We’re studying David Platt’s Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream chapter by chapter.
This chapter is about the importance of converting the lost, a task given to each Christian. It’s familiar teaching to anyone who’s been in church for long. The distinctive point Platt makes is that converting the lost goes hand in hand with serving the lost.
The plan of Christ is not dependent on having the right programs or hiring the right professionals but on building and being the right people — a community of people — who realize that we are all enabled and equipped to carry out the purpose of God for our lives. (p. 92)
Platt points out that the basic skills of being a disciple aren’t best taught in the classroom —
In order to teach someone else who to pray, we need to know how to pray. In order to help someone else learn to study the Bible, we need to be active in studying the Bible. But this is the beauty of making disciples. When we take responsibility for helping others grow in Christ, it automatically takes our own relationship with Christ to a new level (pp. 100-101).
Platt asks whether we are receivers or reproducers of God’s word. When we receive God’s word, do we repeat it to others? Do others learn from us?
In our Christian version of the American dream, our plan ends up disinfecting Christians from the world more than discipling Christians in the world. …
Disinfecting Christians from the world involves isolating followers of Christ in a spiritual safe-deposit box called the church building and teaching them to be good. In this strategy, success in the church is defined by how big a building you have to house all the Christians, and the goal is to gather as many people as possible for a couple of hours each week in that place where we are isolated and insulated from the realities of the world around us. …
[D]iscipling Christians involves propelling Christians into the world to risk their lives for the sake of others. Now the world is our focus, and we gauge success in the church not on the hundreds or thousands whom we can get into our buildings but on the hundreds or thousands who are leaving our buildings to take on teh world with the disciples they are making.
Disciple-making thus isn’t an event that happens in the church building, but a way of life that happens wherever Christians are.
So is caring for the poor a serious matter to God?
I’ll not repeat many of the scriptural proofs, as I’ve covered them here many times. Yes, caring for the poor is very, very close to the heart of God.
Platt discusses the account of Jesus and the rich young ruler. He concludes that Jesus doesn’t always require his disciples to sell all that they have, but sometimes he does in fact do this. And Platt asks, if Jesus made that request, would we honor it?
(1Ti 6:6-10 ESV) 6 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
Do we really believe that we can be content with the necessities of life? We see many, many people brought down by the temptations of wealth, and yet we all crave the comforts and security we believe wealth can provide.
So what would happen if we uncovered this blind spot in our lives and began paying attention to those who are in need? What if we took a serious look at them and actually began to adjust our lifestyles for the sake of the gospel among them? What would that look like? (p. 127)
What is we actually set a cap on our lifestyles? What if we got to the point where we could draw a line, saying, “This is enough, and I am giving away everything I have or earn above this line”? (p. 128)
He quotes a missionary friend,
Many of us would say we are even doing things to change the situation [so many having never heard the gospel]. But the truth is, there will continue to be millions and millions of people who do not hear as long as we continue to use spare time and spare money to reach them. Those are two radically different question. “What can we spare?” and “What will it take?” (p. 129)
What might this look like in action.
After studying God’s care for orphans in James 1:27, we decided to ask the Department of Human Resources and take responsibility for making sure they had enough families to care for the needy children in our county.The needed 150 families, and within two weeks, 160 families from our church signed up for foster care and adoption.
Here in Alabama, the foster care and adoption agency associated with the Churches of Christ — AGAPE — can’t find enough Church of Christ families to care for the children that need placement. The state offers them children to place in Christian homes, and they have to turn them down!
Call your local chapter of AGAPE or your state’s department of child welfare. Ask them what their needs are for foster parents. Reflect on how many foster parents are abusive and neglectful of children, taking in children just to get a check. Imagine how the foster care system — and the lives of countless children — would be transformed if the children were placed with loving, Christian parents.