Thinking Out Loud

June 22, 2010

Radical: It Truly Is

On April 30th I responded here to the sample chapter of David Platt’s Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream, all the while not expecting to be given a copy of the complete book.   On Friday that changed.   I started reading around 3:00 PM Sunday and by 11:00 Monday morning had finished all 216 pages.

Radical truly is.

In the meantime, I thought I had included another mention of David Platt in the link list, but I see instead I e-mailed it to several pastor friends:

At an average of 55 minutes, David Platt’s Sunday morning sermons at the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, are already far longer than those of most pastors. But to Platt, they seem awfully short. He has been struck in his travels by underground Asian house churches that study the Bible together, under the threat of persecution, for as long as 12 hours in one sitting.

He has imported this practice into a biennial event that Brook Hills calls Secret Church. Starting at 6 p.m., Platt preaches for six hours on a single topic, such as a survey of the Old Testament. About 1,000 people, mostly college students and young singles, turned out for the first Secret Church. Since then, other Secret Church topics have included the Atonement and spiritual warfare. It is now so popular the church requires tickets.

“It’s one of my favorite sights as a pastor to look out at 12:30 a.m. and see a room full of 2,500 people, their Bibles open, soaking it in,” Platt says.

Platt believes churches have lowered the bar for biblical and theological literacy by treating it as something for professionals. Equating serious biblical engagement with seminaries rather than the local church has impoverished both institutions, he says. So Brook Hills has launched its own training center for lay leaders and is preparing a one-year training program for church planters, with separate tracks for full-time pastors and bi-vocational ministers. Platt recognizes that smaller churches lack the human and financial resources to offer these programs, but he thinks the principles transfer to churches with only 50 members.

continue reading at Christianity Today

Radical is a book about the state of the American church.    But while it comes close, it isn’t too American to miss out on a larger audience.   Radical is a book about missions.   But it is engaging enough to eclipse the negative stereotypes which cause books of that genre to escape our interest.   Platt keeps it pertinent by including examples of people in his church who have allowed their lives to intersect with the lives of people in the much broader world.  Examples of people not too different from people like us.

Mostly, Radical is about you and me and all that we could be doing that we’re not doing.   He ends with a one-year challenge called “The Radical Experiment.”   Not content to simply write a book review, I decided to check out the sermon where he introduced the experiment in his home church, The Church at Brook Hills, in Birmingham, Alabama.

Platt has a quiet, gentle preaching style and a laid-back southern accent that belies the degree of challenge he is presenting to his hearers. The website Baptist 21 says, “He is a phenomenal preacher of God’s Word, we would probably label him as one of the best and certainly one of the young up and coming preachers in the Southern Baptist Convention. God is blessing his ministry as Brook Hills is growing and sees weekly attendance of over 4,000 people.”

Reading the book however, it is very clear that Platt is not entirely comfortable being the pastor of a ‘megachurch’ of 4,000 people and all its attendant accoutrements.  His frequent and intensive visits overseas mean that he is somewhat of a ‘fish out of water’ in the affluence of his home church.  I am sure there are Sundays where his heart is in another place.   Consequently, he is a liaison between the affluent North American Church, and the persecuted church overseas.

…Every few months, a book is released with a message and significance “for such a time as this.”   Books like this capture the spiritual imagination and present us with new possibilities.   Radical is that book for the summer of 2010.

I want to end this with an endorsement the book received from Russell D. Moore, whose blog is often linked here:

“Sometimes people will commend a book by saying, ‘You won’t want to put it down.’ I can’t say that about this book. You’ll want to put it down, many times. If you’re like me, as you read David Platt’s Radical, you’ll find yourself uncomfortably targeted by the Holy Spirit. You’ll see just how acclimated you are to the American dream. But you’ll find here another Way, one you know to be true, because you’ve heard it before in the words of the Lord Jesus, perhaps most forcefully in the simple call ‘Follow me.’

Read this book. Put it away for a time, if you need to, while your conscience is invaded by the Spirit driving you to repentance. And then pick it up again. After you’re done reading, I think you’ll know better how to pick up your cross and follow Christ for the advancement of the kingdom and the destruction of false dreams.”

A copy of Radical was provided by Augsburg-Fortress Canada, the Canadian distributor for Waterbrook/Multnomah. (Thanks, Norm!) The related booklet, The Radical Question is available for giveaway purposes in packages of ten.

June 19, 2010

Life As We Are Given It

Today’s post is from Jim Thornber, who I linked to here once before, many months ago.  Our blogs actually share the same name.   The post is from June 14th, but if you want to know more, read Jim’s bio page.

This Was NOT In My Plans

Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it…Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility…They were to be trained…to enter the king’s service (Daniel 1:1, 3, 5)

About the time I think my life isn’t going like I planned, I think of Daniel and his three friends. They were well-educated young men who came from successful Israeli families, nobility even, and were handsome and smart. They were the cream of the Jewish crop whose parents carefully planned their careers before they were born. They were well on their way to living the American, no, Israeli dream: Nice job, good home in a decent neighborhood, a quiver of respectable children and a well-tended 401k.

Then King Nebby shows up and ruins their plans. He destroys their town, carries off the golden articles from the Temple, makes eunuchs of the Daniel and the boys (2 Kings 20:18; Isa. 39:7) and carries them to Babylon where they will serve the king until they die, never to see Israel again. And I think, “Well, I may not have everything I ever wanted, but at least I’m not a eunuch in Iraq.”

That was my thoughts a few days ago when I was walking around the hardware store where I work. Here it is, year 2010, and I’m a forty-nine year old bi-vocational pastor of a tiny congregation in a small Midwestern town, working part-time helping people with their plumbing needs. I don’t own a home, my newest car is seven years old and it scares me to think about the size of my savings account. When I was in Bible college, this is not how I saw myself living when I approached the (assumed) halfway point of life.

Do I wish I had more? You bet. I think about some of my friends who have successful careers, lived in the same town for years, have their family close by and don’t worry about money when they retire. They’re close to paying off their house; they can give to their church and to charity, volunteer at the school or hospital and enjoy grilling in the backyard on weekends. My life didn’t go that way. But then, God never promised our life would follow the well considered path of the American dream.

In fact, I think it would really frustrate me to be a Christian living in America if I really bought into the American Dream. But I don’t. I’ve read the book of Ecclesiastes and I believe what the wisest king on earth wrote. After twelve chapters of meaninglessness, Solomon gives us three words of useful advice: Find a good job, find a good spouse, remember God. In other words, live a meaningful existence, share it with someone and keep God in the center. I’ll add one more to the list: Life is not about me.

We can look at Daniel and his buddies and think, “What a waste of such good potential.” Heck, for all I know a few people have said that about me. But this is only true if the life I live is only about me. Daniel’s generation was instrumental in setting up the next generation to return to the land that would eventually produce the true King of Kings. Likewise, my life is instrumental in producing Kingdom people in the next generation, for every knee will bow to God, not Jim, so nothing is really about me. It is all about Him.

No, this is not how I planned it. But if at the evening of my life I can look back and honestly say that I acted justly, loved mercy and walked humbly with my God, I know I will hear Him say, “Well Done.” And that IS the way I planned it.

~Jim Thornber

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