Author: David Platt
Publisher: Multnomah Books
Publishing Year: 2010
My Rating: 5 out of 5 (1 meaning I hated the book, 5 meaning I loved the book)
There has been a lot of buzz about this book, and typically that makes me a little hesitant. Usually I find books that make the evangelical world all excited are books that make me a little sad due to shallow content. Now, add to this the fact the author is a mega-church pastor writing about the trouble in third world countries and you just have a recipe for an emotional appeal lacking much Scriptural depth. However, I could not have been more wrong about Radical.
David Platt begins his book with an attack on seeker-sensitive mega-churches whose main goal is to make people comfortable. He does this by drawing a sharp contrast between this type of church and an underground church devoid of any of the normal amenities of worship we are so use to but filled with committed believers eager to learn more of the Word of God, though it may cost them their lives.
I have to admit, reading that opening section enraged my sense of self-righteousness toward those horrible seeker-sensitive churches and their shallowness… It felt good. I settled in, as my initial fears subsided, and thought this would be a comfortable read knowing full-well that I would never attend such a church. Of course, I failed to ask myself if I would attend the underground church… But, that’s another story…
My comfortable read quickly turned to conviction when faced with some pretty tough, yet familiar Bible passages.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:57-62
“And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” – Mark 10:21-22
Of course, I have read these passages many times. Of course, as a good conservative, Reformed, evangelical Christian – I believe every word of these passages are true and should be obeyed. But, is that really true? This is where I get convicted of my own sin. Platt explains:
“This is where we come face to face with a dangerous reality. We do have to give up everything we have to follow Jesus. We do have to love him in a way that makes our closest relationships in this world look like hate. And it is entirely possible that he will tell us to sell everything we have and give it to the poor.
“But we don’t want to believe it. We are afraid of what it might mean for our lives. So we rationalize these passages away… ‘What Jesus really meant was…”
“We are giving in to the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with. A nice, middle-class, American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have.” (pages 18-19)
Ouch. Talk about convicting…
Again, shattering my preconceived accusation of shallowness, Platt dedicates a whole chapter to the gospel message. This chapter also introduced me to the whole concept of “Secret Church.” This concept blew my mind. Here we have believers gathered together on a Friday night for six straight hours eagerly awaiting to hear doctrinal messages and lessons. Wow.
Getting back to the gospel, seemingly without fear Platt destroys any notion of easy-believism. Here’s just a sample:
“We have taken the infinitely glorious Son of God, who endured the infinitely terrible wrath of God and who now reigns as the infinitely worthy Lord of all, and we have reduced him to a poor, puny Savior who is just begging for us to accept him. Accept him? Do we really think Jesus needs our acceptance? Don’t we need Him?” (page 37)
Another convicting section of the book focuses on the need to increase our awareness of the spiritual and physical needs of the whole world. One way to do this is to see it up close and personal on a short-term missions trip. While I have often wondered if it would just be better to send money to struggling missionaries, as opposed to sending a group of inexperienced novices for only a week or so at a time, Platt makes a good point while relating this touching story:
“I remember when I was first preparing to go to Sudan, a nation impoverished by years of civil war. The trip was going to cost me around three thousand dollars. It wasn’t easy to travel into Sudan since they were still at war, and we would have to charter a plane and spend a few extra days to make that happen. I remember one dear lady in the church coming up to me and asking, “Why don’t you just send three thousand dollars to the people in Sudan? Wouldn’t that be a better use of money than your spending a week and a half with them? Think of how far that money could go.
“I wrestled with that question. Was I wasting these funds in order to go when I could simply give the money instead? Should I even be going? I continued wrestling with that question until I got to Sudan. There I had a conversation with Andrew that shed some light on the question.
“Andrew was sharing with me about his life in Sudan over the last twenty years. He had known war since he was born, and he described facets of the suffering and persecution his people had been through. He told me about the various groups, most of them secular or government organizations, who had brought supplies to them during that time, and he expressed thanks for the generosity of so many people.
“But then he looked at me and asked, “Even in light of all these things that people have given us, do you want to know how you can tell who a true brother is?”
“I leaned forward and asked, “How?”
“He responded, “A true brother comes to be with you in your time of need.” Then he looked me in the eye and said, “David, you are a true brother. Thank you for coming to be with us.”
“Tears welled up in my eyes as the reality of the gospel hit home with me in an entirely new way. I was immediately reminded that when God chose to bring salvation to you and me, he did not send gold or silver, cash or check. He sent himself – the Son. I was convicted for even considering that I should give money instead of actually coming to Sudan. How will I ever show the gospel to the world if all I send is my money? Was I really so shallow as to think that my money is the answer to the needs in the world?” (pages 197-198)
The main purpose of this book is to reshape our entire mindset toward wealth and material positions. If we really believed in God’s call to world evangelism, how would our lives be different? If we really believed that those who do not embrace the gospel really die and go to a real hell, how would our lives be different? How can we live a comfort-driven life knowing half the world is dying due to a lack the basic necessities of life? While these are not comfortable questions to think about, they are necessary questions every follower of Christ must grapple with.
This was an excellent book I highly recommend. However, I do have some reservations.
First, I think at some point it would be good have a conversation about the difference between Christians in America being spoiled as opposed to blessed. The Old Testament is filled with promises of blessings, both spiritual and material, to those who follow the Lord. Should I feel guilty about enjoying the blessings of God? Yet, I also acknowledge that gifts from God are also meant to be shared with others in the Body. I’m just saying I’d like to hear this conversation as opposed to just a guilt trip about having more than is absolutely needed.
Second, I would like to say that poverty in many Third World nations is not due to selfishness in America but due to poor economic decisions by corrupt governments oppressing their people. No amount of money we send over there will solve this problem.
However, neither of these two reservations is an excuse for selfishness, laziness or ignorance. Taking care of the poor is not only a good thing, but a command from a sovereign God. This book at least is thought-provoking but is at most, a highly convicting reminder of the church’s gospel responsibility to a lost and dying world.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.