I am not sure what to think of the word "radical" these days. It comes up often in conversations about the church. It can mean "new", "different", "challenging", "left-wing", "progressive". Yet its root is, in Latin, literally "root". Radical surgery is not a band-aid solution. It gets to the root of the illness. A radical church may look new to those who are accustomed to a domesticated church but if its life is truly rooted in Jesus Christ then its radical attributes are actually conservative in nature. To desire to be a radical church is to engage in an act of conservation of the original root stock in order that it may come to flower once again. The question that perplexes me these days is how to tell the difference between the gold that is a church rooted in Jesus Christ and the fool's gold of a church that is rooted in false gods who cannot deliver on false promises.
"Radical" is one of those words that comes with pre-existing voltage. For some it is an inherently positive word, for others always negative. We hear "radical" and imagine either truth-teller or trouble-maker. I wonder if it would help us to unplug the voltage and to listen with more care to one another as we explore the roots of Christian community in a post-Christian society. Can we agree that we are seeking to be rooted together in Jesus Christ? If not, then we need to discover what common root we share. If so, then we are not split into camps who are either for or against being a radical church. Rather, we have differing visions of the kind of tree that grows from such odd rootstock. And to be debating what it is to find our lives rooted in Jesus confirms that we are in this rooted church together. In an age of warring ideological encampments on the right and on the left this deep familial bond is, itself, a radical way of life.