In recent years, several books have been published regarding the radical nature of the Christian life and how Christians should navigate the waters of faith and everyday life. Owen Strachan, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood and associate professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, steps into this discussion with his book Risky Gospel, which challenges believers to understand that “Christianity is about risk. It is not about safety.” The following is an interview between the TEXAN and Strachan about the book.
How would you summarize the book Risky Gospel?
Risky Gospel is a call to recognize, per the Parable of the Talents, that Christianity is about risk. It is not about safety. It is about going “at once” and despite fearsome odds to give God maximal glory in our lives (see Matthew 25:16). We have been taught that gospel faith revolves around getting what we want, when in truth it is centered in death to self and abandonment to the way of Christ.
This truth enfranchises every believer’s life. It summons us to sacrificially support missions and churches, but it also draws every single believer into a life of meaningful service in God’s kingdom. We’re tempted today toward a new sacerdotalism, to gaze in awe at celebrity leaders, when what we all need is a fresh baptism into a life of priestly labor for God. The church is pressed on every side by a secularizing, pagan culture. In response, we should not play small ball. We should swing for the fences.
How is Risky Gospel similar to and different from books like David Platt’s Radical and Francis Chan’s Crazy Love?
It is a part of the “new radicalism” in that it calls Christians to a sold-out walk with Christ. The particular emphasis of my book is on building a dominion-taking, talent-making existence in numerous spheres: family, church, vocation, evangelism, and more. The Bible doesn’t condemn “ordinary” Christian living; it celebrates it. I’m trying to restore the glory of so-called normal Christianity, to lift the hood up and show folks that to be a sacrificial Christian is an exhilarating undertaking.
How have American Christians confused the idea of an “ordinary Christian life”?
We’re in a situation similar to that of pre-Reformation Europe. We Christians too often think that what really matters is having your name in the bright lights. In truth, what matters is knowing Jesus by faith in his cross-work and then finding immense joy and confidence in that theological reality. Start here, go anywhere.
Believers too often fear the world. As a result, we get discouraged and believe our lives don’t count for much. But any Christian who is willing to stand against Satan is a dangerous individual indeed. When you put a bunch of us together in local churches, we can do some serious spiritual damage to the kingdom of darkness. We don’t need to fear the devil and the world. The worst, as I say in Risky Gospel, has already happened to us. Our sin has been exposed by God. We have been washed clean. Now, we are blissfully free to march under the banner of God.
It’s not that we need more super-leaders to go on ahead. We need more “ordinary” believers to confess Christ without shame wherever they are. We do not accept secularism’s bargain. It calls us to sand down our Christian edges and be as harmless as possible. The call to Christ is a call to unapologetic, convictional, and loving witness, come what may.
Must Christians sell everything and move to a closed country to glorify God?
In a word, no. Now, we need many more believers to do so. I call for that in the book. But this isn’t an either-or situation. Paul didn’t call all the Roman Christians to missions; he instructed them to “live quietly” with their neighbors (Rom. 12:18). We need to sanctify quietness today.
But quietness does not mean harmlessness in a spiritual sense. It means leading a normal existence that avoids giving needless offense.
So let’s be greedy: let’s send a ton of missionaries to the farthest corners of the earth, sacrificing creature comforts to do so, even as we fan into flame our own small, quiet, ordinary lives. Every Christian a missions-supporter; every Christian a priest unto God.
How do home, work, and church fit into living out a Risky Gospel?
The home is the first institution. Before God created the church or the state, he created the family, the home. Clearly God richly loves marriage, childraising, walks in the forest, wrestling on the carpet, devotions around the breakfast table, well-intentioned if ultimately-neglected jewelry gifts from husband to wife, forgiveness from an aggrieved sister to a repentant little brother, popping popcorn to watch “White Christmas,” and 10,000 other unremarkable but glorious aspects of family life. We too should love the family and build it up.
Adam was working before the world was groaning. Work rightly understood is glorious. Too many of us punch the clock and forget that God rules over the hours of 9-5 on Tuesday as much as he does the hours of 10-12 on Sunday. Believers should glory in their God-given field of work, their “vocation” or calling as the first Protestants called it. Men should rise from their position of cultural inferiority to reclaim the nobility of provision. Providing for your family as a man is glorious and ennobling. Similarly, women should spot the cultural lie about value being only in wage-earning work and recognize that there is nothing more humanly valuable than creating, raising, loving, and investing in little children. Now more than ever, the church needs to be a counter-culture to the world, one that stands for godly priorities.
Lastly, we want to build healthy churches. This requires risk and investment. It means you can’t sit on the sidelines of your congregation. You need to pray and find some place of service in the body. This alone will give satisfaction. This line of thinking counters the worldly idea that the assembly exists to serve you. No. You exist to build up the body.
In these and other pursuits, spend your life. Don’t play it small. Whether called to go far or stay near, make more talents for Christ like the faithful servants of Matthew 25. That will involve risk in this life, but in God’s marvelous providence, risking in this life for Christ means reward in the life to come.