Saturday, February 2, 2013

Book Review: Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream

I have to admit that David Platt's Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream wasn't on my radar, until Nick came home with a found copy. His office has a pile of books that people have finished and have decided to give away. He suggested we read it together.

Diving in, Platt hooked me from page one with his invitation to take a hard look and an honest look. He invites us to take a hard look at what values and ideas have crept into the average American church experience that actually contradict the gospel. We have a choice, to

"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."

Looking at who Jesus claimed to be and what he expected of his followers is nothing new. Many books explore this premise, for example, "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan. The fresh perspective that Platt brings has an topsy-turvy riches to rags edge. Platt began this journey of listening to and obeying Jesus' hard teachings when he had just begun pastoring a large mega-church, when he seemingly had the Dream. Platt also began this journey of listening and obeying not long after he began visiting underground churches in Asia. The differences of how Christ followers were living spurred him on a Bible and lifestyle journey. He's realizing that

"we are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves."

Platt talks a lot in his first chapters about abandonment. He reminds Christians that Jesus is "Someone worth losing everything for." To whom does Jesus send us? To the literally and spiritually starving. How does Jesus send us? At the end of ourselves and totally reliant on the Spirit's power. Platt uses these truths to explore cultural baggage. Our culture tells us that "we can accomplish anything we set our minds to accomplish when we combine ingenuity, imagination, and innovation with skills and hard work." He quotes James Truslow Adams who coined the phrase 'American dream' in 1931. "... a dream in which each man and woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are." There are assumptions in our cultural baggage, and the gospel differs:

"The dangerous assumption we unknowingly accept in the American dream is that our greatest asset is our own ability... The goal of the American dream is to make much of us, and the goal of the gospel is to make much of God... we have an utter inability to accomplish anything of value apart from God."

Platt starts with questions and cultural assumptions. Then, he goes back to scripture to ask, 'What did Jesus have to say?' 'What did Jesus expect of his closest followers, the disciples?' Platt also draws on global Christian experiences to show how others follow Jesus and the cost of discipleship. Ultimately, he challenges us to a 1 year experiment to break free of American church culture assumptions and begin to be a part of what God is already doing in our community here and globally. He spends time explaining what these might look like when lived out.

1. Pray for the entire world;
2. Read through the entire Word;
3. Sacrifice your money for a specific purpose;
4. Spend your time in another context;
5. Commit your life to a multiplying community.

I found it helpful to rephrase these into questions:
1. How can I see all people with God's eyes? Talk with him about the world.
2. How can I know what God likes and how he works? Read his letters to the world.
3. How can I abandon all, to get to the end of 'me' and the totality of God's power? Live on the edge.
4. How can I see others and their needs, if all I see is people I'm comfortable with, or who are like me? Get out of my context.
5. How can this not end up being all about me and my friends? Live in multiplying community.

This book would hit a range of demographics, from teens to empty nesters, from lower middle class to the wealthy. Radical is a person (Jesus) and question (will you obey?) driven book. Luckily he doesn't just rock our world: Platt quotes lots of Scripture to explore more fully; he gives past and present examples of ordinary folks living in extraordinary ways by God's power. Most importantly, the five challenges provide a concrete first path toward abandonment to God and openness to his power. Knowing and experiencing Christ can become our greatest treasure. Jesus is who I want to pursue at 100%.

Nick and I are rethinking where we will live. Initially, we thought, 'Let's rent for 1 year.' Now, we're thinking about buying and staying for 6-10 years. Nope, we're not going overseas, we're thinking carefully about daily choices and how we can be Jesus to the hurting.

Here's the story of Katie Davis, and what reading Jesus' words and following meant for her.

These are my own, unsolicited opinions. I received nothing from the publisher or author.

You can own this book for FREE! I'm giving away my copy and will mail it to you.
Just comment on this post by 7am CST Tuesday February 5th. One person will be chosen randomly.