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Radical by David Platt

February 11th, 2012 · No Comments · Books, Christianity, Religion

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”

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  • umbach6

    Good summary of the book. To me the “I” focused writing didn’t feel like bragging as he fully admits that God was the one doing the work and shaping him through those things, but by the end it did get a little much.

    I think he also made a good argument not for global mission, but that we need to be here and there. With 2.7 Billion people waiting to hear the name Jesus in relation to the Gospel message it will take a “radical” shift in our approach to fulfill the great commission. I think we are all called to having some part in that and I think he has several examples in the book that show that.

    I’ll have to check out the Randy Harris book.

    • mattdabbs

      Good thoughts. I couldn’t agree with you more. I think it is both/and rather than either or. The mission is both here and there and not one over the other.

  • internet elias

    I participated in Platt’s ‘Secret Church’ some months ago at my local church. Many other churches across the state and nation participated simultaneously (6 p.m. to midnight I believe). We used the study guide and David Platt led us through an intense six hours of reidentifying the basis of our Christianity..following Christ. The 150-page Study Guide (LifeWay) is biblically sound with emphasis on ‘the persecuted church’ or the Secret Church or Christianity akin to that of the orginal apostles and deciples…uncomfortable…even very uncomfortable if necessary…including global missions. I enjoyed the hours of intense study. But that was six house that did little to change anything. It was things we already knew. God is requiring me to become a servant where he has planted me…locally. Missions begins in ones own heart or it isn’t ‘mission.’ I appreciate that Platt and other younger Christians such as yourself are looking at churchianity out of control and realizing that it does not always equate with Christianity. And for me, I grow where God planted me. I served severely disabled students for eighteen years before retiring. Talk about ministry. They ministered to me!!! WE seemingly are never closer to God than when we are with the weak, the broken, or the outcasts. For a long time I have had a burning desire to make a difference in areas that will never be known about by anyone other than God. I will begin Red Cross training this coming week. I look forward to being part of the Disaster team which responds often to home fires within the three-county chapter area as well as larger disasters as they come.. I am in Alabama where many still struggle emotionally from the April 27 tornados. My daughter was in the Tuscaloosa devastation and though physically uninjured….she suffered much as she walked out into the devastation seeing the many white-sheet covered bodies and massive destruction. Since then she has been hired as a Security Resource office at the University of Alabama and working on her Masters degree, She has kept a journal each day and is in the process of putting it into a book. Her heart bleeds for those who continue to hurt. She believes she was there in that place at that time for a reason. So Platt’s book (Radical) does address the need to be shaken, to feel, to move, to act, to serve, to Live the Gospel.

    I enjoy your site. Best wishes to you and yours as you live and serve.


    • mattdabbs

      Thank you for sharing all of that. It is so important we do things for God and much that no one ever knows about. I am from Alabama and have family very close to where the tornadoes went through. My mother works in Phil Campbell, which got annihilated in the storms. I wish you and your daughter the best.

      • internet elias

        Had a feeling you are a southern boy :). I’m in DeKalb County…roots in Rainsville where 30+ died. So sad. Everywhere we drive in Alabama we see downed trees. But blessing always outweighs loss.


  • TP

    Have you read Randy Harris’ latest book “Soul Work”?

    • mattdabbs

      I have and it is an excellent book. It was not at all what I expected. That is usually said in a negative way but I don’t mean it that way at all. That book was a huge blessing to me and I would recommend it as well.

  • Chris P

    Radical, like any other Christian themed book, has a particular strength. What I found refreshing was that at Platt’s church they challenge people with a new “normal.” As a person at a large bible belt church, moving away from the American dream with some concrete steps seems very helpful. He gave his church a one year challenge that was, well, radical:

    1. Pray for the entire world. Get an aid such as OperationWorld and literally begin praying for everywhere around the world in this one year. You’ll be amazed, he says, at the way prayer opens our hearts and minds. Jesus asked his disciples to pray not for the poor and the sick, but for the people who would go to them. He wants us to pray for people to go to the countries you will learn about. Great family project.
    2. Read through the entire Bible in one year. “We have settled for far too long for “Bible lite,” both as individual Christians and in the community of faith. We have adopted a Christianity consumed with little devotional thoughts form God for the day…” Imagine the power of praying around the world and reading the Word for an entire year! Do you think you would be transformed at the end of that year?
    3. Sacrifice your money for a specific purpose. Pick a concrete project and devote every dollar you can to it for one year. Set a cap on your lifestyle for this one year and get involved with changing your world personally through your giving.
    4. Spend your time in another context. This is the one we’re all afraid of, isn’t it. Go. We have to change our context and go. He suggests that if we could just give 2% of our time (roughly one week) to changing our context and bringing the Gospel to the world, it would revolutionize the other 98% of our time.
    5. Commit your life to multiplying community. Find a place within your body of believers to make disciples and support each other. “If the radical, simple living we see Jesus talking about were more common in the church, it would be much easier for us to live simply as well…give liberally, go urgently and live dangerously together.”

    I think the other context could be any kind of meaningful service. Mainly it is just getting out of your comfort zone to serve those less fortunate.
    I believe people want to put their discipleship into action. Quit talking and preaching and studying about it. Do it. And giving some all church goals like this can be very empowering.
    We do need to listen to the Holy Spirit all the way (before, during and after). But it seems like a church walking through the challenge of this together, especially with leaders, leading by example, would provide a great opportunity for God to be glorified.

  • badrumsrenovering malmö

    I do agree with all the ideas you have offered to your post. They are really convincing and can certainly work. Still, the posts are too quick for newbies. Could you please extend them a little from next time? Thanks for the post.

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