Radical by David Platt (who is pastor of a large church in Birmingham, AL and has a doctorate from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary) is a book which, unfortunately, is needed. I say “unfortunately” because Radical is a call to American Christians to follow Jesus with their whole lives, and not to confuse pursuit of the American Dream of wealth, comfort and self-sufficiency with Christian discipleship. If American Christians were radical disciples of Jesus, this book would not be necessary. But there is a widespread collusion among Christians in this country that being a follower of Christ need not be radical. As Platt puts it, “[W]e look around, and everyone else has nice cars, nice homes, and lifestyles characterized by luxuries, so we accept that this must be the norm for Christians. We may get convicted about our way of living when we look at the Bible, but then when we look at one another, we assume it must be okay because everyone else lives this way” (205-6).
There has been such a need for books like this for such a long time that you could almost say there is a genre of “costly discipleship” books: books that insist that following Christ is more of a life-changing commitment than is commonly thought. Platt makes reference to one of the most famous books in this genre, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship, in the opening pages of this book.
These books are valuable, but there is a danger in reading them. The danger is that in reading them we are convicted by how far away from a truly sacrificial life of discipleship we are, and we become paralyzed either by guilt or by not knowing where to begin. Platt is not interested in paralyzing people, and the last chapter of this book is where he really shows a pastoral heart. He urges readers to begin their journey toward radical discipleship by undertaking a one-year experiment involving five components: pray for the entire world; read through the entire Word; sacrifice your money for a specific purpose; spend your time in another context; commit your life to a multiplying community. Honestly, these steps, by themselves, are not all that radical. The point, I think, is to get people to start somewhere. He even says that beginning by spending 2 percent of our time in a different context could lead to giving 98 percent of our time in a different context (203). Platt wants to get Christians on the road to understanding the radical demands – and radical rewards – of following Jesus. I am thankful for this book, and will seek to follow through on some of the commitments that Platt suggests.