(Ordinary) Radical Evangelicals emerged in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s as a broad-based movement of Christians who sought to integrate evangelism and the work of justice, live incarnationally among the poor, form Christian communities and critique aspects of Western culture and the Church.
The term came into prominence at the 1974 Lausanne Congress of World Evangelization when some two hundred delegates calling themselves “The Radical Discipleship Group” drew up a Response to Lausanne which called for a greater focus of the work of justice and service to the poor (Langmead, 94).
This diverse and global Evangelical movement emerged due to a complex set of contributing factors. These included: exposure to the counter-cultural movements of the 1960’s; involvement in new forms of urban mission among people alienated from church and society; interaction between Third World Radical Evangelical theologians and practitioners and their First World counterparts; impact of Charismatic Renewal opening people to the creative work of the Spirit; and exposure to more radical theologies such as Anabaptist theology and that of the liberation theologians.
To get some sense of what this global movement is about, it is important to note some of the theological emphases of these Evangelicals. These centre around the following themes: salvation is both the gift of Christ’s grace and the call to serve God’s Kingdom purposes in the world; salvation thus issues into a discipleship that is expressed in an imitatio Christi that calls Christians to live the way of Christ in the world; salvation is never only personal in that it also calls us into community and solidarity; this community is the missional people of God sent by Father, Son and Holy Spirit to be a sign, servant and sacrament of the Reign of God; this community in Christ is a community of worship, formation and identificational service to the world.
(Ordinary) Radical Evangelicals place themselves in the whole story of Scripture since it reveals a God who is both wholly Other and who is wholly involved in the world sustaining it and redeeming it. At the same time, they are particularly impacted by the social justice vision of the Pentateuch; the OT prophetic vision of shalom, justice and the new community; the theology and praxis of the Jesus Movement as portrayed in the gospels; the in-breaking of the Kingdom in the power of the Spirit as told in the book of Acts; the Pauline Vision of new life in Christ in the new community beyond culture, class, gender and economic differences and the nature of the fallen powers that need to be exposed, resisted and redeemed; and finally the vision of hope in new heavens and a new earth.
In the light of these biblical and theological emphases, (Ordinary) Radical Evangelicals see themselves as a prophetic counter-community in the world while being wholly engaged in the suffering and brokenness of the human community. Thus they practice radical hospitality. They seek to be a healing presence. They are committed to peace-making and the work of justice.
credit: Charles Ringma