Book Review: "Radical" by David Platt
Have you ever taken an objective observation of the average Protestant church in America and then read how the early Church functioned in the book of Acts? It does not take too long to figure out there are a lot more contrasts than comparisons. In his book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, David Platt explores how modern day Christianity has diluted the cause of Christ by intertwining the spirit of American self-reliance with the gospel call.
Since the country's founding, the promise of success has lured people from all walks of life to our land. The American dream says that anyone who works hard enough can accomplish anything. Throughout the book's 217 pages, Platt warns of the danger in allowing this philosophy to creep into the church, "We Christians are living out the American dream in the context of our communities of faith. We have convinced ourselves that if we can position our resources and organize our strategies, then in church as in every other sphere of life, we can accomplish anything we set our minds to. But what is strangely lacking in the picture of performances, personalities, programs, and professionals is desperation for the power of God. God's power is at best an add-on to our strategies. I am frightened by the reality that the church I lead can carry on most of our activities smoothly, efficiently, even successfully, never realizing that the Holy Spirit of God is virtually absent from the picture. We can so easily deceive ourselves, mistaking the presence of physical bodies in a crowd for the existence of spiritual life in a community." (page 50)
Platt also discusses how the independent mindset championed in modern America has led to the excessive materialism. The measure of a man is how hard he works and thus how much he produces and earns. This too has crept into the church. We judge success by how many bodies are in the pews, how full the offering plate is, and the size of the buildings. All these distract from the main cause of Christ: reaching lost souls and training disciples.
While Platt's diagnosis of the problem is clear and challenging, I found his solutions to be mundane. Like so many other authors before him, Platt's solution is a five fold challenge of more prayer, more Bible study, more giving, living outside your comfort zone, and building disciples. While I understand and believe in the importance of these solutions, I found them to be typical responses most children can give after spending a year in Sunday school class.
Platt's writing style is a very easy and enjoyable read. His own conviction comes through the pages as he shares personal examples from his own life and church in rejecting the independent materialistic mentality that is so prevalent. Despite the lacking in the end, this book is worth its $14.99 price. I would recommend this book to anyone who desires to turn the church back toward the model found in the book of Acts. There is a small companion book that sums up the message of the book in a brief fifity pages as well as a Bible study featuring eight lessons that correspond with each chapter for small groups.
Jeremy Crittenden is a youth pastor in Florida.