Radical: Chapter 1, Someone Worth Losing Everything For

David Platt’s book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 52 weeks. Platt is the pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, a megachurch in Birmingham, Alabama, about 1 hour east of my house. The congregation is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, but it’s no traditional Southern Baptist Church.

Over 750,000 copies of the book have been sold, and it’s having a significant influence in many churches, including my own. I started reading it a while back, but never finished (my own fault entirely) – but I know I need to. So I figure that by blogging through it, I’ll get finished.

Here’s the theme of the book (p. 3) –

You and I can continue with business as usual in the Christian life and in the church as a whole, enjoying success based on the standards defined by the culture around us. Or we can take an honest look at the Jesus of the Bible and dare to ask what the consequences might be if we really believed him and really obeyed him.

Platt then cites the many places where Jesus intentionally preaches in a way that drives people away, such as –

(John 6:54-56 ESV)  54 “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”

(Luk 9:57-62 ESV) 57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”  58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”  59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”  60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”  62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Obviously, Jesus attended a different seminary from most preachers. This is not the way to win converts! Unless, of course, you only want deeply committed converts.

Ultimately, Jesus was calling them to abandon themselves. They were leaving certainty for uncertainty, safety for danger, self-preservation for self-denunciation. … Almost all of them would lose their lives because they responded to the invitation. (p. 12)

Platt ponders the state of the contemporary church and concludes –

We are molding Jesus into our image. He is beginning to look a lot like us because, after all, that is whom we are most comfortable with. And the danger now is that when we gather in our church buildings to sing and lift up our hands in worship, we may not actually be worshiping the Jesus of the Bible. Instead we may be worshiping ourselves (p. 13).

Platt next points out that the gospel is a call to treasure. Over and over, Jesus promises “treasure in heaven” to those who follow him. The kingdom is a “treasure in a field.”

The cost of nondiscipleship is profoundly greater for us than the cost of discipleship. For when we abandon the trinkets of this world and respond to the radical invitation of Jesus, we discover the infinite treasure of knowing and experiencing him.

This brings us to the crucial question for every professing or potential follower of Jesus: Do we really believe he is worth abandoning everything for? Do you and I really believe that Jesus is so good, so satisfying, and so rewarding that we will leave all we have and all we own and all we are in order to find our fullness in him? Do you and I believe him enough to obey him and to follow him wherever he leads, even when the crowd in our culture — and maybe in our churches — turn the other way? (pp. 18-19).

You know, Platt puts his finger on one of the toughest questions for a church leader. Churches have budgets, building payments, salaries, and programs, and these require money. No one wants to be the preacher or eldership that runs off so many members that the church closes. We leaders think, what good is it to preach truth if the church closes its doors, good people are laid off, and the land is sold to build condos?

You see, it takes a lot of courage ask the church to actually follow Jesus, because the church just might say no. Of course, they’d never actually say no. Rather they’d just quietly decide to worship somewhere else — some place that carefully affirms what they already believe and how they already live.

(But, you know, I can’t think of any church where that’s actually happened. I know churches that have split or lost vast numbers of members over the instrument or other identity marker of our denominational heritage. But I don’t know any church that fell apart because the preacher preached a truer version of Jesus.)

 

 

 

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About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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10 Responses to Radical: Chapter 1, Someone Worth Losing Everything For

  1. abasnar says:

    You know, Platt puts his finger on one of the toughest questions for a church leader. Churches have budgets, building payments, salaries, and programs, and these require money. No one wants to be the preacher or eldership that runs off so many members that the church closes. We leaders think, what good is it to preach truth if the church closes its doors, good people are laid off, and the land is sold to build condos?

    Could it be that the reason is that we want to prove Jesus wrong? “See, Lord, we can serve both God and Mammon; aren’t you impressed by our building programs (and payments), salaries and the big show we pu on stage?”

    Could it be that Christ would answer: “This is not the church I built on that rock. Come and follow me!”?

    Alexander

  2. Joe Baggett says:

    The ideas in this book have been on my heart for quite some time. We must stop preaching salvation without conversion. As an ex-preacher I know what it means (feels like) when it says that a prophet is without honor in his own home. A recent survey of 500 preachers in the churches of Christ showed that 93% said that did not feel they could preach what they felt convicted in their hearts to preach out of fear for retribution. Hence the prophetic transformative style of preaching is largely absent from our pulpits. But this is the type of believers we have fostered. When something gets too uncomfortable or the preacher says something that is new or different our reaction is not one of patience and self spiritual awareness but of selfishness and immature and shallow spirituality. Since the church is a voluntary organization the consumer culture proliferated by the American dream lends it self to act of leaving rather than the mature act or bearing with one another in love. Bring back the circuit preachers; they will say what they are convicted to say because their next day’s meal is not dependent. Remember the greatest prophets and preachers were all persecuted by the church most were put to death. Will the true heretics please stand up, those who have muddled the gospel with the false god of the American dream; your time is up.

  3. Grizz says:

    Perhaps we have not seen these churches because we were looking for other things to blame their demise upon.?

    Personally, I have seen both kinds of churches … those that took up the cause a la IN HIS STEPS and those that rejected the call and found other, more comforting, places to assemble. When one preaches a radical Jesus (is there any other?), one gets radical results.

    If that surprises us, perhaps we need to take another look at what we have been preaching?

    I thank God for David Platt. May the hem of his garment be enlarged.

    Blessings of radical vision and insight,

    Grizz

  4. Anne says:

    “You know, Platt puts his finger on one of the toughest questions for a church leader. Churches have budgets, building payments, salaries, and programs, and these require money. No one wants to be the preacher or eldership that runs off so many members that the church closes. We leaders think, what good is it to preach truth if the church closes its doors, good people are laid off, and the land is sold to build condos?”

    And that is why I have thought some of our larger churches have all of a sudden decided that instrumental worship isn’t so bad.

  5. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Anne,

    Here we are talking about having the courage to follow Jesus’ commands, and you want to turn the conversation to … instrumental music? In the Churches of Christ, it’s not hard to be a cappella! It is hard, however, to follow the Sermon on the Mount. I mean, there are countless churches that have never once used an instrument in the worship of God. But how many have never once violated the Sermon on the Mount? Indeed, in how many would the preaching of “love your enemies” be unwelcome if the enemies were named?

  6. Anne says:

    I knew when I commented that I would get the response I did that “you want to turn the conversation to…instrumental music?” I’m not trying to turn the conversation to instrumental music, but merely commenting on the quote you had that the author points out on the pressure some leaders feel to change their teaching in order to keep the doors open. I think it is a relevant point and I think you could fill in the blank with some other things as well (like what Abasnar pointed out with some of these huge buildings costing millions of dollars) I have read much of the instrumental music discussions on this blog and in other areas and have read the interviews that you conducted that are contained on the wineskins site and in readings elsewhere. Some of the answers that I have seen in places could be summed up in that “we need it to bring in people who might otherwise not darken our door if we are acapella.” I think that my comment is relevant in the vein of we should be looking at what the Bible says on this (and I think that this site has done an in depth analysis of that) not justifying it with it will bring people through the door and is faithless also and is poor treatment of the word of God. And isn’t that what the author evidently is pointing out? That we shouldn’t be looking for what will tickle people’s ears, but what is true.
    Yes the words in the Sermon on the Mount are very difficult to follow and at first reading the words sound so simplistic and succinct, but the more you study them what profound depth is contained in them.
    I don’t mean to start another IM discussion here and hope that it does not take off in that direction.I don’t think that my comment would absolutely say whether I was pro or con on the issue of IM, but merely pointing out that some have based their actions on rather flimsy reasons and not substantial ones, just as the author points out. We shouldn’t base the message on what will bring the people through the doors. I have not heard of the book, but from some of the quotes above I am interested in reading more and look forward to future posts on the book.

  7. abasnar says:

    Good points. I think there lies a main problem: Many of the church’s decisions today are pragmatic, number oriented, “success”-oriented. Who are the churches we look up to? Yes, the ones with thousands of people attending.

    And had it not been for the fact that the background of this book is – right – a megachurch, it would hardly be noticed. That makes me wonder how they live it out, how can they attract multitudes with an “offensive message”? (meaybe we find some clues at http://www.brookhills.org)

    But be it as it may, there are groups of Christians that are “radical”, and I greatly admire their courage to live nonconformistic Christian lives, from putting the Sermon on The Mount in the center of their lifestyle to defining what modesty in dress means today. Just take a look at their articles in Heartbeat Of The Remnant. Some things are so old and practiced still, maybe even in our neighborhood – but we only listen to the ideas when a megachurch puts out a bestseller. Maybe – only maybe – because they point into the right direction WITHOUT suggesting too radical steps. And we still want to be as “succesful” as they are – so we still come from a pragmatic angle.

    As for the outward appearance of Brook Hills web-Site, I see no difference to other modern churches.. As for their teaching and practice, I need to be there and see it first hand. But I have been at groups of Christians of the other “radical” wing (“Anabaptist revivalists”), and I can read their literature in the context of their lives.

    Alexander

    P.S: Just to make sure: I really liked what you quoted from the book.

  8. Joe Baggett says:

    The “offensive message” is attractive to some. Usually the un-churched and the exasperated churched. There is a degree of pragmatism taught by the bible. It is called “I have become all things to all people that I may them to Christ”. You don’t hear many sermons on this because it flies in the face of much of our theology in the churches of Christ.

  9. Anne says:

    Abasnar, I haven’t bought the book yet, but on Amazon you can read several pages of book and he has an interesting story about a piece of mail he got one day from a large Baptist church touting the new $23 million dollar building and right across from the story a blurb about how $5000 had been raised for the suffering Sudanese people. I, like you, am curious what the conclusions he comes to in this book. I might actually have to break down and buy it!

  10. Grizz says:

    Hi, Joe.

    If you were suggesting an application of “become all things to all people” to the concept of worshipping together and encouraging one another and edifying one another, what would that application be?

    And how, if at all, would it change the way y’all do it where you attend assemblies of saints?

    Just curious to hear nother’s perspective,

    Grizz

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