30 While 30: Book Review – Radical

So …… I really hate it when I read something and it ruins something else for me.  Now, I use the term “ruin” in the most positive way that I can.  And by “hate”, I mean to say, it is hard sometimes to read something that so dramatically changes your perspective on things that you won’t ever be the same again.  Radical is one of those books.  I can’t look at “church” the same way again.

Platt is very specific in his purposes and reasons for writing this book.

The American church is not doing all it can to help the lost and the marginalized.

The American church is more interested in serving itself than in serving the people that the church was directed to as part of the great commission.

I won’t lie, if you decide to read this book, you will experience several emotions both in the process of reading and after you complete it.  Anger.  Embarrassment. Conviction.  Defensiveness.  Finally, and hopefully, drive and motivation.

Platt tells a very convincing, scripturally defensible, and simple message:

How well are you living your life to carry out the great commission and other directives of Christ?

Platt does this through several areas.

First, by helping place into perspective our own salvation:

If you were to ask the average Christian sitting in a worship service on Sunday morning to summarize the message of Christianity, you would most likely hear something along the lines of “The message of Christianity is that God loves me.”  Or someone might say, “The message of Christianity is that God loves me enough to send His son, Jesus, to die for me.”

As wonderful as this sentiment sounds, is it biblical?  Isn’t it incomplete, based on what we have seen in the Bible?  “God loves me” is not the essence of biblical Christianity.  Because if “God loves me” is the message of Christianity, then who is the object of Christianity?

God loves me.

Me.

Christianity’s object is me.

Therefore, ehrn I look for a chirch, I look for the music that best fits me and the programs that best cater to me and my family.  When I make plans for my life and career, it is about what works best for me and my family.  When I consider the house I will live in, the car I will drive, the clothes I will wear, the way I will live, I will choose according to what is best for me.  This is the version of Christianity that largely prevals in our culture.

But this is not biblical Christianity.

The message of biblical Christianity is not “God loves me, period,” as if we were the object of our own faith.  The message of biblical Christianity is “God loves me so that I might make him-his ways, his salvation, his glory, and his greatness-known among all the nations.”  Now God is the object of our faith, and Christianity centers around him.  We are not the end of the gospel; God is.

-Radical (p.69-70)

Now just think back to the various messages you have heard as (maybe) you grew up in the church.  How many times have you heard the phrase: “If you were the only one, Jesus still would have died for you”.  I know I have, and in that very statement, feel the danger in beleiving that “it’s all about me.” 

So, once we have an understanding that we were not saved for ourselves, but saved for the lost of the world, we are given a rather damning perspective on how we are doing with that task.

In contrast to Rob Bell’s view on foreign missions (who believes that someone else’s salvation can’t possibly be dependent on a human – in his famous “what if the missionary gets a flat tire” line of thinking), Platt takes the absolute antithetical approach.  That the church is in fact Plan A, and there is no Plan B.  Unlike Bell, Platt uses scripture to share and define the eternal condition of men and women in the context of original sin, and that without a recognition of the one-time salvation act of Christ, are destined for an eternity in separation of God.

That’s a pretty heavy thought.

Even so, after reading both Bell and Platt, I come to this conclusion:

1. If Bell is right, and Platt is wrong, everyone is ok, and I have no direct responsiblity on my own or any other human’s eternal destiny in this life.

or

2. If Platt is right and Bell is wrong, then I have a massive obligation to share and make known my experience with Christ in hopes that others will as well, not only to have full life in the here and now, but to restore man’s condition with God in the next life.

Each option has it’s own consequences.

Let’s take a moment and assume Platt is correct.  How are we doing on Plan A?

Well, first, we don’t recognize what kind of wealth position we are in:

… I don’t think of myself as rich, and I’m guessing you may not think of yourself as rich either.  but the reality is, if you and I have running water, shelter over our heads, clothes to wear, food to eat, and some means of transportation (even if it’s public transportation), then we are in the top 15 percent of the world’s people for wealth.

I am much like the rich man, and the church I lead looks a lot like him too.  Every Sunday we gather in a multi-million dollar building with millions of dollars in vehicles parked outside.  We leave worship to spend thousands of dollars on lunch before returning to hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of homes.  We live in luxury.

Meanwhile, the poor man is outside our gate. … At most, we are throwing our scraps to them while we indulge in our pleasures here. …

This is not what the people of God do.  Regardless of what we say or sing or study on Sunday morning, rich people who neglect the poor are not the people of God.

-Radical (P.114-115)

Ouch. 

Yet that is the reality, isn’t it?  I also read somewhere that if you meet the median income in the US, which is about 45,000 a year for a family of four … you make more than 85% of the world’s.  Population.  We are rich.

In additon to our wealth, we tend to ignore the nature of original church growth (discipleship) over allowing “professionals” to take care of the lost in the community.

One of the unintended consequences of contemporary church strategies that revolve around performances, places, programs, and professionals is that somewhere along the way people get left out of the picture.  But according to Jesus, people are God’s method for winning the world to himself.  People who have been radically transformed by Jesus.  People who are not sidelined to sit in a chair on Sundays while they watch professionals take care of ministry for them.  People who are equipped on Sundays to participate in ministry every day of the week.  People who are fit and free to do precisely what Jesus did and what Jesus want us to do.  Make disciples.

Radical (p.90)

How many times have you been encouraged to “invite your friends to church”?  No offense (and I know I am going to offend someone here), I hate that sentence.  Why?  Because it changes a potential discipleship relationship to a task that we pass on to our pastors.  We don’t feel confident that we have the words or compassion to impact someone’s life, so we pass the buck to our preacher, and hope his (or her) eloquent words will win them over.  Wrong way of thinking.

On a side note, here is a satirical video about what church can become if it becomes “about us, instead of about Him”.  (Also, please understand that this is about church motive, not about specifics)

Back to it, then:

In conclusion, Platt writes the book to bring to light what he feels is a “blind spot” of the American church.  That the American church has substituted the mission for helping the poor and marginalized and forgotten the mission of sharing the gospel with the whole world … that the church has replaced that will making sure that “we are taken care of first”.

If you are anything like me, you may even feel a bit guilty just reading the few excerpts I have here.

To be honest, I did as well, but after digesting it, different feelings arose: motivation, responsibility, and priviledge.

Motivation – There is a large task, and if anything, I learned from this book that I have a part to play in this “Plan A”, and that I need to do what I can to execute the mission of the church.  To be perfectly honest, this book was one (of many) reasons for developing this 30 while 30 list.  It was a question about how I was spending my time and energy, and what was left outstanding that was standing in my way from reaching my potential in this plan.

Responsibility – Also, if anything, this book shared with me a reminder that the work of helping the orphans and widows is not “for someone else” that I need not wait to be “called” (because in fact, we are all called) that I have a role to play in this mission.

 Priviledge – That I cannot keep what gifts I have to myself.  That i Have been gifted with skills, talents, and money, and that while I have a tendency to make my life comfortable, I have the priviledge of spending those skills, talents, and money to make that true for others.

This is one that I would encourage you to pick up.  I will warn you though.  Like me, whether you take all or part of what Platt has to say as reality, you will be impacted, you will look at your life, and you likely will make some, if not many, changes.

_Thomas

*(On a side note, if anyone is interested in seeing if Platt puts his money where his mouth is, check out www.theradicalexperiment.com .  The church went from spending less than 25,000 of a 4 million dollar annual budget on foreign and domestic missions to close to 1 million, and growing)

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3 responses to “30 While 30: Book Review – Radical

  • Elizabeth

    “If Bell is right, and Platt is wrong, everyone is ok, and I have no direct responsiblity on my own or any other human’s eternal destiny in this life.”

    …and that’s why I have a problem with most of what Bell has to say. Great review – Jon is working his way through Radical right now. I hope to have time to read it over the summer!

    • thevfamily

      Elizabeth: The content is difficult (due to the matters Thomas mentions above) but the read is easy. You could seriously plow through it in a weekend, even with the kids around, at the rate you can read!

  • How to simplify your “stuff” in 2 simple steps. « Thom's Thoughts

    […] about all year from books on My List, but has been most prominent in two of the books: Radical (review here) and Crazy Love (finished but not yet reviewed).  Both of which have helped me to take a more […]

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