REVIEW: Radical Together Author: David Platt
“How can we in the church best unleash the people of God in the Spirit of God with the Word of God for the glory of God in the world?“
That’s the question David Platt confronts us with in Radical Together. It is a serious question which every pastor, church leader, and Christian should be concerned with. It is a question that has no easy answers. But, it is a question we should seek to answer in every area of our personal lives and in our lives together in the local church. What I enjoyed most about this book is the fact that David Platt never claims to have the answer to “the question,” but he invites us to journey with him and his (now former) church as they sought to find it. I found his arguments compelling, and the personal stories recounting the struggles he and his church have encountered in pursuing a “radical” relationship with God through Christ.
There are also a great many what I would call “success stories” about how members of his church family have bought in and are making life-changing decision to follow Christ in the context of “total abandonment to the global purpose of God.” That phrase “total abandonment to the global purpose of God” may scare people into thinking that Platt believes only foreign missionaries are serving God faithfully. That’s not what he’s saying. What I believe he is saying though is that a church that is totally committed to living out the gospel in its local context will necessarily be committed to living out the gospel in the global context. What we do here affects what we can do there. I agree with Dr. Platt because he merely recounts God’s plan and methodology as we find it in God’s Word.
Platt proposes six ideas which can help govern our decision-making, our structures, and priorities as individuals and churches, and I would say even Associations, Conventions, and Denominations. One of the worst enemies of Christians can be good things in the church. In chapter one Platt discusses how this principle led Brook Hills church to lay everything their church did, from ministries, events to budget items, on the table and ask the question, “Are these the best ways to spend our time, money, and energy to spread the gospel in our neighborhood and in all the nations?” At Brook Hills it led to downsizing what they did and where they spent their money, but has led to greater Gospel impact locally and globally.
The gospel that saves us from work saves us to work. In chapter two Platt discusses how this principle rightly understood compels us to “radical” commitment to Christ. The gospel must be our motivation for commitment to Christ, or we have the wrong motivation. If our primary motivations are guilt or duty, they will not sustain “radical” living. We must understand that we have been loved greatly by God, and our deepest joy is found in displaying that same sacrificial love to others because God loves them.
The Word does the work. In chapter three Platt focuses on the centrality of the Word in the life of the believer, and of the church. The basic building block of disciple-maker is the ability to teach people to obey the Word of God. Many have forgotten this simple, but important element. The Word of God must be taught, believed and lived in the church. Pastors, church leaders and teachers must pray for the Spirit to cause God’s work in His people, and then trust that it will. The kicker to the chapter is this: There is only one thing God has promised to bless, that is the plan for global evangelization given in His Word.
Building the right church depends on using all the wrong people. In chapter four Platt focuses on countering the upside-down model of church growth many churches employ. The prevailing model is for church members to spend their energies inviting people to church so that the “professionals” can share the Gospel with them and then disciple them. Platt proposes the more biblical model of the purpose of worship and church activities is to equip the believers to share the gospel with others so they can lead them to Christ, and to equip the believers how to disciple them to live as followers of Christ. Platt states, “church leaders are intended by God not to plan events but to equip people.” In other words, “Building the right church, then, is dependent on using all the wrong people.” The goal, Platt says, “is always for all of the people of God to be equipped and empowered to lead as many people as possible to Christ.”
We are living-and longing-for the end of the world. In chapter five Platt reminds us that “the end of the age will come when people from every single ethnic group have come to Christ.” He then challenges those who believe that to live as if they believe it by being “intentionally engaged in taking the gospel to unreached people groups.” If we are not intentionally engaged, Platt says, we are in “disobedience to the command of Christ.” Platt quotes G.E. Ladd, “Christ has not yet returned; therefore the task is not yet done.” In this chapter he gave the compelling example of “Brook Hills Bob” and “Brook Hills Baruti” as a reminder to keep balance in our local and global focus. Platt states, “we are going to reach Bob and all kinds of other people in our community. But as they come to Christ, we are going to encourage them to spend their lives spreading the gospel to Baruti.” We are to grow God’s kingdom here for the sake of the nations.
We are selfless followers of a self-centered God. In chapter six Platt concludes by reminding us of God’s self-focus. Of “radical” believers Platt says, “they know they belong to a God who desires, deserves, and demands absolute devotion in their lives and in their churches, and they want to give Him nothing less.” We must continually remind ourselves to foster humility concerning ourselves, but an exalted view of God if we are to live for Him and His purposes.
There is another great feature to this book I truly enjoyed.The discussion guide was helpful for my own personal reflection, but will be a great help as I encourage others to read the book. I look forward to interacting with them and discussing some of the questions as we will be able to communicate to one another how these principles challenge our church.
Conclusion I have appreciated David Platt’s ministry ever since hearing him speak at a youth evangelism conference in Georgia some years back. Since then, I have followed his ministry at Brook Hills Church via the church website. I have listened to many sermons and Secret Church sessions online. In recent years he has burst on the scene as a reluctant “evangelical rock star” being present at the Southern Baptist Convention Pastor’s Conference and Together for the Gospel conferences, both of which I have attended. Needless to say, knowing what I know of Dr. Platt, I trust him and I commend this book to all.