As seems to be the case here lately, I find myself unable to adequately review a book that both requires and demands a thoughtful review as well as a large readership. In other words: it’s good and you need to read it.
Few books have messed me up—in a good way—like Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. One of the book’s endorsements predicts readers will bounce between ouch and amen. Yes indeed. Author David Platt confronts our assumptions about church and what makes church successful according to our culture, turning his focus instead to the high cost of authentic faith.
In the first chapter, “Someone Worth Losing Everything For: What Radical Abandonment to Jesus Really Means,” Platt gives the reader fair warning of the conviction and confrontation to come. He describes his own achievement of the American (evangelical) dream, becoming the youngest megachurch pastor in the US, only to grow increasingly uncomfortable with the example of Jesus who, rather than drawing large crowds, seemed to intentionally offend and turn away the masses. Platt writes, “Soon I realized I was on a collision course with an American church culture where success is defined by bigger crowds, bigger budgets, and bigger buildings. I was now confronted with a startling reality: Jesus actually spurned the things that my church culture said were most important.” The resulting journey formed the framework for Radical, the book.
Radical invites believers, pastors and laypeople alike, to join Platt’s journey to resdiscover radical abandonment to Christ:
In this book I want to show you that, with the best of intentions, we have actually turned away from Jesus. We have in many areas blindly and unknowingly embraced values and ideas that are common in our culture but are antithetical to the gospel He taught. Here we stand amid an American dream dominated by self-advancement, self-esteem, and self-sufficiency, by individualism, materialism and universalism. Yet I want to show you our desperate need to revisit the words of Jesus, to listen to them, to believe them, and to obey them. We need to return with urgency to a biblical gospel, because the cost of not doing so is great for our lives, our families, and the world around us.
He wants to risk it all, Platt says, “for the sake of more than a billion people today who have yet to even hear the gospel,” as well as for the sake of “twenty-six thousand children who will die today of starvation or a preventable disease” and for “an increasingly marginalized and relatively ineffective church in our culture.” In anticipation of the rest of the book, Platt summarizes his message:
[W]e will together explore the biblical gospel alongside our cultural assumptions with an aim toward embracing Jesus for who he really is, not for who we have created him to be. We will look at the core truth of a God-centered gospel and see how we have manipulated it into a human-centered (and ultimately dissatisfying) message. We will see a purpose for our lives that transcends the country and culture we live in, and we will see our desperate need for his presence to fulfill that purpose in us. We will discover that our meaning is found in community and our life is found in giving ourselves for the sake of others in the church, among the lost, and among the poor. We will evaluate where true security and safety are found in this world, and in the end we will determine not to waste our lives on anything but uncompromising, unconditional abandonment to a gracious, loving Savior who invites us to take radical risk and promises us radical reward.
Ouch and amen.
I am tempted to excerpt the whole book which would then no longer be an excerpt! Instead, I will encourage you: Read this book. You will be encouraged. You will be convicted. I want to live Radical, though I admittedly fall far short. I am grateful for the gospel of grace that reminds me of the sufficiency of Christ.
Wife and mother, Bible teacher and blogger, Lisa loves Jesus, coffee, dark chocolate and, of course, books. Read more of her reflections at Lisa writes….
Lisa thanks publisher Waterbrook Multnomah for the healthy dose of conviction that accompanied the review copy of Radical!