The more I heard about David Platt the more I wanted to read Radical. David has quite a story. He has been to some really interesting places and done some fascinating things. The biggest obstacle I faced to read this book is that it seems like he really, really wants you to know that he has quite a story, has been to some interesting places and done some fascinating things. That wouldn’t bother me so much except that the whole point of the book is to not be like that.
Radical starts like this,
‘”The youngest megachurch pastor in history.”
While I would dispute that claim, it was nonetheless the label given to me when I went to pastor a large, thriving church in the Deep South -the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama.”
That in and of itself wouldn’t seem to be a big deal except that it is relentless. I can’t help but think that his favorite pronoun must be “I”. On page 56 he uses “I” 14 times in two paragraphs. When you write, you are often at your best when you speak from your experience and about things you are passionate about. That is much of what this book does so that may account for a lot of it. Second, maybe I recognize it so much because it is something I struggle with even though I have far less to brag about than David Platt does. I don’t pastor a mega church. I haven’t written a best selling book and still pride is an issue at times. So before I get tough on this book I have to first examine the plank in my own eye.
There is meat in this book. The best point he makes in the book is deconstructing a self-centered 21st century American view of Christianity. He does an outstanding job of removing self from the center of it all and putting God back where he belongs. He points out that too many Christians come to worship to get something out of it, sing their songs, and get their egos stroked more than they come to put God in the center of it all. I think he is right. It is far from the radical call of Jesus and His claim on and purpose for our lives. Many of us struggle with that and it needs to be addressed. He does a masterful job of looking at the big picture of scripture and reminding us to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought and instead think more highly of God than we do.
The other main point of the book is that we are too inward focused. That is true. According to Platt, most Christians are not all that interested in people overseas or mission efforts. He is probably right about that. It is reflected in most Church budgets where just a tiny percentage is devoted to overseas missions. It seems to me that Platt has probably had a series of negative experiences with those who don’t appreciate overseas missions to the extent that he does and has seen some heart issues with those who have opposed him or he has seen have complacent attitudes on those things he is most passionate about. Where Platt takes things to the extreme is his attitude that if you aren’t involved in overseas missions you must not be that serious about your faith. He says, “God has designed a radically global purpose for you life.” (p.83). Has he? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe God has a radical, local vision for my life to impact those right here. It doesn’t matter if God’s goal for my life is global or local. What matters is that I am trying to live for God wherever I find myself.
Last, Platt had a lot of insight about depending on God rather than on having the right strategies and plans. Too often we mimic a corporate business model for planning and organizing ministry with little emphasis given to dependence on God. That is something I wrestle with and I think it takes balance. He said it like this on p. 60,
“It is the way of Christ. Instead of asserting ourselves, we crucify ourselves. Instead of imagining all the things we can accomplish, we ask God to do what only he can accomplish. Yes, we work, we plan, we organize, and we create, but we do it all while we fast, while we pray and while we constantly confess our need for the provision of God. Instead of dependence on ourselves, we express radically desperation for the power of his Spirit, and we trust that Jesus stands ready to give us everything we ask for so that he might make much of our Father in the world.”
Good stuff. I can’t really say that you should put this on your reading list. There are other books out there that accomplish some of the same things without all the distractions. One that I would recommend is Randy Harris’ “God Work”