Thinking Out Loud

July 3, 2011

Radical Together by David Platt

You can begin reading some of Chapter One of Radical Together here, or click the link at the bottom to open your own .pdf file of the entire chapter. (There’s much more in the preview than what’s here and it’s easier to read!)

Before Mark came to the Church at Brook Hills (the church I
serve), he had spent practically his entire adult life involved in
church programs and serving on church committees. “You name
it, and I did it,” Mark said. “I was on finance teams and personnel
teams. I worked on capital building campaigns and sat in long term
planning sessions. Every week my schedule was filled with
church activity.”

After becoming a part of our faith family,Mark started hearing
people talk about making disciples. That’s when he realized
that, despite all the good things he had done in the church, he
could not name one person outside his family whom he had led
to Christ and who was now walking with Christ and leading others
to Christ.Mark said to me, “David, I have spent my life doing
all the stuff in the church that I thought I was supposed to do.

But I’m realizing that I have missed the most important thing:
making disciples.” At his workplace and in our community, Mark
is now intentionally leading people to Christ and teaching them
to follow him.

The story of Mark’s life as a Christian should frighten us.The
last thing you and I want to do is waste our lives on religious activity
that is devoid of spiritual productivity—being active in the
church but not advancing the kingdom of God.We don’t want to
come to the end of our days on earth only to realize that we have
had little impact on more people going to heaven. Yet if we are not
careful, we will spend our lives doing good things in the church
while we ultimately miss out on the great purpose for which we
were created.

That’s why I say one of the worst enemies of Christians can
be good things in the church.

Of course, some will disagree with my claim. “How can good
things in the church really be one of our worst enemies?” some
might ask. “Sin and Satan are our worst enemies,” they might say.
And they would have a point.  But let me point something out: We
know sin and Satan are our enemies. We know we need to be on
our guard against them. But too often we’re oblivious to the threat
posed by the good things we’re doing. We’ve laid down our
defenses against the way that the good can hinder the best. In this
sense, good things can subtly and effectively become one of our
worst enemies.

As Christians today, you and I can easily deceive ourselves
into thinking that dedication to church programs automatically
equals devotion to kingdom purposes. We can fill our lives and our
churches with good things requiring our resources and good activities demanding our attention that are not ultimately best for the enjoyment of the gospel in our churches and the spread of the
gospel in our communities.

We must be willing to sacrifice good things in the church in
order to experience the great things of God.

continue reading the preview chapter with this link:  .pdf file

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June 3, 2011

Elephant Room Conference: The DVD

If you missed the Woodstock music festival in 1969, you had to wait a full year for the movie; but just weeks after James MacDonald convened the Elephant Room one day seminar which was simulcast to two dozen cities, the DVD is already available for purchase, so we decided to jump in and bought one for ourselves and a couple of extras.

The phrase, “the elephant in the room” is used to denote the thing that is hovering over a discussion, but is never mentioned.   The idea here is that pastors have things they wrestle with that are discussed backstage when they meet up at major events, but are never shared with a larger audience.  The goal was to bring those subjects into open discussion.

The seven pastors were MacDonald, Mark Driscoll, Greg Laurie, Perry Noble, David Platt, Mark Chandler and Steven Furtick who was cast as a bit of a newcomer to this “big league” group.  Actually, Furtick came across very well, presenting some very timely insights into the subjects, and the very nature of the debates themselves.  Topics included:

  • Building numerically versus building depth
  • Responding to culture
  • Compassion and social justice
  • Unity and discernment
  • The multi-site church trend
  • Money issues
  • Loving the doctrine of the gospel but not sharing the gospel

An eighth session dealt with questions that had been texted in during the conference and was actually the most interesting in many ways. 

Over the past few years we’ve seen a growing interest in ecclesiology — the study of what constitutes ‘church’ —  among what would have been traditionally called “the laity.”  Books that would have formerly been written for the exclusive reading of pastors and church staff are now being purchased and discussed by the widest range of Evangelicals, many of whom are forging ahead with startups of home churches or alternative churches.  In a sense, the things the pastors discuss quietly backstage at conferences are being discussed in church lobbies, living rooms and over kitchen tables back home. This DVD set, and the topics it discusses are thereby of interest to everyone.

But it’s not the major takeaway from watching the seminar.

What is most striking is the camaraderie that exists between the pastors themselves.  While they do disagree on some minor points, there is a genuine agreement on the things that matter; what Driscoll well-defines as the difference between national borders (which wars are fought over) and state borders (for which wars are not fought.) 

There were some highlights and lowlights in the video.  One highlight was the overall production quality.  Another was the way they kept the discussion moving, with a moderator and two rotating key opponents followed by a more open forum that allowed the other four pastors to contribute.   Another highlight was seeing that with issues such as multi-site — so much on the minds of people as changes take place quickly — the pastors themselves do not undertake moves lightly, but truly agonize over the ramifications of growth.   A lowlight — and it really has to be said — is the way James MacDonald dominates every discussion, rolling over everyone else like a freight train at times.  I guess it was his party, so he got to call the tune.

I do love the concept, however.  This was a great series of conversations and I would hope that either MacDonald’s crew, or somebody else, would put something like this together this time next year, perhaps with a different mix of pastors and church leaders.  Rather than attempting to describe it further, you can watch a few sample clips here and here

What we call church really matters, and you don’t have to be among the ‘professional’ clergy to care.


Read another review of the conference here.

Link here to an index Trevin Wax provided of participants who live-blogged the event.

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.

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