How much of our understanding of the gospel as Americans is American and how much is biblical? That’s the question 30-something megachurch pastor David Platt asks early on in his best-selling book “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream.”
“Fundamentally, the gospel is the revelation of who God is, who we are, and how we can be reconciled to him,” Platt writes. “Yet in the American dream, where self reigns as king (or queen), we have a dangerous tendency to misunderstand, minimize, and even manipulate the gospel in order to accommodate our assumptions and our desires.”
That’s the key question Platt wrestles with throughout the book as he encourages the reader much the way he does the 4,000-some odd people who attend his church in Birmingham, Alabama, to live the kind of life that turns the American dream upside down.
The title more or less says it all because Platt is advocating a radical way of living for Christ that is about surrendering everything we have to the will of Christ, whatever that might take and whatever corner of the world God might call us to. For David and his family it has meant traveling to places where church services have to be held in secret, where hunger and poverty is almost unbearable and where people have yet to hear the Gospel.
David’s personal anecdotes and stories shared with him by members of his congregation and people he’s met in his various travels provide powerful context, illustrating that God calls us all, not just some of us, to be his hands and feet in the world. I especially like how David tackles typical questions about whether it’s better to just send money oversees instead of going, whether we should care about people who live so far away when we have so many needs close to home and more.
Unlike many of the books that wind up on the best-seller list, Radical is not an eight or 10-step process of how to improve your prayer life, expand your knowledge or become a better you. If anything, Mr. Platt is advocating just the opposite. He’s saying rather than seeking a self-absorbed faith centered around programs and stuff that we label Christian, we need to be asking God to turn our worlds upside down and use us in the way that most serves the kingdom He is building here on earth as it is in heaven.
In the closing pages, Platt presents a challenge to readers to undergo a one-year radical experiment of living for Jesus that includes five things – prayer for the entire world, reading of the Word, sacrificing of money for a specific purpose, spending time in another context and commitment to a “multiplying community.” You don’t need to read the book to take the challenge, but I’d highly recommend you do.
Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream from Christianbook.com.