In 2010, a relatively unknown pastor came onto the scene with a book that would challenge the landscape of American Christianity. That book was Radical, and the author was David Platt. In his work, Platt calls out Christians to live life in a radically different manner that is counter cultural to what we are being taught by society. In a period of just several short years this book has reached the pinnacle of Christian publishing; remaining on publishing charts for numerous weeks and jettisoning Platt into the national if not global platform.
To begin with, this is not an extremely long book. It weighs in at 217 pages and nine chapters, with each chapter having its own title and sub-headings. Chapter one is entitled Someone Worth Losing Everything For. In this chapter, Platt argues “We were settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves. “Later on he urges that no matter what we believe, “we have in many areas blindly and unknowingly embraced values and ideas that are common in our culture but are antithetical to the gospel he taught.” At the end of the chapter, he drives home his point when he says “ In the process of hearing Jesus, you are compelled to take an honest look at your life, your family, and your church and ask,, “What is he saying?” but also ask “What shall I do?”’
Chapter two is entitled Too Hungry for Words. In an attempt to show our utter sinfulness, Platt reminds us, “ Everything in all creation responds in obedience to the Creator …until we get to you and me. We have the audacity to look God in the face and say, “No.””Platt also does a good job pointing out that, “…we have a dangerous tendency to misunderstand, minimize, and even manipulate the gospel in order to accommodate our assumptions and our desires. As a result we desperately need to explore how much or our understanding of the Gospel is American and how much is biblical.” As we look at chapter three, Beginning at the End of Ourselves, Platt makes the assertion,” The dangerous assumption we unknowingly accept in the American dream is that our greatest asset is our own ability.” When we try to live in our own power, God will come along and show us how much we really need him, and according to Platt, “This is how God works. He puts his people in positions where they are desperate for his power, and then he shows his provision in ways that display his greatness.”
What is awesome about this chapter, is his focus on the magnitude of God and the role he plays in accomplishing anything. He further proves this point when he says, “God delights in using extraordinary Christians who come to the end of themselves and choose to trust in his extraordinary provision. He stands ready to allocate his power to all who are radically dependent on him and radically devoted to making much of him.”
In the next chapter, the Great Why of God, Platt introduces us to some of the purposes of God. Everyone at sometime has asked the question “what am I here for?” or “what is my purpose?” Platt tells us that we are to: “Enjoy his grace and extend his glory. This is the twofold purpose behind the creation of the human race in Genesis 1, and it sets the stage for the entire Book that revolves around the same purpose.” In continuing on with this topic of purpose he claims, “God has created us to accomplish a radically global, supremely God –exalting purpose with our lives.”
Chapter five has a great title, The Multiplying Community. This has become a major topic over the last several years. How are we to go about being a multiplying community? Platt suggests that we follow the pattern Jesus set before us. That pattern is not something that is mass-produced, because “genuine, committed, self-sacrificing followers of Christ—are not made over night.” Something that gets to the heart of disciple making is that we must go to them and not expect them to come to us in order to hear the gospel. Platt brings everything together when he says, “Disciple making is not about a program or an event but about a relationship. As we share the gospel, we impart life, and this is the essence of making disciples.”
In the next chapter called How Much is Enough?, Platt discusses how we Americans need to assess our finances; how much do we really need to live on, and how much do we give up? According to Platt, “If there is no sign of caring for the poor in our lives, then there is reason to at least question whether Christ is in our hearts.”Something that this author found extremely interesting was this statement made by Platt, he says, “In the dawn of this new phase in redemptive history, no teachers (including Jesus) in the New Testament ever promise material wealth as a reward for obedience.” This was very intriguing and helped to drive the authors point home that we are to serve out of love and for temporal gain.
Chapter seven is called There is No Plan B. What the author is getting at here is that there is no other alternative route to heaven, the only way there is by Jesus. He makes a very harsh statement when he says, “ I think each of us tends toward either intellectual or practical universalism.” He makes this statement in light of how difficult it is to fathom the fact that people who have never heard of Christ and had the opportunity to respond, go to Hell. He tells the story of an innocent man in Africa who has never heard the Gospel, but then responds, “There are no innocent people in the world waiting to hear the gospel.”Just a paragraph later he says that, “all people are guilty before God, and as such the default is not heaven but hell.”Those are some harsh words to hear but in all reality they are the truth.
The next to last chapter is Living When Dying is Gain. In this chapter, Platt goes up against our normal thought process and challenges us to really take a look at what living with death in mind truly looks like. He makes some bold statements about how if we want to serve the Lord and be more like him that we will face persecution. “To everyone wanting a safe, untroubled, comfortable life free from danger, stay away from Jesus. The danger in our lives will always increase in proportion to the depth of our relationship with Christ.” Chapter nine, the last and final chapter, is called the Radical Experiment. In this chapter Platt issues five challenges to his audience. He challenges his readers for one year to… pray for the entire world; read through the entire Bible; sacrifice money for a specific purpose; spend time in a different context; and commit your life to a multiplying community.
This book is a very powerful book, but it has one flaw that it may not impact the person completely and make a profound change. The one thing I am afraid of is reading this book and thinking that ‘oh those are good ideas/thoughts and not doing anything with them’. In the very first chapter, Platt makes a statement that resounded with me. He says, “…every day I see more disconnects between the Christ of Scripture and the Christianity that characterizes my life and the church God has entrusted me to lead.” Another powerful statement that Platt made was, “Note taking is not the measure of how committed we are to making disciples, but if we are hearing God’s Word taught in order to teach others, then we want to get it down as best we can.” A statement that was a true punch to the gut was when he said, “Regardless of what we say or sing on Sunday morning, rich people who neglect the poor are not the people of God.”That statement made me wonder if he means we have to be dealing with the poor on a personal basis, or can it be on a corporate basis?
This book, while it lists five main challenges at the end of the book, it is chock full of things that can be applied to life. I think that the best application points do come from chapter nine and the challenge Platt issues to his audience. Right now I do not pray for much of anyone or anything I do not know, so praying for the whole world will be a new venture for me to enter into. I have the book Operation World he recommends to use.
I slightly disagree with him in saying that we need to read through the Bible in a year, I personally get through it every two to three years, I have read the NT multiple times in a year. While I can see where for some it may be beneficial I just have come to know myself, and my ability to read and to comprehend, and trying to do it in a year is pushing it. He also has urged us to sacrifice our money for a specific purpose, this is an area that I do not yet have mastered, my wife and I are faithful tithers, but we do not give too much above our set amount. We live on a very strict budget while living on student loans right now. I have recently helped support a Christian band whose music I like and feel they have a good mission and music. That is one way I have given sacrificially above our normal tithe recently.
I will have to pray hard about where the Lord would have me spend time outside of my normal context. As I have mentioned in previous assignments my health is not the best, so it is a challenge to do things around my home. But I have been invited by a pastor friend of mine who is getting ready to move to Haiti; He would like me to come down there and help put on pastor training, so that would be outside of my normal context. Lastly, I am part of a church plant, so we are part of a multiplying community.
In conclusion this work is a very powerful book that I would recommend to any Christian, especially those who are involved in a small group setting. To go along with this work I would highly recommend you read Crazy Love by Francis Chan, these are two books along similar lines that will ignite a fire inside of you; and hopefully will bring about a change in your life that your community will notice. Even if your community does not see the change right away, the kingdom will. So take the time to read this book and digest it, and if you have the time and ability when your done, come back to it and do it again, I am sure there will be things you missed the first time.
Platt, David. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream. Colorado Sprngs: Multnomah Books, 2010.
DavidPlatt, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream. (Colorado Sprngs: Multnomah Books, 2010)7.