Radical by David Platt
Do you and I believe Him enough to obey Him and to follow Him wherever He leads, even when the crowds in our culture- and maybe in our churches- turn the other way?
There is no doubt that David Platt came to the Church at Brookhills in Birmingham, Alabama in a radical way. At the age of 26, he had earned a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, Master of Divinity, Master of Theology, and Doctor of Philosophy yet there was one glaring empty omission to his resume – he had never pastored a church. Not a small church, not a medium sized church, and certainly not a mega-church in an affluent suburb of one of the wealthiest counties in the southeast.
David Plat had only been asked to fill in for a couple of weeks while the church leadership could formulate its plan for a traditional pastor search. But seven years later, the people of the Church at Brookhills have known no other leader than the young man God never let leave. When interviewed by Lucky Severson of PBS as to what he attributed for becoming the youngest pastor of a mega-church in America, Platt’s answer was typical of his boyish quiet manner; “Clueless … just clueless.”
Being young is hardly the end of this amazing story. Several years ago Dr. Platt began to rethink the church and the direction he should be leading those who looked to him as their pastor. That reflection turned into a New York Times Bestseller titled, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. Platt calculates that Christian churches in the US spend $10 billion a year on buildings and own property valued at $230 billion. He says too many churches are acting like big corporations, but Brook Hills is now constantly looking for ways trim its budget.
Don’t let the title lead you to confuse what Platt is calling the American church to with a social gospel. Radical has nothing to do with politics (left or right) or a watered down message that cheapens the Gospel. What David Platt is calling Christians to is simply to free themselves of rank materialism so their resources can be used like God wants them to be used. A promo for the book read:
As you read Radical, you’ll discover that this is more than just about digesting a book. This is about an idea – an idea that we were created for far more than a nice, comfortable Christian spin on the American dream. An idea that we were created to follow One who demands radical risk and promises radical reward. An idea that David Platt certainly didn’t come up with, or anyone else in contemporary Christianity, for that matter. It’s an idea that was first expressed in the simple yet radical words from Jesus to his disciples when he said: Follow me.
Platt isn’t advocating that possessions are evil but he does call into question how tied church people have become to those possessions.
And don’t think this is some academic or theoretical treatise to sell a few books. The Church at Brookhills is in the midst of what its leadership calls a Radical Experiment. One of the first things the church did over a year ago was to take its entire surplus fund of $500,000 and give it away in partnerships with churches in India. In the months following the church has trimmed another $1.5 million from its budget and used the savings to build wells, improve education, provide medical care, and share the gospel in impoverished places around the world.
The Radical Experiment isn’t just about money for foreign countries. At least 250 of the church’s members have moved from Birmingham to give at least 3 months to one year of their lives in other parts of the word. Some families like Chuck and Margaret Clark sold their home in the suburbs and moved their children into the inner city. A majority of the church’s members have accepted the challenge to downsize their lives as God leads them.
No one is telling anyone what they have to do. Instead, everyone is simply encouraged to simplify their life and help break the ties of debt and materialism that holds much of the American church in bondage. This is a far cry from the prosperity gospel that has become the battle cry for so many mega-churches in our land.
Americans as a people need to rediscover another part of the American Dream. We need more of what my ancestors had when they loaded an ox cart in 1821 in North Carolina and headed out for what was then called the Great Southwest (i.e. New Augusta, Mississippi). None of them would have made it only as individuals. Every person, from the youngest child to the oldest adult, had to do more than their part. Perhaps what Platt is calling the church to only seems Radical because we have become far too removed from what got us here in the first place.