Years before David Platt became the President of the International Mission Board, he was an ordinary pastor. Then he wrote Radical (2010) — the short yet piercing book that took the evangelical world by storm.
In it, Platt reacts to an American church that has embraced unbiblical values, fallen prey to materialism, and valued comfort above all else. He calls Christians to believe and obey all of Jesus’ teachings — even the parts that are most difficult to stomach. He takes the reader on a journey to rediscover the truth and urgency of God’s gospel, learn how to fulfill God’s global purpose in his divine power, overcome significant blind spots, and live a life of radical abandonment to Jesus.
Radical by David Platt is a small and concise book, but each page pops with challenging issues. In light of his recent appointment to serve as President of the International Mission Board, I revisited this book to discover the top four issues that stood out to me:
1. The radical nature of Jesus’ call vs. modern mass marketing techniques.
Platt explains that Jesus told different groups of people that being his disciple required a rejection of family, a willingness to be tortured, giving everything to the poor, and abandoning their careers. In other words, he told potential followers that they must be willing to follow him in complete abandonment. Jesus’ methods are a far cry from the American church’s easy believism.
This issue directly impacts how the church and missions agencies communicate the gospel to the lost world. The western church has “polished” the gospel with numbers-driven mass marketing techniques; Jesus’ call to complete abandonment has been reduced to a low-risk sales tactic, four simple steps, and a slick unique value proposition. Many of these efforts have good intentions, to be sure. And the church should not intentionally push people away from faith. Yet, Christians and missionaries must be clear about what following Jesus implies. After, all Platt writes that Jesus “is something-someone-worth losing everything for.”
2. The ability of average Christians to have a global impact for Christ.
Radical argues that many Christians “[assign] the obligations of Christianity to a few while keeping the privileges of Christianity for…all.” Such a selective application is unbiblical, he argues, and all Christians have an obligation to make Christ known to the world.
Not to leave his readers disheartened, though, he provides many real-life examples to demonstrate how an average Christian can have a global impact. For example, an accountant named Steve mobilizes other accountants to serve the poor and have gospel impact in Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe. Gifted engineer Daniel rejected two lucrative offers so that he could work with an engineering program that helps poor communities. Businessman Jeff downsized his standard of living and uses his business’s earnings to provide clean water in Honduras. Each of these individuals serves Christ and makes God’s fame know through practical applications of their talents and occupations. This issue is significant because Christians regularly leave evangelism and missions opportunities to “professionals,” oftentimes because they do not know how to serve.
3. The true nature of making disciples.
The core command of Jesus’ Great Commission is to make disciples, but Platt recognizes that the church lacks a clear understanding about this pertinent topic. Contemporary discipleship usually includes some combination of rigid programs, Bible classes, or devotional booklets, but the result is a wealth of shallow, spiritual infants.
However, Jesus’ discipleship method involved “simply, intentionally, systematically, patiently walking alongside twelve men.” In other words, Jesus discipled his followers by investing in their lives. When put into practice, it represents a radical shift in how Christians do church. The main thrust of discipleship would not be a lecture-based class, but a life-on-life mentorship. To make matters more difficult, Jesus’ method is hard. In Platt’s words, discipleship is “trying. It is messy. It is slow, tedious, even painful at times.” Nevertheless, relational discipleship is the best way to grow believers.
4. Using financial blessings to bless others.
Platt writes that John Wesley capped his spending at a modest level, and he gave the excess away. God blessed Wesley’s commitment greatly, and one year he gave away more than $140,000 (adjusted for inflation). Platt uses this example to call Christians to “[operate] under the idea that God has given [them] excess, not so [they] could have more, but so [they] could give more.”
American believers are rich compared to the rest of the world. Yet many use their financial wealth to increase their standard of living and follow the idol of materialism, ignoring Christ’s call to care for the poor and downtrodden. A mindset like Wesley’s would require a complete paradigm shift for the majority of American believers. I found this to be the most challenging section of the book.
Radical by David Platt is short, concise, and simply written, but its message is grand. The book was and is a welcome wake up call to a self-centered, lazy brand of Christianity, and it topples the American church’s idols to restore the radical nature of the Christian faith. The call to radical abandonment is certainly paradigm-shifting, particularly in these four areas.
Radical s a sharp sword that cuts deep, though each reader likely finds a different section challenging. If you have read the book, what did you find most challenging?
Source: Platt, David. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2010.