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.

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January 23, 2010

Francis Chan: If Jesus Had a Church Here, Mine Would Be Bigger

Last summer I came to a shocking realization that I had to share with my wife: If Jesus had a church in Simi Valley, mine would be bigger. People would leave His church to attend mine because I call for an easier commitment. I know better how to cater to people’s desires so they stick around. Jesus was never really good at that. He was the one who said, “He who loves father or mother … son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matt. 10:37 NIV) I’m much more popular than Jesus.

Wow!   This isn’t Francis Chan on some Beatlesque “more popular than Jesus” trip.  It’s an honest look at how we choose a church.   If the people are too fanatical, we dismiss it as cultic and move on.

I remember the first time I attended a church where — right in the middle of each service — they would ask for prayer requests and then break into groups of three or four to pray together for anything from five to ten minutes.   The first time, this was difficult for me.   But I knew I had found a church that would challenge me to the core of my being.

I stayed there two years, and only left because it was too extreme for a girl that I wanted to date.  (Yes, I know; we could debate the wisdom of this…)  Some of the people whom I invited to join me for a service there couldn’t handle more than a single week visit.

We want to commit, at least minimally.  We just don’t always want to be totally sold out.  We don’t want to get in too deep.  We don’t want to be one of those people.

To leaders, Francis Chan goes on to say:

Rarely is there a pastor whose character exceeds his reputation. If I were to ask those closest to you about your relationship with God, what would they say? If I were to ask God the same question, what would He say? If your family, friends, and congregation have better things to say about you than God, it’s because you give them that impression. We do this because we can. God gifted us with an ability to communicate. Too often we use this ability not to convey who we are, but who we want others to think we are.  (italics added)

You can read the whole article, “Public Passion vs. Private Devotion” in context on Catalyst.   (HT: Zach)

Francis Chan is the pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California and the author of Crazy Love and Forgotten God. DVD curriculum is available for both titles.   His third book Fear God releases in July.

About the Blogroll:

This blog has a rather interesting link list in the sidebar.    Blogs mentioned are chosen because they are (a) faith focused and (b) posting regularly.   The doctrinal flavor of the blogs listed is quite varied, but I don’t include blogs that appear to have more “agenda” than content.   Some blogs are listed somewhat permanently, some disappear and return a month later.   Together, they represent almost one third of the bloggers that I have bookmarked in my computer and read regularly.   Some of the blogs appearing in the Wednesday link list end up on this page later on, while others have a key post that I feel is worth mentioning, while at the same time I’m not sure I want to establish them as a link or imply endorsement.  Recommendations are invited.

October 9, 2009

Guest Blogger: Rick Apperson – Waking Up Is Hard To Do

Filed under: Church, guest writer — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:57 am

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I am not a morning person.  Oh, once I’m awake I am good to go, but it takes me a bit to wake up.  I would much rather pull the covers back over my head and sleep for another 30 minutes.  When I do finally step out of bed I head right to the coffee pot.  Only after I have a stiff cup of joe in my hand do I feel ready to tackle the day.  Sometimes even then I want to go back to sleep.

It’s kind of like how I use to be with church.  I wanted to pull the cover back over my head.  I wanted to sleep, fake an illness, anything to get out of attending the Sunday service.  Sometimes I did this even when I was the Pastor!

I was becoming bored to death with the routine.  There just seemed to be no life.  I could close my eyes at most services and walk through the exact order.  Opening prayer: check; worship: check; commercial break for the offering: check; message: check and done by lunch!

Where was the excitement?  Did God mean for church to be boring?  I believe He did not!  Of course part of this goes to our concept of church.  Sadly, too many today still feel like you have church when you attend a building with four walls and go through the motions of a service. I believe church is different.  I believe we — the people —are the church.   But somewhere we exchanged hillside walks with the Savior asking questions back and forth for sitting in pews and listening to someone else tell us how to do “religion”.

I am not attacking the “traditional church”.  I pastor a congregation myself and we have our routines as well (admittedly few), but they are there.  However, I truly believe Jesus came to give us life!  I want a radical faith.  I want relationship with Jesus Christ.  A relationship where we can express doubt, fear, concern and trust!  A relationship where Jesus is our everything and our only thing.  A relationship with highs and lows, good times and bad, where I know that through it all Jesus is still always there.

Are you with me?  Let’s get radical for Christ.  Let’s toss aside our lethargic attempts at religion and embrace the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  Let’s get into the street and touch the sick, the needy and the downtrodden.  Let’s share a message and a life; ours and His!

Rick Apperson and his wife Sarah live in beautiful British Columbia where they work with YWAM (Youth With a Mission) and where Rick pastors Main Street Christian Fellowship in Smithers.   Visit and bookmark Rick’s blog: Just a Thought.

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