Last week we invited friends home from church to share a pot of soup and a loaf of bread hot out of the bread maker. They left us with a book by David Platt that is being passed around church--Radical; Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. It is easy to read, but hard to put into practice.
Platt challenges the dominant culture and the assumption that living well means being comfortable and having all the toys your neighbors have. He compares his own mega-church and the whole American philosophy that bigger is better with Jesus spending three years with twelve men.
We don’t want to believe that Jesus really meant that we have to abandon everything to follow him. We rationalize. We spiritualize. Platt says, “We are giving in to the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with.
“A nice middle-class, American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have. A Jesus who would not expect us to forsake our closest relationships so that he receives all our affection. A Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts, because, after all, he loves us just the way we are. A Jesus who wants us to be balanced, who wants us to avoid dangerous extremes, and who, for that matter, wants us to avoid danger altogether. A Jesus who brings us comfort and prosperity as we live out our Christian spin on the American dream.” (p. 13)
Of course, that is not the Jesus of the Bible. “Here we stand amid an American dream,” Platt says, “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.” (p.19)
Platt has made numerous trips overseas. He has worshipped with the persecuted church in places he does not name. His passion is for the Kingdom of God in the whole world, and the world will not be reached by self-satisfied Christians sitting comfortably in their padded pews. He is more keen on the value of short-term ministry than I am, but there is no denying its impact on the one who leaves his comfort zone behind. Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote The Cost of Discipleship amidst the horrors of Nazi Germany. Platt challenges us to consider the cost of non discipleship to those who are waiting without Christ, to the poor of the world who don’t share our opportunities, and to us who are wasting our resources instead of storing up treasure in heaven.
As someone who has spent most of my adult life in Africa and Latin America, I was appalled at his story of the pastor who challenged his congregation to give generously to the missionary so he would go overseas instead of their own children. That church has missed out, not only on eternal treasure, but also on the riches of being involved in what God is doing in the world.
In the end Platt challenges his readers to a radical, one-year experiment:
Pray systematically for the world using the book Operation World.
Read through the Bible in a year.
Give financially to a specific purpose, not just missions in general.
Spend time in another context, even if it is only a week.
And commit to a “multiplying community”—a local church.
Some of you readers have been doing these things for years. You will read Radical and go “duh.” But for those who have blithely assumed that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, such an experiment will not fail to be life-changing. God does have a wonderful plan for your life; it just might not be what you were expecting. Do you have the courage to find out?
I was almost finished with this book before I noticed the small emblem on the otherwise unadorned front cover—a house turned upside down. Fitting.