Radical: Taking Back your Faith From the American Dream

A book Review.

David Platt is a success by many American church standards, but standing at the frontlines of a church moving away from posh and comfortable towards a faith radicalized by devotion rather than by bigotry.

David Platt’s new book is a challenge to the American churches, a call that’s begun to spread from within the evangelical community that maybe we’ve turned in the wrong direction. He wants us to take back our faith from the American dream. I appreciated his candor, his honesty and his desire for a radically mobilized biblical faith.

In nine short and readable chapters full of anecdotes and useful information and honest thoughts that come from the heart he makes the case for a radical Christian faith. Returning to basics he uncovers a radical Christianity which should be the norm instead of the exception. With love, grace and honesty he disturbs everyday american sensibilities to recognize something I talk about often on my blog, How America’s faith life is horribly impoverished and makes great Americans, but few Christians. He shows the shameful impoverished nature of Christian faith in many American churches that are plagued with affluence. He advocates a Great Commission mindset far beyond the tidy routines of our comfortable Christianity.

According to Platt, it’s not just individual Christians embracing flawed values, it is entire systems and organizations. He tells the story of how side by side articles showed how a church spent 23 million dollars on a building renovation, and how a n entire churh network had raised only $5,000 to send to Uganda for relief in the Darfur war zone. Platt thinks that this is exactly the kind of “blind spot” in American Chrsitanity. Churches build bigger and better complexes, but spend little in cultivating discipleship or missions work, as a whole. That we can spend so lavishly on comfort while spending so little on helping others is a problem. Platt says, “If our lives do not reflect radical compassion for the poor, there is reason to wonder if Christ is really in us at all.”

My favorite thing Platt does is critique the sinner’s prayer. I did a series on that topic a few months ago and was glad to find an evangelical echoing my concerns. I wish Platt would embrace Christian History as part of the radical faith he is trying to reimagine, because sticking to the bible without seeing how the bible has worked in culture is surely a daunting task. No, Christian history is not perfect, but young Evangelicals are leaning heavily John Piper and the sola scriptura model and neglecting an important part of radical faith, the communion of all Christians across time, space and history as part of one story.

I think this is my only real critique of Platt and it’s less a critique and more a recognition that he faces an unsurmountable wall without turning to the Christian tradition as part of his compass. However, there is a good part about all this, Platt is an influential member of the evangelical community, trying to steer people away from megachurch and back towards real discipleship. Of course the problem is that his church is a 4 thousand member megachurch itself. However, he is attempting to garner faithfulness within his context and surely this book should be read by small group leaders, and youth pastors as well as senior pastors. This book is a book for Christians who wonder why they might not be experiencing the fullness of faith, or who think that surely they’ve arrived.

Platt’s voice is one to keep an eye on, for years to come.

In closing his book, Platt introduces the Radical Experiment, a project designed to put a person into a one year commitment to:

Pray for the entire world
Read through the entire Word
Sacrifice your money for a specific purpose
Spend your time in another context
Commit your life to multiplying community

I think these are really good ways to engage youth and even adults in the meaning of church life. I think these are definitely a step in the right direction, and it is my hope that churches will benefit from this book, and projects like the one it introduces. I think that this little project would be a great project for churches, small groups and youth ministries and intend to use it in my church’s discipleship program.

Consider buying and reading if you’re a lay leader, or if you’re looking for some ways to help your churches move away from the crippling power of affluence and entitlement.

This book was provided for review by the publisher, Multnomah Books.

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