“Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream”
To be candid, I avoided this book when it first came out simply due to the hype it was receiving right out of the gates. To me, it seemed like just another mega-church pastor publishing his how-to view on living the Christian life, and I wasn’t interested. Popular books are fine, but I’m only interested in quality books popularized by their own intrinsic value, not by the name on the cover or the hype his fans might give it. Letting David Platt’s Radical sit in my Kindle for a few years allowed for the noise around it to die down, so I could simply read the book as it is, and I’m glad I did.
Although Platt is a mega-church pastor—and a young one at that!—his book certainly isn’t a how-to guide in church growth. In fact, were any church to seriously implement the challenges he offers in this book, it’d likely see its attendance numbers drop dramatically, while at the same time, it’d witness a skyrocket in the servant-quality of its remaining members—so things would balance out well in the end. Platt’s basic premise in Radical is this: if Christians today took Jesus at His Word throughout the Gospels, our churches would be unrecognizable: we’d care far less about ourselves and our wallets, we’d be more prone to relate to every person around us, and we’d sense the urgency in the going/making/baptizing/teaching of the Great Commission. All those ideas sounds great (which is why pastors commonly preach them), yet when they are honestly and completely implemented, when they’re taken from the ethereal realm of “Christian ethics” and placed into the tangible world of “Christian practice,” they become as radical as the title suggests.
Were I to record for you my favorites passages or chapters, I would likely go on for pages. So let me simply break it down like this: The top five things from Radical that I have either implemented personally or taught in my own church since reading the book this past year.
1. The entirety of Chapter 4 on Missions. In fact, after purchasing the audio book, I forwarded this chapter to several of my missionary colleagues (hopefully I’m not breaking any laws by doing so!). The urgency with which Platt writes this chapter is inspiring, and I hope that its prodded my friends on to continued faithfulness, as it has me.
2. Platt’s conversation with the Buddhist and Muslim (Chapter 2), where he twisted the common illustration of “God is on a mountain, and no matter what path you take it, it will eventually lead to God” into saying: “What would you think if I told you that the God at the top of the mountain actually came down to where we are? What would you think if I told you that God doesn’t wait for people to find their way to him, but instead he comes to us?” That illustration has struck several chords in my own personal evangelism, so thank you Dr. Platt for it!
3. In Chapter 5 on Disciple-making, Platt recommends that anyone serious about making disciples should build contact biographies in order to know people better, and then use these biographies as prayer lists. What a novel idea! I don’t have the time to do this for everyone I meet, but I’ve created a notebook with specific people under me that I’ve been able to disciple, and it has truly proved to be a useful tool, especially in making me seem like a more conscientious, more caring person that I naturally am. That’s some hard doing, let me tell you.
4. “The world was a perpetual classroom for Jesus and His disciples.” This quote from Chapter 5 reminds me continually of the role I have, not simply as a church leader, but as a father. Two resources are helpful in this regard: 1) the book Every Day Talk by Younts discusses how parents should take everyday conversations to build the biblical worldview and love/respect for Jesus that they certainly won’t find outside our Christian homes; and 2) a game a Free Lutheran pastor in WI taught me called “What’s in the Box?” where children meet at the front of the church before the sermon, surprise the pastor with a random object in a shoebox, and expect him to draw a spiritual or biblical application from it. I’ve been doing this in my own church for nearly a year now, and it’s amazing how a teacher keen to spiritual things can evidence God and His character from virtually any ol’ object we use every day. Both of these ideas have helped me as a father and church leader to treat the world as “a perpetual classroom.”
5. The whole of Chapter 8 is as inspiring as anything. It’s a call to action, “The Radical Experiment,” unlike any other I’ve heard before. He didn’t share statistics of how many from his own multi-thousand congregation took this challenge to heart, but I believe that even if only a small fraction did, his church must have exploded with fresh and radical Christianity like we read about in the Gospels and Acts. You can check out RadicalExperiment.org for testimonies of various people who have taken the challenge.
All in all, I really enjoyed Radical and would certainly recommend it for individuals or small groups who are interested in making some simple yet drastic changes in their lives for Christ.