Most Christians are aware of the basic elements of the Christian life. We talk about them all the time, using familiar words like disciple, Bible, church, mission, gospel, Great Commission, sacrifice, serve, worship, gifts and love. But we have often struggled to live out the meaning of those words in a cohesive and practical way that helps us that advance the purposes of God in the world.
In his new book, Radical Together: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God (Multnomah, 2011) David Platt, pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, AL, provides a clear biblical framework that pulls all those pieces together into one glorious and compelling picture of the church’s mission in the world. His previous book, Radical (Multnomah, 2010) urged individual Christians to step out of the quagmire of a faith defined by the American Dream into a costly, risky, life-defining faith shaped by following Christ. This work turns attention to the fact that God’s design is for disciples to live out Christ’s calling together and considers what would happen if an entire faith-family would operate by those same radical convictions.
Platt wants to explore one key question: “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?” In many ways this question explores the basics of the doctrine of the church, digging to clarify the church’s identity, motives and mission actions. This is not written just for pastors, but for any leader or member who wants to see the church fully engage the world with the biblical gospel.
The exploration of the church’s mission is organized around six key ideas that can either promote or derail its effectiveness. First, the worst enemy of Christians is good things in the church. We can spend our lives and resources on religious activity that keeps the church going but has no Kingdom impact. (Read chapter 1 here.) Second, the gospel that saves us from work saves us to work. The true biblical gospel must be applied as both the source and motivating substance of the Christian life. Third, the Word does the work. It’s crucial for the church to trust the Word of God more than our activity to transform people like Jesus. Fourth, building the right church depends on using all the wrong people. Since God has determined to fill ordinary people with His Spirit and use them to fulfill His purposes, it’s important that we focus on building people more than buildings, programs and events. Fifth, we are living and longing for the end of the world. An eternal perspective, including the promise of heaven and the peril of hell laid over the assignment to take the gospel to all people groups, motivates a different sort of living and calls for a different set of priorities at all levels. Finally, we are selfless followers of a self-centered God. We willingly sacrifice and do all things to spread God’s glory. Platt says “We are selfless in that we have died to ourselves. We have lost the right to determine the direction of our lives. Our God is our Lord, our Master and our King. He holds our times in His hands, and he is free to spend our lives however he pleases. And He is self-centered. In His Word, God declares His own glory. God exalts God….Everything God does, even the salvation of His people, ultimately centers around God, for He is worthy of all praise from all peoples.”
This is not plug-and-play church. It is an intense and consuming vision of life that presses our hearts vertically in worship to God and horizontally in gospel-drenched love to reach the peoples around us. It is not just for Sundays. In all of life, we join together in pursuing the adventure of God’s redemptive plan to our last breath.
Platt has a way of communicating that is both convicting and encouraging at the same time. This is no wild-eyed rant or guilt-laden tirade. His calm confidence in God’s Word comes through as he teaches those truths with great clarity. The stories from his experiences in one local church and from various places around the globe stir the reader’s heart and imagination for such ministry in their corner of the world.
This is an important book for the contemporary church that wants to live out the gospel mission of disciple-making Jesus has given His church. No matter the label, no matter how old or young, how traditional or trendy, this book needs to be prayerfully read and carefully considered. It is accessible enough for a wide range of ages, and flexible enough for leadership teams or small groups to use with profit,
David Platt continues to do the Church a service as a prophet, relentlessly and lovingly calling us to live out the gospel we claim, for the glory of the Savior whose name we bear and the everlasting good of the peoples who have yet to encounter Christ’s saving mercy.
(Radical Together will be published on April 19, 2011. A pre-publication copy was provided to me by Multnomah, with no stipulations as to the content of this review.)