Early in the new year, I read David Platt’s new book, “Counter Culture“. I had actually heard about his book Radical but I had never read it, until now.
The best way I can describe this book in a nutshell is from what Jesus said in Luke 9:23: “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'” I think we read that and don’t take it seriously as Evangelical Americans. I think we read that and choose to ignore it. It’s not because we’re bad people (although, we do have wicked hearts) but I think it’s because we’ve been conditioned by a society that is so cultured to the opposition of what Christianity really is, we’ve lost our way a bit. This conditioning is due, in part, to the excessive wealth that being American has come to mean. Even those who live below the poverty line in this country are more wealthy than 60-80% of the world.
David Platt understands this. And he wants you to take up your cross in a specific way. Because we live in a nation that adores the American dream. You are born, you go to school, you go to college, you get a good job, you have a big house and have a mortgage, you have 2 cars, you get married, make some babies, they grow up, you save money for retirement, you retire, and you live out the rest of your days in comfort. Is that really all life is about? What’s even worse, is that really what the Christian life is about?
The short answer is, no. If you really believe that your sphere of influence as a Christian extends to just going to church on Sundays, we need to have a talk. But most American Evangelicals are like this. I have had many conversations with American Evangelicals who don’t think that international missions are useful (how much good are you really going to do in 2 weeks?). I’ve had conversations with American Evangelicals who despise and look down on the poor (they’re just too lazy to get jobs you know). I’ve had conversations with American Evangelicals who would rather spend a ton of money on a new house, a new car, or more gadgets for their growing collection than to give to people in need or for Gospel missions. There is something fundamentally wrong about this.
That is where David Platt is taking you when you read this book. Jesus and the Apostles understood the Great Commission: to go to the whole world (not just your neighborhood or the city that you live in) and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, baptizing them and making disciples. So often we get this impression that international missions are just a certain calling and since you’re not called, you won’t go. That is a lie. The Great Commission is a directive for all peoples who call themselves Christians. So why, as probably the most affluent nation that history has known, do we struggle to support such causes? There are a lot of reasons, but mostly because we have a lot of excuses. We like to be comfortable. We want to buy the newest, greatest iphone for our own pleasure. We want to live a life of luxury in our ivory towers, trying to impress the guy next door with our slick cars and our cool gadgets. The sad statistic is that by the time you finish reading this, around 100 children will die around the world, mostly from preventable diseases. What’s even worse is that many of them have never heard the Gospel. What’s even worse is that you are content to do nothing about it.
There are approximately 1.5 billion people on planet earth who have never heard the Gospel. That is an astronomical number. These are not people who have heard and have rejected the Gospel: these are people who have never heard it at all. That number is cited in Radical but it may be smaller, but the point stands: we, living in the most affluent nation that history has known, are doing relatively little to help the Gospel spread. American Evangelicals are content with their lives; they go to their Church and play their part for being feed, but will rarely help feed those in the most desperate of need. This is the sad narrative of the American dream. And this is what David Platt is trying to help us all realize in this book, “Radical.”
So here are some take-aways that I came up with:
- We need to prioritize international missions. This isn’t optional. This isn’t for those select few who are “called” to the mission field. If you’re a Christian, you need to be involved with international missions. That’s from Jesus, not from me or David Platt. There are two ways that you can help: support missions, or go on missions. If you are a Gospel believing Christian, I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to be involved. This is the spreading of literal “good news” to people who have never heard it before! That should give you all the motivation that you need to get involved. Because without efforts in international missions, that 1.5 billion number will continue to grow. And we are talking about 1.5 billion people who have never heard the Gospel: that does not include the other some 4 billion who have heard but choose not to listen. This should be marked urgent, and the sad fact is that it’s not. So get involved. Use your great wealth to support missions. Actually GO on a mission. Do something but don’t sit around and waste your life on things that are wholly inconsequential in the grand scheme of God’s divine plan.
- We need to prioritize our finances. As Christians, this is a contentious subject. You probably live on one of two extremes (or somewhere in the middle): you either believe that God wants you to be rich so you pray for wealth. Or you probably think God abhors money so you try to be poor. But the fact of the matter is neither of those are true. God does not hate rich people. But how you use your wealth is of great consequence to God. If he has endowed you with a good job and you are well off, use that for His glory. David Platt speaks to the fact that he downgraded his house so that he could support more Gospel centered initiatives. If God has blessed you with your earthly riches, then why wouldn’t you want to give back to further His kingdom? Do something!
- We need to prioritize orphans and the poor. I remember having long talks with JFR and Ron about orphans and they really placed a passion within me for these little guys and girls. So often I think we overlook the symbolism that adoption has: just as we were once adopted into the family of God (Paul even uses that exact terminology to describe our relationship to God), why would we not also, as Christians, literally adopt orphans? Or in my case, perhaps volunteer at orphanages? And what about the poor? What an overlooked class of individuals both in our society and around the world. I agree that we have to be wise in our giving when it comes to the poor, but so often I think we look on the poor with disdain. That’s probably an attitude that needs to change. It’s funny we like to be all about compassion until it’s something we don’t agree with fundamentally. I’m not talking about giving away money unwisely: I’m talking about making efforts to help spread the Gospel and serve people who are less fortunate than you. That could look like serving in a soup kitchen, doing homeless ministry, or starting a homeless church in bigger cities. Start somewhere!
These are things that I’ve thought about a lot over the years. I too, am fed up with cultural American Evangelicalism. And before someone claims that I am a social-gospel advocate, I am certainly not. I am trying to do my part in the Great Commission as I believe we all should be taking part in this. So pick up this book, read it, and do something meaningful with your money, your time, and your energy.