I’m going to begin with a bold statement that I’d make about few books except the Bible itself: Putting into practice the principles taught and illustrated in Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream could change your life and mine. Author and speaker Francis Chan wrote, “I love this book! Please read it.” Senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C., Mark Dever, stated: “My prayer is that it may cause an explosion, shifting many churches from centering wrongly on ourselves to centering rightly on Christ and his agenda for us and the world.”
The strange thing about this book is that David Platt is really not saying anything new. Jesus had said it before him, but it sounds radical because we in our soft American society have normally avoided the implications of the hard teachings of Jesus. We refuse to take them literally and to live them out in our personal lives and in the lives of congregations.
The author, Dr. David Platt, is the lead pastor of the Church at Brook Hills, a four-thousand-member congregation in Birmingham, Alabama. This church describes itself as “a faith family full of world-impacting disciples who really believe that as a church we shake the nations for God’s glory.” (By the way, I’ve just read that Platt was recently named the International Mission Board President for the Southern Baptist Convention.)
The titles of the nine chapters will give you an idea of its contents, but simply looking over this list will fall short of the full impact that reading it and reflecting on it will give:
Ch. 1 Someone worth losing everything for: what radical abandonment to Jesus really means
Ch. 2 Too hungry for words: discovering the truth and beauty of the gospel
Ch. 3 Beginning at the end of ourselves: the importance of relying on God’s power
Ch. 4 The great why of God: God’s global purpose from the beginning till today
Ch. 5 The multiplying community: how all of us join together to fulfill God’s purpose
Ch. 6 How much is enough? American wealth and a world of poverty
Ch. 7 There is no Plan B: why going is urgent, not optional
Ch. 8 Living when dying is gain: the risk and rewards of the radical life
Ch. 9 The radical experiment: one year to a life turned upside down
Platt summarizes his book in the final chapter:
“Throughout this book we have explored a variety of bold claims about our purpose in life that are contained in the gospel yet contradicted by the American dream. Claims such as these: Real success is found in radical sacrifice. Ultimate satisfaction is found not in making much of ourselves, but in making much of God. The purpose of our lives transcends the country and culture in which we live. Meaning is found in community, not individualism; joy is found in generosity, not materialism; and truth is found in Christ, not universalism. Ultimately, Jesus is a reward worth risking everything to know, experience, and enjoy.”
Platt concludes the book with several specific and very doable ways to get started in living out Christ’s teachings. He calls it “the radical experiment: one year to a life turned upside down.” I won’t give away his five proposals for this first year because I want you to read the book. I will just state that if we were to put them into practice for a year, they would have the potential of radically altering our lives. (To learn more about the Radical Experiment you can go to www.radicalexperiment.org.)
Platt does a good job of illustrating the biblical truths he expounds with life stories of people in his congregation, as well as stories of Christ-followers throughout the history of the church. This is a book to read and act upon. It might also be a book that you could use as the basis of discussion in a nine-week adult Sunday School class or Bible study.
I must confess that the biblical teachings in Radical and the stories of real people who have given up the American dream to live sacrificially by faith in needy places for the cause of the Kingdom touched me. Despite having previously lived for a number of years in rural Africa, I’m sorry to admit that in many ways I’ve once again bought into the American dream more than the Kingdom lifestyle that Jesus taught so clearly during His three years of ministry on earth.