I have a short-list of books that I use in disciple making and mentoring. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream by my friend David Platt is at the top of the list.
In fact, Radical is one of those books that needs to be read by every American or Western Christian, whether Protestant or Catholic, evangelical or liberal.
First, some back story: I first met David Platt when he was a doctoral candidate at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He was the teaching assistant for Dr. Jim Shaddix at the time so he presented a couple of lectures if Dr. Shaddix was absent. We didn’t really know each other then but I remember thinking that he was a gifted teacher.
A few years later I coordinated a conference in New England for college students and young adults and asked David to be our main speaker. It was the most powerful conference I have ever participated in. His messages were humble, challenging, and inspiring and much of the content of this book was already on his heart.
I’m grateful for David’s life and ministry and I hope that if you haven’t already read Radical that you will pick up a copy (along with the follow up book Radical Together).
Rather than do a book review of Radical, I want to share a brief summary of the Radical Experiment which is actually the last chapter in the book.
The Radical Experiment
Radical is a manifesto for American Christians. The subtitle is “Taking back your faith from the American Dream” and the last chapter provides some practical steps that anyone can take to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus. Of course, the five steps in this last chapter are meant to be a starting point to help launch someone onto a path that looks more like obedience to Jesus than self-centeredness. The challenge is to do these five things for one year as a spiritual exercise in obedience.
“I dare you over the next year to…”
1. Pray for the entire world
David writes, “In a world where more than 4.5 billion people are without Christ and more than a billion are on the edge of starvation, we have to begin somewhere.” He recommends a resource my wife and I have used before called Operation World. You can find it on Amazon with a companion CD.
2. Read through the entire Word
This needs no explanation, but I love the stories David tells of traveling to China and Indonesia and elsewhere where people are so hungry for God’s Word that they are willing to risk their lives to come and learn more. David writes, “God has chosen by his matchless grace to give us revelation of himself in his Word. It is the only Book that he has promised to bless by his Spirit to transform you and me into the image of Jesus Christ.” Pick it up and read!
3. Sacrifice your money for a specific purpose
The idea here is not to just give out of our abundance, but to really sacrifice. We have more than we need but it’s all those things we want that keep us from radically giving and sharing with others who are in desperate need (around the world or next door). David asks: “What if you took the next year and set a cap on your lifestyle? What if you sought for the next year to minimize luxuries in your life? This might involve selling present luxuries or withholding the purchase of future luxuries or intentionally sacrificing resources you already have.”
Keep in mind that this challenge is encouraging you to spend your money on something that is gospel-centered, church-focused, and that meets a tangible need.
4. Spend your time in another context
Volunteer weekly at a soup kitchen. Spend a week in a foreign land with a mission team. The point is to get out of your comfort zone and see how others are living their lives. John Ortberg once preached a message where his only point was to “get out of the house!” Allow God to open your eyes to the need around you and spend your time meeting those needs.
5. Commit your life to a multiplying community
This is where the other four challenges converge. This is where you will find accountability. This is where you will find encouragement. We can’t fly solo when we follow Jesus. He didn’t allow his disciples to do that and he isn’t calling any of us to go it alone either. If we are going to follow Christ through radical obedience, then we need others who are committed to the same thing.
The back cover of the book says that Jesus followers would “leave behind security, money, convenience, even family for him. They would abandon everything for the gospel. They would take up their crosses daily… but who do you know who lives like that? Do you?”
By God’s grace, I pray that my life will continue to conform to the image of Jesus and that I will encourage others to live a radical life of obedience.
How about you? Do you live more for the American Dream or for the Kingdom of God? If you have participated in the Radical Experiment, please share your experience in the comments? What books make your short-list?