Radical…

Have you read the book called, Radical, by David Platt? Honestly, it didn’t seem very “radical” to me till about 2/3 of the way through. But when he started talking about a simple lifestyle, the church’s opulence, and living dangerously – he had me! Here are some excerpts from the book and a few of my own thoughts (mostly just “Amens”).

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He tells about how he spoke at an Indonesian Bible College graduation. In order to graduate, each student had to plant a church of 30 newly-saved baptized people!

What a colossal idea! Don’t get me started on how we’ve been training spiritual leaders in this country for such a long time. I recently asked a professor of theology at Dallas Theological Seminary (no knock on the school at all) about what percentage of their graduates actually go out to live lives of service. He didn’t have a figure, but he didn’t think it was nearly half!

Anyway, back to Platt. The graduates on this particular day were a bit somber because two of their number had already been martyred for their faith before they had a chance to graduate! (Enough said!)

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I like his description of the modern consumer-based church. He says it’s run by Performances, Personalities, Programs, and ProfessionalsThe words I use to describe the same condition are: Buildings, Bureaucracies, and Budgets! (I don’t remember, but I might’ve stolen this from Neil Cole.)

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He also says the modern church is like a “safe-deposit box.”

My assumption is that you put stuff in it to keep it safe, and don’t bring it out unless there’s a special occasion! (Sorry, Church, we gotta be better!)

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He says, “We gather at a building to learn to be good. Being good is defined by what we avoid in the world. (We may be the only organization defining success by what we don’t do.) We live decent lives in decent homes with decent jobs and decent families as decent citizens.”

[Yeah, God’s gotta have a bigger plan than that, right?]

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This one will work you over, so brace yourself!

“We look back on slave-owning churchgoers of 150 years ago and ask, ‘How could they have treated their fellow human beings that way?’ I wonder if followers of Christ 150 years from now will look back at us today and ask, ‘How could they live in such big houses? How could they drive such nice cars and wear such nice clothes? How could they lives in such affluence while thousands of children were dying because they didn’t have food and water? How could they go on with their lives as though the billions of poor didn’t even exist?’”

I warned you!

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“We gather in a multi-million dollar buildings with millions of dollars in vehicles parked outside. We leave worship to spend thousands of dollars on lunch before returning to hundreds of millions of dollars worth of homes… Every year in the U.S. we spend more than $10 billion on church buildings. The amount of real estate owned by the institutional church is worth over $230 billion… We wastefully consume our time and money when God has called us to be people who spend our lives for the sake of his glory among the needy outside our gates…”

I’m glad he said this and not me! Come on, is he right or is he right?!

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He quotes Jesus:  “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” And then he says, “Just imagine the people that the disciples were going to encounter:  the diseased, the dying, the despised, and the dangerous. Not exactly the most appealing group to be around.”

What a great point! We usually focus on the miraculous, but in order to heal the sick we gotta be around sick people; to heal lepers we have to have some leprous friends… I wonder if one of the reasons that we see so few miracles in our church is because of our fear to be around those who need the miracles! We tend to want to go to healthy and sterile church, spend our time with healthy and clean people. Hmmm?! I’m just saying.

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Platt makes a point from the Ichthus (the Christian fish symbol) and its origin. It was persecuted Christians in 1st century Rome who drew these on the walls of the catacombs where they hid from their would-be assassins. He says, “How far we have come when we paste this symbol, identified with martyred brothers and sisters in the 1st century, onto the backs of our SUVs and luxury sedans in the 21st century.”

 Brutal!

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He quotes from the journal of Jim Elliot (the martyred missionary to Ecuador):  “So what if the well-fed church in the homeland needs stirring? They have the Scriptures, Moses and the prophets, and a whole lot more. Their condemnation is written on their bankbooks and in the dust on their Bible covers. American believers have sold their lives to the service of Mammon, and God has His rightful way of dealing with those who succumb to the spirit of Laodicea.”

And then he quotes C.T. Studd (a wealthy man who gave up all his wealth to go to Africa to serve the Lord):  “We will have the real Holiness of God, not the sickly stuff of talk and dainty words and pretty thoughts; we will have a Masculine Holiness, one of daring faith and works for the Jesus Christ.”

I really like the phrase:  “Masculine Holiness!”

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Regarding poverty, he says:  “If we make $10,000 / year we are wealthier than 84% of the world, and if we make $50,000 a year we are wealthier than 99% of the world!!!”

Oops! He sounds almost like an “Occupier!”

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“Give liberally, go urgently, and live dangerously!”

If that’s not a good mantra, I don’t know of one!

“At the end of our lives we will not wish we had made more money, acquired more stuff, lived more comfortably, watched more TV, pursued greater retirement…”

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I know that some people take issue with Platt, claiming that his message fosters a legalistic, works-oriented, and human-effort sort of approach to following Jesus. Since I don’t know him, or anything about his ministry outside of this book, I can’t say with certainty whether or not their assessment is accurate. And I have no attachment to him or his church, and therefore have no need to defend him. I do know that you can’t say everything you believe in every message you give or every book you write. The true grace message, if given by itself will usually sound like “cheap grace;” and the prophetic call to full devotion will often be interpreted to be a “salvation by works.” Platt challenges followers of Jesus to discontinue confusing the American Dream with the Christian life. I think my generation of Baby Boomers especially needs to heed his message and make some “radical” changes.

Lord, I pray that you’ll help us be more “radical” in our faith, our hope, and our love! We’re tired of talking about it; we want to try it! We’ve heard enough sermons; and now we want our lives in such a way that they preach! God forgive us for our watered down walk. Empower us to do something that leaves a legacy!

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5 thoughts on “Radical…

  1. Claudia Abegg Guzman

    Thank you Barney for your reflection it truly challenge me and makes my heart go faster. For many years now i have wonder why am i still in the US, but He has see fit for us to remain here and i know is Him so we wait and we try to live for Him were He has us. I am so aware of how much we have, every day i wake up, i know that i am wealthiest than almost everybody that i know in Chile, but you know what, there is no attachement to it….if the Lord will tell us to go to some jungle in LatinAmerica like many friends, i would do it in a minute. This issue has probably been the one that i have wresel with God the most over the years…but in the midst of that He has tought me to draw near Him and to know and be sustained by the fact that He is Our Sovereign loving father…and to freely say …not to me Lord, not to me, but to you be the glory and honor forever… even in my waiting.

    Reply
  2. Gabe Guterres

    I wish you would stop trying to invade my bubble of comfort and voluntary blindness.

    This is exactly why I didn’t like being around Ed Wong. Because these ideas and Ed’s life were so much closer to what following Jesus is supposed to look like than the way I live, it’s beyond humbling to almost the point of being humiliating. I mean, I don’t think anyone ever told me “Jesus died on the cross so your kids can be popular get good SAT scores,” but that idea doesn’t seem to far away from the way we (the American church) practices our faith.

    So thanks, jefe. This is good stuff. And I think it’s pretty cool that God was working on you about some of these ideas even before your season of tumultuous change. I hope you don’t mind if I continue to follow you as you follow Jesus.

    Reply
  3. Mike

    Hey brother! When i read this bood and was discussing the question in a small prayer group if any of us knew anyone that was living radically. I told them about you and how you went through a very hard time in life after pastoring for over 20 years (did not know it was 30!) but now you were living in the Tenderloin district of SF CA and being available to God there. We need examples that will challenge us. Thanks for being one and “just following Jesus”.

    Reply
  4. SUSAN HUFFMAN

    You are still my earthly Shepard dear Barney. God bless you on this Good Friday. Thank you for all your hard work you are still doing. I know it is not easy.
    God’s love and Blessings,
    Susie

    Reply

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