Reader Beware – reading Radical Together by David Platt could be hazardous to your way of living and “doing church!”
I certainly cannot speak for everyone. But for me, this book was captivating, evidenced by the fact that I read the final 80 percent of it last night between 11pm and 1am. I simply could not put it down. At times I was grieved. At other times, I was encouraged. At all times, as a church leader, I was greatly challenged to consider and apply the message.
Simply stated, Platt’s purpose was to “consider what happens – or can happen – when we apply the revolutionary claims and commands of Christ to our communities of faith” (2). He identifies his audience as “believers who are ready to lead, influence, or simply be a part of such a movement in their local church” (2). Platt uses a single question to foster evaluation within local communities of the Body of Christ: “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?” (3)
One of the most refreshing elements of this book is that Platt does not attempt to answer this evaluation question with a specific, practical, one-size-fits-all prescription. In a day where many books relating to local church ministry take the “this specific thing worked in my church, you should do it in yours” approach, Platt is faithful to follow his own counsel. He sets the standard as nothing less than the biblical mandate to glorify God by making disciples of all nations. He then, however, leaves the specific applications of that standard to individual churches in their own contexts, as they seek to obey the Word of God and follow the leadership of the Spirit of God. Platt frequently utilizes examples and testimonies from his particular church context. He is quick to point out, however, that every church need not look the same in its application and implementation of the principles outlined in the book.
The one thing this book will not permit is continuing along your current life and ministry trajectory without critically evaluating that trajectory in light of the purpose and plan of God. Platt forces believers in general and church leaders in particular to take a hard look within. He does this by exposing some overlooked, perhaps even counter-intuitive, principles that, if left unaddressed, will enable churches to continue providing “good” ministry, while, at the same time, failing to have the eternal impact God desires them to have for the building of His kingdom and the demonstration of His glory.
In Chapter 1, Platt demonstrates how “good” ministries in the church can actually hinder the spiritual advancement of both individuals and the church as a whole. Chapter 2 addresses the age-old issue of the relationship between faith and works, but does so in a fresh, contemporary, Gospel-centered manner. Chapter 3 clearly demonstrates the sufficiency of the Word of God for the people of God. As Platt states, “We don’t have to come up with a word from God; we simply have to trust the Word He has already given us. When we do, the Word of God will accomplish the work of God among the people of God” (40).
In Chapter 4, “The Genius of Wrong,” Platt calls church leaders to stop seeing themselves primarily as “ministry” providers and to start seeing themselves as people-equippers, preparing the people of God for, and releasing them out into, Kingdom service for the glory of God. As he puts it, “The plan of God is for every person among the people of God to count for the advancement of the kingdom of God” (75). Chapter 5, based on Matthew 24:14, encourages believers to live for the end of the world. In other words, in light of Jesus’ promise to return after the Gospel has been preached in the whole world, believers today should focus their efforts on proclaiming the Gospel in the areas of the world where the message of Christ has not yet been shared. In Chapter 6, the final chapter, Platt concludes by calling Christ-followers to be “selfless followers of a self-centered God” (123), motivated by a passionate love for the God who loved us first.
After a brief concluding summary, the reader finds a discussion guide in the back of the book that provides the opportunity both for further personal contemplation and for small-group discussion of the book as well.
I would strongly encourage all believers to read this book, carefully and prayerfully. After having done so, read it again. All the while, ask the Spirit of God to provide specific, personal direction for ways in which He wants to make adjustments in your life to align your life with His will and purpose. For church leaders, I would also recommend prayerfully reading this book multiple times, listening to the Spirit’s direction and guidance as you read. I would, however, strongly caution against making broad, sweeping church-wide paradigm shifts too quickly in seeking to apply these truths in your specific ministry context. Read. Pray. Seek the Spirit’s guidance and direction. Then, share these principles from the Word of God with the people of God, asking the Spirit of God to challenge them to make adjustments toward living out the purpose of God for the glory of God.
In conclusion, I would agree with Platt’s heart’s cry: “I want my life and the church I am a part of to count for the mobilization of God’s people and the completion of God’s purpose” (125). I pray that God will use the biblical principles outlined in this book toward accomplishing that end.
FTC Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.