Tag Archives: church life

Book review: Radical Together by David Platt

I have read a lot about David Platt’s first bestseller, Radical, so when I saw his latest book, Radical Together, on the list of books to review for booksneeze.com, I jumped at the chance.

Radical Together is meant to explain how to take what David wrote in his first book, Radical, and live them out. To do that David uses a lot of examples by way of illustration, mostly from his mega-church, Brook Hills.

David begins by telling how he and his family ended up at Brook Hills following the devastation wrought by hurricane Katrina. David uses this incident to introduce us to the notion that God sometimes does radical things to get our attention. Like flooding an entire city, destroying lives and property and displacing millions.

For us the flood depicts the radical call of Christ to Christians and the [local] church. When Jesus calls us to abandon everything we have and everything we are, it’s almost as if he is daring us to put ourselves in the flood plain. To put all our lives and all our [local] churches, all our property and all our possessions, all our plans and all our strategies, all our hopes and all our dreams in front of the levee and then ask God to break it. To ask God to sweep away whatever he wants, to leave standing whatever he desires, and to remake our lives and [local] churches according to his will.

David then talks about how he reluctantly came to be the pastor of Brook Hills. He was asked to preach one Sunday and the people there liked him. But he didn’t want to go because he didn’t think he was qualified. David uses this story to express a concept from Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God bible study, that God operates on a mystical plane and that we should expect to find God in whatever it is we don’t want and are (or think we are) wholly unqualified to do.

All of this is in the first chapter where David is describing a problem found in most churches where people are busy but their business is not necessarily geared towards productive ends.

I mostly agree with David’s assessment but he seems to equivocate a lot between church as the body of Christ and church as a particular 501c3 non-profit organization.

At the same time we were studying James, we were going through our church budgeting process. To be honest, I hate budget season. As a pastor, I believe this is when the church comes face to face with hoe prone we are to give our resources to good things while ignoring great need. Christians in North America give, on average, 2.5 percent of their income to their [local] church. Out of that 2.5 percent, churches in North America will give 2 percent of their budgeted monies to needs overseas. In other words, for every hundred dollars a North American Christian earns, he will give five cents through the church to a world with urgent spiritual and physical needs. This does not make sense.

From this David draws the conclusion, which appears to have formed a large part of his previous book, that American Christians are greedy and materialistic. Never mind the fact that Americans out-give all other nations on earth. Unfortunately David seems to think that Christians are required to tithe (exactly how does a charity “earn” anything?) and that local church businesses are the best, if not only, means of giving aid and comfort to the poor. Oh, and we are also told that the people we should be primarily concerned with are the poor in nations other than our own.

From here David begins building his case for what he considers a radical Christian life. Put simply, that life is spent asking the same question Charles Sheldon asked in his book In His Steps, “What Would Jesus Do?”

Throughout Radical Together what struck me the most was how ordinary the message was. While I respect David’s desire to call people to live lives that are more consistent with their stated Christian beliefs, what I kept thinking was how neurotic a person who actually takes David’s (or Sheldon’s for that matter) message seriously.

Through Radical Together it seems like the overall message is to go out and make big changes. That thinking about the problem and are fully planning and, as Jesus said, counting the cost are something we should avoid in favor of, basically, living in the moment.

The only bright part of David’s book was where he brought up and championed the home/small church model. It was refreshing, though somewhat perplexing considering the context, to read a mega-church pastor advocating the employment of all believers equally in the body of Christ and that meeting in a small intimate context is more conducive to the discipleship we are called to practice among the body of Christ.

In the end I wouldn’t recommend Radical Together to anyone to read. If you want to read a “get busy for Jesus” book you would do better to read Sheldon’s classic, In His Steps. Or better yet, throw off the existentialism inherent in the notion that in order to truly follow Christ one needs to be “radical”.

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Prosperity gospel, SBC style

[HT FBC Jax Watchdog]

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Body life: What it means to be a member

Membership is a hotly debated topic in the Christian realm these days.

From the dwindling numbers being posted by all denominations to the lack of apparent commitment being demonstrated by “church members” to their local congregations, it seems everyone is seeking a remedy to the central question of “How do we fix it?”

While these are certainly issues worth exploring, I would like us to step back and examine what it really means to be a member of something. Whether it be our family, the church, or a state/nation, we can’t escape the reality that we live and function as members of entities that are larger than ourselves with others we often don’t see eye-to-eye with which inevitably produces friction, hurt feelings, and strife.

Having strong opinions and a penchant for debating and arguing1 and because of that I am often presented with passages such as Titus 3:9-11 and 1 Peter 3:8 by those who want to make the case that I am being divisive and harming the unity of the body of Christ. However I don’t think that these differences in points of view that naturally arise since we are each finite, mortal, broken creatures is the real heart of the problem.

While it is a common stance to view argument and debate, indeed anything that upsets the applecart of an organization such as a local institutional church, I think the greater problem lies not with the division that may be caused by arguments and debate but by our attitudes and assumptions about what it really means to be a member of the body of Christ.

First our assumptions

When we think of “church membership” what immediately comes to mind? For most, what immediate comes to mind is the vague and often ill-defined “membership” they hold in a local organization that often contains “Church” somewhere in it’s name. Unfortunately, this often leads to an us to the erroneous conclusion that the preservation of the organization/institution is the highest good and that, by extension, unity ought to be preserved at all costs.

I’ve heard many pastors preach on unity and how the lack of unity is an indication of a lack of love and/or the presence of God in a congregation. Demonizing anyone who disagrees with anything the leadership decides.

Sadly, there are many congregations (both secular and Christian) that are wholly unified and loving but who lack one fundamental characteristic: Truth.

Truth is worth fighting for

If we stop and ask ourselves which is more desirable, truth without unity or unity without truth, most of us would come to the obvious conclusion that unity devoid of truth is not real unity but rather a sham. It is this reason that moral relativism is not very attractive once the covers are pulled off. It is also why many congregations are unified, but doomed to perpetual infancy in their faith.

Proverbs 18:24 tells us that there is a friend who is closer than a brother. If brothers fight, then I imagine the friend who is closer is willing to fight even harder to make sure we don’t stray from the truth. Remember, it’s the man who has many companions (who don’t value the truth enough to confront their friend) who goes to ruin.

The truth is worth fighting for because it is the only means to a unity that’s worth anything.

Love is messy

If a body is to survive, let alone grow and thrive, it has to account for the differences between it’s members without sacrificing a fundamental commitment to truth. This is far more easily said than done. The reality is that there will be fights, disagreements, and hard feelings.

We are foolish if we think we can avoid such pitfalls of intimacy. However without such risks we have no hope of surviving, much less growing. Our love each other is shown in how we put up with each other, how much we forgive and move on. We judge a biological family to be dysfunctional if it’s members can’t resolve their issues and manage to love each other, at times, in spite of one another. Why would we apply different metrics to any other body?

Love requires truth and truth requires communication. Some times, this communication involves arguments, debates, etc. Instead of fearing them, a healthy body embraces them and manages to work through them.

Healthy bodies don’t run from conflict, they embrace it.

Healthy bodies are stronger for it too.

  1. While I realize that this word often has negative connotations, I don’t believe that the mere act of arguing is inherently wrong but rather the manner in which one goes about arguing and what information (or lack thereof) one uses when arguing. The fact is, arguments are really the only way ideas are communicated. However if this word still disturbs you, I invite you to mentally substitute ‘persuade’ wherever you see argue. []
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