“According to the most liberal estimates, approximately one-third of the world is Christian. Likely, not all of them are followers of Christ. But even if we assume that they are, that still leaves 4.5 billion people who, if the gospel is true, at this moment are separated from God in their sin and will spend an eternity in hell.” Mega-church minister David Platt recites these words repeatedly in his book, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. If you can tolerate his perspective, read on—because he does have some important things to say about the radical demands of the Gospel. Platt is on target when it comes to faith and finances because many of us have grown “comfortable in Babylon.”
While I respect folks who hold his theological viewpoint, I wish he had framed the motivation for our mission in a more positive way. A layperson in our church who read the book said, “I felt a little uncomfortable shouldering the guilt of all those going to hell because I didn’t sell everything and travel abroad preaching the Gospel.” So, why not frame our giving and mission in terms of the Great Commandment—to love God and neighbor as ourselves? Some have suggested that the translation about the Great Commandment should be more like “and a second commandment is just as important as the first.” To love our neighbor as we love God is equally important.
If you can jump over the theological hurdles, there are a number of helpful and powerful stories and illustrations in the book. Platt lifts up the lessons of courageous characters in the Bible and from church history who lived out their faith in radical ways. His accounts of house churches and “secret churches” in other countries are inspiring. He reminds us that there ARE folks around the world who are being persecuted and literally putting their lives on the line because of their faith.
One of the practices that Platt encourages is to keep stewardship and financial support for mission a priority. This is something we have tried to practice as a congregation as a whole and tried to teach the members of our church—to live more simply so that others can simply live. Because of the recession, many congregations are dealing with very difficult decisions. Too often, “maintenance” takes priority over mission.
Toward the end of the book, Platt describes “My Radical Experiment.” The “experiment” is a five-step covenant to help people deepen their commitment to discipleship and giving for one year. The steps include praying for the entire world, reading the entire Bible, sacrificing money for specific purposes, spending time in another context, and participating in a “multiplying” community (being in a church/group that takes the demands of the Gospel seriously). The covenant could be a useful tool for teaching and discussion.
A quote on the cover of Radical describes it as a “must read.” I don’t think I would go that far—that would be too radical.
Reviewed by the Reverend Dr. Leigh Bond,
Sr. Minister, Beargrass Christian Church in Louisville, KY