There’s been much discussion in Southern Baptist life in the last year or so about a Great Commission Resurgence-especially the desire of many to see Southern Baptist Convention entities, state Baptist convention entities, and local associations be more effective in fulfilling our Lord’s missionary mandate in Matt. 28:18-20.
This editorial is not about GCR—at least not about the much ballyhooed and critiqued report of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force that will be up for consideration at the SBC annual meeting June 15 in Orlando.
For a month, I’ve been chewing on, mulling over, being convicted by, and pondering a book. If every single Southern Baptist church, every single Southern Baptist pastor—and, perhaps even more importantly—every single Southern Baptist church member carefully considered and even modestly attempted to implement the claims of this book, an incredible Great Commission Resurgence would break-out, no matter what happens in Orlando.
Such is the case with a new book, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, by Southern Baptist pastor David Platt.
Platt’s book is a bracing, at times searing and convicting, and perhaps now and then over-the-top critique of the “American Dream,” especially as that ideal has seeped into the practice of Christianity in our nation. Platt, pastor of a megachurch in Birmingham, Ala. (4,000-member The Church at Brook Hills), has tough words for American Christians—both personally and corporately—who have invested far too many resources on themselves while largely ignoring the spiritual and physical peril of much of the rest of the world, especially the Third World, all because we have bought into the American Dream.
“Jesus actually spurned the things that my church culture said were most important,” Platt writes, noting that he was forced to ask himself, “Was I going to believe Jesus?” and, if so, “Was I going to obey Jesus?”
Platt confesses he is himself on a “journey,” seeking to more faithfully practice the radical discipleship Jesus demands in the gospels, especially in a large, prosperous congregation that enjoys many resources in terms of buildings and budgets.
Concerning Jesus’ teaching in Luke 9:57-62 about three prospective followers who were distracted by the cares of the world, Platt asserts, “Plainly put, a relationship with Jesus requires total, superior, and exclusive devotion.”
Platt communicates the real-life applicability of this kind of discipleship (is there really any other kind?) by telling stories of how people in his church have taken tangible, sacrificial steps to divest themselves of the American Dream in order to get on mission with God. Such stories include selling nice homes, cars, clothing and other material possessions in order to live more simply to make available the resources necessary to help the needy and reach the lost—actions Platt is careful to say he has personally practiced.
The persecuted church—about which Platt movingly tells stories of his personal involvement with—is never far from the author’s concerns.
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