Multnomah Publishing recently put out the book Radical by David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. My friend Ashley was reading this book when she came to visit and she was enjoying it, so I decided to pick it up as well.
I must say that I did like this book. I think Platt had important things to say, and he did so in a way that many will enjoy reading. He seems authentic, down-to-earth and passionate about living a life obedient to Scripture. Platt challenges his reader to live in radical abandonment to Christ. He calls American Christians on their consumerism/materialism idolatry issues, and challenges us to live more simply so that we can love God and others (who live in poverty) better.
I have read other books like this, and heard other sermons about this, so most of the things in this book were not new for me. I mean, a lot of what he said is what Scripture says. But, maybe for those who need to be specifically challenged, this is a good book.
BUT, there is one insight that I gleaned that has made me think…and it’s related to the idea of the American Dream. Anyone who knows me knows that although I may desire some sort of the American Dream at times, I am pretty vigilent to guard myself from the temptation to be lured in. Plus, I have a husband who probably is rarely tempted to buy into the American Dream, which helps me out too :). But, Platt brought up a really good point about the American Dream that I have definitely folded into my life. He says on page 46, “The dangerous assumption we unknowingly accept in the American dream is that our greatest asset is our own ability.” He goes on to say that we here in America prize what people can do when they just work hard, believe in themselves and trust in themselves. Did your parents ever tell you growing up that you can do whatever you want? I agree with him that we have mistakenly adopted this mentality as maybe even biblical. However, throughout Scripture we are given example after example of people who were unable to do something, but God helped them do something because he loves to display His power. It leads to the question- are we dependent on ourselves or desperate for God? I think most in America (definitely myself included) need some desperation for God. So, for me, this point was a real impactful one, and something that I’ve been talking and praying and thinking about over these past couple weeks.
One beef I have with Platt is his understanding and expectation of overseas missions. I have been overseas doing missions- and in several different contexts- so I obviously agree that God does call people to go and go they must if called. BUT, Platt tells many stories of how he went overseas and taught pastors about the Bible. My question is- should we be teaching Western Christianity to non-Western nations and people? Why should I go and teach a bunch of pastors in China about the Bible. They have Bibles, they know how to read, they know how to think, and they see God working in their context. I don’t think we have to go and teach them. I think we need to have exchanges of ideas and information. Sure, they could benefit from our thoughts, but also could benefit from their thoughts. I felt like he (and not just him, but others do this too) sees our role as a little too vital to their faith development. However, like I said before, we need to help meet physical needs (however we choose to do that) and we need to go. Sometimes we need to go for our exposure and growth, sometimes we need to go for others’ exposure and growth. And we won’t really know until we go. The reality is we can’t just throw money at them and the churches and say “go do ministry”, because we are a church, one body, and we are created to be in relationship with one another. Sometimes we need to go (and to welcome those who come) because we need to build and foster those relationships. One question he was asked was – “Should I really spend $3500 to go to a country in Africa for a couple weeks when I could just give them the money?” Yes, you should. Because the kingdom of God doesn’t come through money. It comes through relationships. I think we sometimes think that money is what makes the world go round. We need money, or the church needs money, or we need more stuff to do cooler ministry. But the reality is, we don’t need that. We need the Spirit. We need to be desperate for the Spirit in our lives and in the lives of the church body. I need to be desperate for the Spirit to work in and through me and my faith community.
[I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.]