Monday, March 21, 2011

What Were We Thinking? Radical Together by David Platt

When I was a kid, hair metal ruled. Van Halen, Poison, Twisted Sister—the bigger the hair, the better. If you wanted to be a rocker in the 1980s, tight denim, a shred guitar and a can of Aqua Net were keys to your success. But, like every fad, hair rock gave way to grunge rock, which in turn gave way to something else. Looking back at the androgynous arena superstars of my childhood, I can’t help but ask, “What were we thinking?”

If David Platt is right, another child of the 1980s, the highly-programmed-seeker-sensitive-attractional-mega-church, is also destined for the “What were we thinking?” bin. In his book, Radical Together, Platt argues that current axioms for reaching the lost are actually counter-productive for building the kingdom of God. Shockingly, pouring money into rock-show-quality worship, holographic preachers, and multi-million-dollar campuses isn’t the best way to spread a message of self-sacrifice, service, and love for our neighbor.

What were we thinking?

In Radical Together, Platt expands on the message of his earlier book and applies it to the church. What Radical was to the individual, Radical Together is to the body. Conventional wisdom says that the keys to a healthy growing church are: superstar preachers, state-of-the-art worship technology, professionals at key leadership positions, targeting specific demographics, and keeping the message as simple as possible. Instead, Platt argues that church programs can distract us from the mission, preaching the Word is key to life-change, ministry should be done by everyone, and the mission is to take the Gospel to all nations.

The gold in Platt’s book is his ability to inspire through stories. From his own church’s ability to trim their budget and give $1.5 million to missions in India, to another church’s decision to meet outside and pass $60,000 in annual savings to God’s kingdom, Platt encourages and motivates churches to be radical for the Gospel. You can’t walk away from this book without being challenged to do something big.

The one weakness I see with Radical Together is Platt’s elevation of the Word as the only means of life-change (to the exclusion of the Spirit). Certainly, the Spirit works through the Word to change lives, but the Spirit also gifts the body to minister to one another in ways other than preaching. After all, “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing?” (1 Corinthians 12:17 ESV) Although he doesn’t say it outright, one gets the feeling that Platt is encouraging churches to cut programs emphasizing incarnational, life-on-life ministry in favor of those that emphasize the preached Word. While not discounting the value of the preached Word, there is also a value to ministries that “merely” involve Christians doing life together.

Hair metal seemed like a good idea at the time. Seriously, it did. So also the seeker-sensitive church seemed like a good idea for a time. But if Radical Together is any indication, church leaders are starting to wake up and return to Jesus’ call to make disciples from all of the nations.

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