This past Sunday, I found myself getting angry with a toilet, more specifically, with the auto-flush toilet at my church and the water waste that it represented and it got me thinking about issues of “big church”, missing Uganda, with regard to this post (Every Day’s Best: A Study in Contrasts), knowing some of it had to do with a book that I just finished reading: “Radical: Tacking Back Your Faith from the American Dream” by David Platt. In this book, Platt puts forward what it means to be a Christ-follower and how, as Americans, we have warped our faith into looking like something completely contrary to the gospel we are trying to emulate.
From the beginning of the book, Platt admits that this book comes from a place of challenge in his own life, as “the youngest megachurch pastor in history”—finding himself, in his words, “on a collision course with an American church culture where success is defined by bigger crowd, bigger budgets, and bigger buildings.” Seeing that this was not was what Jesus meant to “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” Platt had to ask himself 2 big questions:
Was I going to believe Jesus?
Was I going to obey Jesus?
Answering these 2 questions began his journey and out of that comes this book. He says that we can continue with business as usual in the Christian life, measuring success by the standards around us, or we can take an honest look at what it truly mean to believe and obey Jesus.
This book begins with a first-account experience in another country with a secret meeting among a body of believers–church leaders whose member’s lives and the lives of their children are being threatened because of the Gospel and how they kneel to pray in a darkened room. Their prayers centered not on themselves but on who Jesus is and their trust in Him. Juxtaposed to this scene, Platt describes his first Sunday as a pastor in America: theater-style lights, fine clothes, cushioned chairs, not much at stake there.
Throughout the book, Platt introduces and offers solutions to several important questions for every believer:
“How can I fulfill the great commission?”
“What specific steps can I take in our daily lives to go against what we have always perceived as a our God-given “right” to the American dream of success, money, fulfillment. What exactly do these sacrifices entail?”
Platt gives tenants of WHY the great commission and our answer to it is so important. In his chapter titled, “There is no Plan B”. He explains that there are 4.5 B people in the world today without Christ and he highlights a few basic principles:
-all people have knowledge of God
-all people reject God
-all people are guilty before God, saying to the argument, “What about the innocent guy in Africa?” The innocent guy doesn’t exist…there are no innocent people in the world just waiting to hear the gospel. Instead, there are people all over the world standing guilty before a holy God, and that is the very reason they need God.”
-all people are condemned for rejecting God
-God has made a way of salvation for the lost
-people cannot come to God apart from faith in Christ
-Christ commands the church to make the gospel known to all peoples
Concluding this with, “We are the plan of God, there is no Plan B.” Going on to say, “If more than a billion people today are headed to a Christless eternity and have not even heard the gospel, then we don’t have time to waste our lives on an American dream.”
This book isn’t going to stroke your ego, assuage the restlessness you feel as a Christian or justify any behavior you have even thought might be contrary to what God wants for you. I think, if I could give this book an alternate title, it would be “Uncomfortable: What you need to be doing as a Christian”. It’s that convicting and yes, it calls for change. That call is addressed in Platt’s last chapter, “The Radical Experiment”, which offers practical, challenging ways we can live the calling out, but you’ll have to read the book to find exactly what those are.
Knowing that we are not alone in this challenge, Platt reminds us from the start of the book of our supreme dependence on God’s strength for making these changes, saying, “the gospel beckons us to die to ourselves and to believe in God and to trust in his power. In the gospel, God confronts us with our utter inability to accomplish anything of value apart from him.”