A year ago, David Platt’s Radical came onto the scene and took pretty much everyone by surprise by becoming a New York Times bestseller with its urgent message for Christians to take back their lives and faith from the American Dream. Now, in Radical Together: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God, Platt expands on the message of his first book as he calls Christians to unite around the mission of the church: Making disciples.
After reading Radical, I was left feeling inspired and challenged (see my review here). But the longer I sat with it, the more questions I had. I kept thinking about how Platt’s message would play out within the Church, not just in the life of the individual believer. In many ways, Radical Together answers those questions as he focuses on six ideas:
1. The worst enemy of Christians is good things in the church. We can become so focused on good—even great—things in our churches that we can actually miss out on what God might have for us. The big idea here is being willing to put everything on the table—anything that might hinder us in our mission to spread the gospel in our communities and among the nations. In other words, it’s a call to examine our hearts collectively to see if any of our programs, activities, or even facilities plans risk becoming idols (if they haven’t already). “We must be willing to sacrifice good things in the church in order to experience the great things of God,” Platt writes (p. 3).
2. The gospel that saves us from work saves us to work. We are not saved by our works; “you will never be radical enough” to merit salvation in God’s eyes (p. 23). Yet the Scriptures are clear that in Christ, we were created “for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Put simply, Platt is reminding us that genuine saving faith always produces fruit. “It is our call, not only to preach a gospel of radical grace, but also to portray a life of radical goodness” (p. 36).
3. The Word does the work. Platt relates a disturbing experience of being a part of a worship service where the preacher started off saying “I forgot my Bible.” After explaining how he prayed and wrestled with what God might have to say and nothing came to mind. Therefore, he concluded that, “God simply doesn’t have anything to say to us tonight.” Then he left (see pp. 39-40). What Platt addresses here is our lack of confidence in God’s Word. “God has designed us to depend on his Word to lead his people in ways that are utterly disproportionate to who we are” (p. 44). Yet, because we for some reason lack confidence in it in favor of other means of “attracting” people to church, “we are assuming that God has not given us enough in his Word, and we are acting like he needs us to supplement his communication to his people with our own talks and thoughts every week” (p. 49).
Esteeming God’s Word highly doesn’t mean that you’ll have favor with the world or with other churches, or that there will be instant, explosive results. Instead, it’s a question of trust. Is God’s Word sufficient? Do we believe that God’s Word always accomplishes that which He purposes (Isa. 55:11), and that it “forms and fulfills, motivates and mobilizes, equips and empowers, leads and directs the people of God in the church for the plan of God in the world”?
This was, perhaps the most encouraging chapter for me to read as I’m a part of a church that is often derided as “bibliolaters” simply because we give the Bible proper esteem and preach the Word. But I’ve seen firsthand what can happen from years of faithful preaching, years of careful stewardship of the Word in the example of our pastor. And God is bringing much fruit to bear in our church. It’s a glorious thing!
4. Building the right church depends on using all the wrong people. Simply, people matter. The role of the church is to make disciples, men, women and children who are equipped for gospel and mercy ministry. Programs are good, but they can take people’s attention from their role as Ambassadors for Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:20). “We must not become consumed with ministry activity that neglects making disciples,” Platt writes (p. 80).
5. We are living—and longing—for the end of the world. Platt notes that Matt. 24:14 tells us, “The gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” In other words, Jesus says, “Once every people group has heard the gospel, then I will return.” “Indeed,” Platt writes, ” he is not coming back until all of them have heard” (p. 90). That is a powerful motivator for missions if there ever was one.
One of the things I greatly appreciated in this chapter was Platt addressing a concern I had about his previous book, which seemed to stress global missions at the expense of local (indeed, his language came across rather derisive of the latter). Here he offers a helpful corrective writing, “We and our churches never have to choose between impacting people with the gospel locally or impacting them globally. . . . As we lay down our lives to multiply the gospel in the context of intentional relationships where we live, we are always doing it ultimately for the spread of the gospel way beyond where we live” (p. 100).
6. We are selfless followers of a self-centered God. Finally, Platt reminds us that all of our efforts—everything we do to spread the gospel—is about one thing, and one thing only: the glory of God. Everything we do must center around displaying God’s glory, just as all He does is centered around displaying God’s glory.
This is a much-needed reminder for all of us as it’s a vision we’ve sadly lost in our culture. We’ve tried desperately to make God’s work in creation about us, instead of about Him. And because of it, what we are left with is deeply unsatisfying. ”God exalts God. if this rubs us wrong in any way, we should ask the follow-up question: ‘Who else would we have him exalt?’ For at the very moment God exalts anyone or anything else, he is no longer the God who is worthy of all exaltation. Everything God does, even the salvation of his people, ultimately centers around God, for he is worthy of all praise from all peoples” (p. 114).
In the weeks since reading Radical Together I’ve found myself more encouraged than ever in our church’s ministry (and its network), and having a greater desire to pray for the churches of our city. There are a number of good churches here and, I believe, many have the potential to be explosive in their impact for the gospel. So I’ve been praying that they’ll be mindful to rightly exalt the Word, to set aside good programs that are getting in the way of gospel ministry, for a greater sense of longing for the return of Christ to fuel all of our efforts and to see all of us bear much fruit to the glory of God. Read the book and be encouraged to do likewise.