the book stand out to me:

David Platt’s large Birmingham, Alabama church conducts what they call "Secret Church" patterned after clandestine house-church meetings in Asia. They meet every Friday night from 6:00 PM to Midnight to study the Word. There is no coffee, no music, no sound system, no publicity, and no computer aided materials. They apparently must turn away people and never finish on time (pages 27-28).

At an Indonesian seminary senior students must plant a church with a membership of 30 converts as a prerequisite for graduation. Two members of a recent class were martyred (page 43).

As David teaches in Sudan believers record every word to accurately share the teaching in order to reproduce their faith in others (pages 101-102).

As a result, we have accepted the challenge extended in the book. We have embarked on a one-year journey to do the following:

Read the entire Bible in a year

Pray for the whole world in a year

Give sacrificially towards a specific disciple making objective

Go on a mission endeavor aligned with the financial giving

Be intimately integrated in a faith community dedicated to taking disciple-making faith risks.

We are about half way through this life altering trip. We have experienced incredible connections. We have made some serious, perhaps long term, changes to our family financial planning. We have had to re-think what the rest of our lives might look like.

It is possible that finally our lives are beginning to look "normal" from God’s perspective.

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