Radicalizing Our Children

 Nca June21-2000 English Images Children
“If you really want to keep your kids safe, middle-class, responsible people, keep them away from the gospels which will radicalize them. Don’t expose them to Jesus unless you want them to be martyrs.” —Alan Hirsch to CRM staff, August, 2007

I see all too often: parents who want their children to have enough Christianity to be respectable but don’t want their offspring to go overboard and become too committed.

Where this “enough but not too much” attitude may show up blatantly is when the son or daughter makes the jump into vocational ministry, particularly a missionary calling, and they have to raise financial support. Then the fat can hit the proverbial fan!

“I don’t want you begging for money!”
“Don’t ask our friends to support you”
“What are you going to do about retirement?”
“Can you really live off of that?”
“Do you really think this is a good way to use all that education we paid for?”
“You mean you may move overseas? When will we ever see the grandkids?”

Somehow the real Jesus who makes statements like Luke 9:23 gets lost in the well-meaning but mis-directed scramble to protect and preserve those whom we love from a God we do not really trust:
“If any person would come after me, they must deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me.”

As much as we may want to sanitize it, the cross is still a cross.

7 Responses to “Radicalizing Our Children”

  1. Mike Zook Says:

    Sam – I’ve been reading your blog for a while via Mike Brantley’s. Mike and I go way back, to our time “doing ministry” together in the traditional church setting in Portland, OR. I saw some pictures the CRM meeting on Mike’s blog.

    I’m reading Hirsch’s book right now and God is confirming some things in my heart that I’ve been wrestling with for quite awhile now and He is challenging me at the same time.

    The verse you higlighted above is an example of how God continues to challenge me. I want to follow, and I’m willing and ready to follow, but I feel like the monkey with his hand stuck in the coconut (I trust you know the illustration)! The object that I am hanging on to is the “security” that I have built for myself over the last 7 years with my Sales career.

    I have had many conversation with Mike as I have journeyed through this, but looking at his pictures and hearing some of what happened at the conference (via the blog world) I have to say that letting go and slipping my hand out of the coconut never looked more attractive…..

    Anyway, I wanted to introduce myself and say “Hi.”


  2. David Says:

    Hi Sam,
    Makes sense. For years, I’ve preached against being a mediocre cultural Christian, and then I had kids. God had to take me through a process of trusting Him with my kids, rather than trusting in a job, or a good life.
    There was one time that it seemed so clear to me God simply spoke and said, “If you can trust me with changing your heart, can you not trust me with changing the heart of a child?”

    And here we are, venturing into the great unknown. :-)
    I’m thankful for you and people like you who have lived more on the edge, and for longer than I have. It helps me realize I’m not crazy… and neither is Jesus. After all shouldn’t the normal Christian life be a radical one as you say?

  3. Sam Says:

    David: Thanks for your comments. I think you’re right. Living “radically” takes on a whole new meaning when we have the added responsibility of children. They bring a sobering new dimension to the equation.

    Great to finally meet you and your wife in Estes Park. I’m looking forward to how God may lead us to cross paths in the future. You’ve guys have some great experience and background that could uniquely enable you to do life and ministry in Europe.

  4. Joseph Says:

    It sounds all too familiar—at least in my head at times. We have crossed that line and are now in a time of swimming as it were. At times we are backstroking through this FULLER journey and other times, dog paddling. However, the bottom line is that we are in the water swimming—albeit kinda awkwardly at times but at least we’re in and afloat by His grace.

    It can be difficult with children but what is interesting is that children have much faith and understand much—they understand they are on a mission as well.

    As I struggled to stay afloat Sunday afternoon I fixed my eyes on a flower my oldest daughter left in the van—it was a powerful moment. It preached to me and said everything you just wrote and more…”Consider the lillies of the field…”

    Thanks for the post Sam.


  5. Tom Middleton Says:

    What is really amazing though is when the child’s faith that was introduced by the parents and the resulting decisions (such as making the jump into a challenging vocational ministry assignment) ends up speaking faith back into the parents life. Then mom and dad end up reconsidering and growing in their walk with Christ and raise money for their children.

    It is like when the parents marry off the kids and get them out of the house, then they are faced with their own marriage. Are they in fact in love with their spouse of twenty plus years, or is their significant restorative work that needs to be done in the relationship.

    Another example is when the pastor who spends years trying to get the flock to be more committed in thier faith, then finally when a vigorous young Christian comes along, full of crazy ideas and activity, the pastor get scared and tentative.

  6. Cameron Says:


    Gotta add an amen to that. I think I´ve heard just about all of those statements above and from a lot of my family as well. But I trust that following Christ is the best for everyone involved, even if it is radical. Keep up the encouragement and radical living.

    Press on for Joy!

  7. Makeesha Says:

    Sam – looking forward to it, we’re simultaneously terrified and excited. :) It was good to meet you as well…it’s too bad I didn’t get more time to talk with you at dinner and later but I needed to get back down the mountain before I was too tired…. we’ll have many chances in the future I’m sure.

    ...oh and for the record, my “age comment” on my blog was just a little bit of teasing ;) David mentioned that you said something briefly about it. David and I are used to being the “younguns” in ministry (I was married, a co youth pastor, assistant children’s pastor and co founder and leader of a creative arts ministry all before I turned 22) and we have had so many things said about it tongue in cheek that I think we deserve a little ‘turn about is fair play” hehe

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