Review of Chapter Five of the Book “RadicalNovember 16, 2011
I warn you as you begin to read this chapter’s review. If you love this book and are reading these reviews because you want me to verify why you love this book, you may need to change your approach. I believe in critical reviews. What that means is the reviewer is looking to analyze everything he reads and to report on both the best points and the lesser points. In this way, we can separate what is possibly divine from what may be very human. This is not to find fault or to become hypercritical, but actually to appreciate even more what has been written. No books contain ALL well-written truth. Some come closer than others. Some books are garbage. Only people with a critical mind can discern what is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:17–19 says “Do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold onto what is good.” With that in mind, on to the review of chapter five.
Synopsis of the Chapter: David Platt discusses the central nature of discipleship in the growth of the church. It is his contention (and it is hard to argue with him about this one) that all Christians should be involved in the process of disciple-making. He notices (as do a thousand other Christian writers) that Jesus’ Great Commission is to make disciples. If I sound a little cynical, it’s because this chapter appears to be thrown together quite carelessly. But we’ll get to that in a second.
Strong Points of the Chapter: As opposed to the last chapter, this one didn’t contain as many good points. He does identify the process by which disciples are made. It is a three-fold journey that includes Going, Baptizing and Teaching. In addition, he shows how the life of Jesus was poured into just 12 men and not into the crowds. Even though he did a lot of miracles in his life, he did not stress these but rather he put all his time into teaching his apostles the meaning behind what he was doing.
Weaker Points in the Chapter: There are seven things I feel this young author needs to address if he looks at this book for a reprint. This chapter will begin to lose people, even those who agree with his central point. This is a yawner at best and considerably annoying at worst. Allow me to enumerate its weaknesses and flaws.
1. Formula Writing: Normally, I don’t care much about the way an author outlines his work. Most authors have a style and a system to how they write. Platt is no beginner (as his Masters Degree in Communications reveals), so he is experienced enough to warrant this criticism. He has followed EXACTLY the same formula for every chapter. Each chapter starts out with a dramatic story of someone overseas who is living radically. Then he returns to us and shows how we are not. Then he gives examples of how people in his church are getting it together. Then he strings together a few loose teachings concerning the topic of the chapter. Then he concludes with another dramatic story. Every chapter except the second one follows this pattern. He needed to mix it up a bit.
2. The “Duh” Factor: I’m sorry for sounding pedantic, but he is writing about the most written about subject in Christianity. No focus has spawned as many books as the making of disciples. Yet, he makes it sound like he just discovered it for us. Books like The Master Plan of Evangelism, Body Life, Where Do We Go From Here, The Divine Conspiracy, The Cost of Discipleship, Transforming Discipleship….etc. all are better written than this chapter. Why did he think we needed to hear this from him? If he was going to write something about discipleship, it needed to have at least one thing few others were saying.
3. Is it a Big Secret that Jesus is Radical? After five chapters, I just had to say this. Christians have read the Gospels for years and all of us notice that Jesus is radical. We also notice the Apostles are radical. But perhaps Platt comes across as the one who discovered this. This reminds me of other recent books that talk about Jesus’ radical nature which have become popular.
4. Where are the Introverts? Though he somewhat corrects this later, the author seems to suggest (by his examples) that radical living amounts to a lot of effort by gregarious believers. There are no quiet, introverted, reflective Christians in this book. Some of his examples have to be introverted, but we are never shown that side of them. This is an example of how some non-fiction authors see other people through the lens of their own personality type. If this isn’t the case with Platt, then he needs to hang out with more reflective believers, or notice them when they do things around him. This is what I appreciate about writers like Ken Gire and Dallas Willard…they can come out of themselves when they write.
5. Where is the Holy Spirit? Though he does mention miracles, he does not emphasize the power of the Spirit as an element of radical living. Yet, one of the most radical things Jesus did was to submit his life to the leading, power and guidance of the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit means we do not have our life planned out ahead of us. So far in the book, we have only seen small glimpses of the third member of the Trinity.
6. Are All Radical Things so Conservative? Jesus was not just religiously radical, he also was socially radical. He challenged the status quo of how his national leaders treated the common person. Other than feeding the poor, Platt’s radical approach is mostly preaching. There is serious lack of social justice. Chapter seven does seek to balance this, but most of his radical approaches to justice are decidedly conservative.
7. Stories are Not Fleshed out: This is another example of me being picky about style, but most of his stories in this chapter are caricatures. He does not afford us enough scrutiny on the deeper elements of these people’s lives. As a person who wants to know what motivates people (especially if I want to live radically) I need to see the examples as real people. The more radical the proposal, the more we need to recognize how a particular person lives out the truth. Therefore, we would be better off with one story, well told, instead of eight stories presented shotgun-method.
What I am taking away from this Chapter: Perhaps the most radical thing we can do as a follower of Christ is to make disciples effectively. I think I will go read Ralph Neighbor’s “Where Do We Go From Here” again.