Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Book Review: Radical Together

David Platt penned a very popular book, Radical, (see my review here:) that has garnered a lot of attention and shaken up some corners of the church. That book looked primarily at how individuals can change their lifestyle to live more radically and intentionally for the Gospel and in doing so taking on the American dream that often interferes with the mission of the Church. In his follow-up, Radical Together, David looks at what this means for us as a community of believers. I was not sure what to expect but I think he has done an even better job of laying out what the community of Christ is called to do as a collective Body. One radical individual is can do a lot, a whole community of individuals working together to radically impact the world for the Gospel is something with even greater potential.

One of the things that I really appreciated was that David keeps coming back to the Word and to the Gospel. It is far too easy to get so caught up in doing good works that we forget the underlying reason why, i.e. to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who are lost. Radical Together does a great job of combining Gospel urgency with works of mercy. Neither can truly be in a vacuum and the primacy of the Gospel must lead to the dispersion of mercy.

The chapter The Genius of Wrong was far and away the best in the book. David really seems to get the very real but counterintuitive truth that God almost invariably uses the “wrong” people to accomplish His purposes. Of course as we always find out later, what we see as the “wrong” kind of person is perfect for what God intended. Much of what David writes in this chapter flies in the face of conventional wisdom about the church and also the most written in stone traditions that we have held onto for hundreds of years. As such, the message might be seen as threatening.

I was especially struck on page 70 where he recounts some church members asking permission to minister to local families in their home instead of bringing them to church. His response was “Yes! That would be okay with me!” The very notion of people feeling the need to ask permission before ministering to others shows how skewed our idea of the church, ministry and leadership has become.

I wasn’t a huge fan of his interpretation of Matthew 24:14, the idea that whatever “the nations” is interpreted to mean that once we reach all of the nations, Christ will come back. I think this has to do my understanding of soteriology that is at odds with most of evangelicalism. I read and interpret the Scriptures such that God is not waiting until we make Gospel contact with every people group, i.e. every nation, before the end of the world and return of Christ. I don’t see a “big board” in heaven with people groups checked off. Rather the Scriptures describe an elect people that God has chosen. It seems more consistent that God will not “end the world” until He has redeemed all of His elect. That is more a theological quibble than a quibble with the book but I found that section jarring although I get what David is trying to say regarding the urgent calling of the church. It was just kind of a shaky interpretation.

Radical Together, if it reaches a large audience and gets people thinking, gives me a glimmer of hope for the institutional church. While I think the vast majority of pastors will see what David is writing as a threat to their career, I also think that if more pastors had the same vision and attitude that David does I would have far less concern and criticism of the traditional church.

It is my hope for David Platt that he continues to write about, speak about and take action about what he is finding in the Scriptures regarding the mission of the church and how to continue to move away from a blurred vision that sees the church and the American Dream inextricably linked. There are places we all could stand to continue to examine ourselves and how we see the church. I would love it if the church he leads, Brook Hills, would sell their building and start meeting in smaller, more modest location and homes in the area. Would they maintain their cohesiveness? What if David Platt stopped drawing a salary at Brook Hills and lived off the proceeds of book sales? There is so much more they can do but they are already so far ahead of the curve compared to most institutional churches.

How much more could we achieve for the Kingdom if we stopped trying to build little Kingdoms of our own? What if we refused to settle for the “good stuff” in the church and insisted that we focus on “the best”? Read Radical Together and you just might find out!

You can read an excerpt from Radical Together by clicking here

(I received this book free of charge from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers as part of the Blogging for Books program in return for an unbiased review)

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