Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Review of Radical Together

I want to thank both Mission Frontiers Journal and Multnomah Books for providing a free copy of “Radical Together” by David Platt to read.  I read and enjoyed “Radical” by the same author, so I was looking forward to reading this book as well.   I must start out with a disclaimer - I love reading books that challenge the status quo and my comfortable Western Christian worldview.  I have also enjoyed reading David Platt because he does not speak as one who ‘has arrived’ but is also on the journey. 

Platt lays out his purpose in the introduction, “what happens - or can happen – when we apple the revolutionary claims and commands of Christ to our communities of Faith (p. 2).  In his disarming way, Platt starts out in chapter one challenging the status quo of the Western Church, to take steps toward radical living, denying ourselves the good life for the greater good.  We have become distracted by the good at the cost of the greater good, in this case making disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).  Platt tells the story of a pastor who had been so busy running the church organization that he never really directly made disciples!  The author challenges the reader to look at what church leaders are doing, how we are spending money, what programs we are running, and ask ourselves if we can do something differently that will better align with the purposes of God - lead people to Christ, disciple people, and meet the gospel needs in our neighborhoods, cities, and the world.  

In chapter two, the Platt seeks to define the gospel and explain how it applies to sanctification.  Seeking to avoid the two extremes - those who do not see how works relates to the gospel at all and those who see works as the gospel – the author understands the gospel to save us from work yet saves us to work.  It is here that he asks a great question, ‘are we driven by grace and the gospel or by guilt?’  Living in a world of constant and overwhelming needs it is necessary that our desire to meet those needs be birthed by grace rather than by guilt.  He gives an example from his own church concerning adoption (pgs. 31-37).  Where many Christians would object to taking in a child, especially a special needs child, for the sake of their own children (as my wife and I have discussed), Platt challenges us to consider adoption, even special needs children, as opportunities for grace to shine!  

In chapter three, Platt addresses the power of the word to do the work of God.  He believes, I think rightly so, that we have substituted the transforming power of the word with pithy principles.  Too often Western pastors depend on principles, stories, and motivational speaking, because we do not believe that the word really does have the power to convert and transform the body of Christ into the image of Christ (pgs. 48-49)!  The same is true for how we do church.  The bible is intended not only to dictate our theology but also to determine our methodology.  Do the methods we use attract audiences or make disciples?

In chapter four the author critiques the attractional church.  Is it biblical for everything to revolve around the gifted staff, especially the preacher or is the purpose of gifted staff to equip the people of God to do the work of God, discipling the nations?  Often the attractional church leans toward pragmatic approaches rather than thinking through a biblical approach of doing ministry.  When we rely on an attractional church model, we eliminate the people of God from the church - performance at a place filled with programs run by professionals.  Platt closes this chapter out with a great quote on church leadership, “leaders do not exist to provide services; they exist to serve people. (p. 71).”

Yet Platt does not limit his critique to the Western Church.  In chapter five he points to one of the most unevangelized islands on the earth, with 45 million Muslims, also home to a tribe of one million Christians.  Yet that Christian tribe has turned tribal, only thinking of its own preservation.  There are many social and cultural reasons for this, but in the end it boils down to self centered excuses.  What could happen if it was the norm for Christians to sacrifice the god of personal comfort for the sake of those who face a Christless eternity? 

In chapter six Platt contrasts the man centered gospel and the God centered gospel.  Taking his cues from John Piper, the author claims that God is most concerned about himself and his glory above all others things.  If God is so glorious and merciful, the One who seeks us rather than us seeking Him, the only proper response is to give our all to Him and His purposes.  If the gospel is infinitely valuable, then what will we do to spread that value to those who do not know him?  The author believes that this gospel brings about the power to transform our orientation from serving self to serving others.  

In his conclusion, Platt gives a personal story of his own struggle and journey.  As I already said, one of the qualities I really like about David Platt  I thinned out my closet after reading Crazy Love and gave away copies of the book to as many who would read it.  Some have made radical changes in their lives; others have not.  But in the end, all of us have made some changes in our journey and are still asking the question, so what?  “Radical Together” has that same kind of prophetic power to it.  What can a church look like if it will take the radical claims of Jesus seriously?  The books I just mentioned, along with “Real Life Discipleship,” by Jim Putman have given me both hope and a means to move our body toward intentional Disciple making and hopefully, radical ones.

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