Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Book Review: "Radical Together" -- the wrong people, the right gospel

Author: David Platt, 2011. (Waterbrook Press)

Even smaller than his first book (this one is just under 150 pages without the study guide), Platt's sequel is no less thought-provoking even if it repeats several of the themes of his earlier book. Where "Radical" focused on the problems with American culture, "Radical Together" focuses on the problems within the American church. His purpose in this book is to unite the church, meaning the lay people, around a gospel-centered vision.

The six short chapters, each with a sub-heading, are as follows:
  1. Tyranny of the Good: the worst enemy of Christians is good things in the church
  2. The Gospel Misunderstood: the gospel that saves us from work save us to work
  3. God is saying something: the Word does the work
  4. The Genius of Wrong: building the right church depends on using all the wrong people
  5. Our Unmistakeable Task: we are living -- and longing -- for the end of the world
  6. The God who exalts God: we are selfless followers of a self-centered God
Like his earlier book, Pastor Platt weaves together compelling stories from his own life and that of his faith-community at Brooks Hill in Birmingham, Alabama, to craft an easy read. And like "Radical" the speed and slimness of the book belies the challenge within its pages.

Two chapters stood out for me. The first focuses on cutting the good to emphasize the greater. He tells of how his church slashed their budget, not because of tough times, but to spend their savings on spiritual needs around the globe instead of staffing needs within their church. Downsizing for the betterment of the world. How often we hear of budget cuts to line the pockets of corporate shareholders. Here Platt tells of budget cuts (of over $1.5 million) to serve impoverished churches in India and elsewhere around the world. These are not shareholders; these are sinners in need of grace, expressed in this case through the generosity of a gospel-driven church in North America.

The other chapter that stood out, chapter four, is centered on the people within the church, the wrong people. Platt argues that we should focus on building our people, not the places, or the programs, or the performances; not even the professionals, who seem to be the right people. Rather, we must "unleash people to maximize the ministry opportunities God has already planned and created for them," refering to Eph. 2:10 ("For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do"). He underscores this idea: "the key in all of this is an intense desire and intentional effort to make every one of our lives count for the multiplication of the gospel in the world." We who sit in the pews are the wrong people according to church marketeers, but as we depend on God's power we can be the right people to bring Jesus to our next-door neighbors, our coworkers or the unwitnessed people groups around the world. Are we ready to be radical together with the other members of our church?

Note: I received a free copy from Waterbrook Publishing but was not influenced to provide a positive review.

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