It’s a hard thing us radical Christians ask of people.
We ask them to join a movement without all the answers, without clear boundaries (and with common fences with both liberals and evangelicals), and without churches. So many of us have so many questions and so many problems that we’re not sure quite sure how to help other people starting out on the same way.
Basically, radical Christianity isn’t organised enough. Granted, if you get too organised, you lose your edge, you stop being radical. There’s no easy answer to this one. But conservative Christianity is often disciplined, structured and efficient. And this helps it works for people.
I’m thinking of the Christian Unions on university campuses, affiliated with the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students. I’m surprised by the number of people who haven’t even heard of AFES or CU. (But then I’m surprised of the number of people going to evangelical churches who don’t know what evangelicalism is, or even that it’s a movement and that there’s Christians who are following Jesus who aren’t evangelicals.) For those who get involved in CU at university, it is often a defining experience. It is an intense experience of community with other Christians united by a commitment to know the Bible and evangelise the campus.
For the first time, young people are taught to read the Bible carefully and intelligently. It is a movement with answers and a way to live, a clear path to follow. One of my friends jokes that this path means studying engineering at UWA, marrying a woman CUer who knows how to submit, earning some money and then studying at Trinity or Moore to become a AFES staffworker or a church minister.
CU is very successful. Students get involved and get committed. And I think being organised really helps. CUers know what they’re meant to do. For some of them, it really does seem to work. (Others burn out; especially those with too many questions.)
I believe radical Christianity will always be small, but I also think we can be better organised. I think we can offer people some structure, even if pressing all the answers on them isn’t what we’re about. My big hope was always to offer them a church, because I really do think that the church is the way God’s people should be organised. Parachurch organisations can only take us so far. Parachurches end up being occasional meetings, they’re structured around events. They definitely have their purpose, but we need worshipping communities of disciples. And I had a church to offer people for a while, but things went wrong. I hope there’s a next time.