The Upcoming, Exciting, Unusual Event

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On Sunday I announced to the church that on January 8 we host an event we call “Underground Church.” Inspired by the way persecuted Christian meet around the world, and stealing the idea from David Platt’s Radical, we will meet from 6pm to 12am (or longer) with only focus: scripture. We will read and discuss scripture. There will not be games, food, childcare, music, guest speakers, special offerings, videos, workbooks, or anything else. Just people, bibles, and a lot of reading and discussing. If that doesn’t strike you as the least bit interesting, that is alright by me. This is not something to come to just to show your commitment to our church, or because you think you have to attend. However, if you are reading this and thinking, “That might be something good,” then I hope to see you there.

The real question is why?

There are a few possible answers that might come to mind:

A) We will develop a heart for the persecuted church
B) I read it in a popular book and want to imitate a popular pastor/author
C) We need it.

I suppose by calling it “Underground Church” and thinking about the persecuted Christians that hunger for God’s word then we might spur some thought toward those less fortunate. I’m not sure that would be too successful. Maybe for a few hours we’d think about it, but then we’d feel relief as we return to our comforts and freedom. I don’t think pretending to be less fortunate will help. I do however think that praying for the entire world, country by country, might have some heart changing effects, and I encourage you to do so.

It is true that this idea comes directly from David Platt’s Radical. I think this is an amazing book and I encourage everyone to read it. However, that isn’t why we are doing this event. In all honesty, if I were to try to imitate David Platt, I’ve gone pretty far already. He and I both attended the same seminary. He and I both have sons adopted from Kazakhstan. He and I both named said son, Caleb. I am older than David Platt by a few years though. Maybe he’s trying to imitate me? Seriously, the idea of copying famous pastors and books is common among Christians. Experiencing God made us all take long walks with Jesus. Purpose Driven Church had us all write mission statements and compare our churches to baseball fields. So naturally, Radical might have us all hosting uncomfortable, long sessions of Bible reading. It is a fair concern, but no, it isn’t why we are doing this.

The real reason we are doing this is: we need it. Scripture has become little more than a footnote in most churches. Sunday School classes are taught around quarterlies that contain a whole lot of what the author says and only snippets of scripture. Worship favors simplistic music rather than scripture reading. And sadly, many pastors only read a passage of scripture but spend the remaining time stating their opinion or telling stories. Before long, we have entire churches full of people that know the Bible is important but have no idea what it says. It really is time that we get back to understanding scripture. If I could get just a few people to spend some solid time reading scripture, maybe it would start something. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll have a hunger for more. And then maybe, we’ll become a church that not only hungers for God’s word, and not only begins to know God’s word, but begins to share and live out the good news found in God’s word.

It’s a crazy idea but I’m willing to give it a shot.

How about you?

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Book Review: David Platt’s Radical

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“If you read one book this year, read the Bible. If you read two books this year, read Radical.” These were the words of a pastor friend of mine. It was not the first time someone recommended David Platt’s new book to me. I have listened to people talk about how challenging and moving the book is. I have heard it described as “dangerous” and I have listened to people talk of how God used this book to challenge them to huge steps of faith in their lives. I’ve also listened to very uneasy people question why their church suddenly wanted them to read this book. With such a buzz about it, I moved it to the front of the line of my reading list.

Dr. David Platt, pastor of the Church at Brook Hills, has been the envy of many pastors. That is, if pastors can be envious. When he became the pastor of the Church at Brook Hills he made national news as the youngest mega-church pastor. As success for a pastor is measured, Platt has it all. He has notoriety, an effective ministry, invitations to preach at large conferences and conventions, a large congregation to lead, lots of resources to do big ministries, and, unlike the average pastor, it is assumed that he has a large salary to boot. However, in Radical, Platt is quick to deny these things as any measure of success.

In this book, Platt challenges American Christianity with scripture. Where is the justification for spending so much money on luxuries and comfort, when there is a mission field and a clear command to go? These challenges do not come easy. He challenges everything from where money is spent to how the message is presented. Be warned, you may not like what he has to say. The hard part, however, is that he backs up what he has to say with scripture. We eventually must face the question: are we pursuing the American dream or Christ?

When I first began to read this, I wondered if this wasn’t a better book for other mega-churches. I can easily agree that those churches with lots of resources should better use their resources. Myself, on the other hand, I pastor a more average (or maybe smaller) church. Our church averages less than 100 people. We don’t bring in $100,000 in a year. Clearly, it is everything we have to keep things running. That reasoning may work if it were not for one thing. We are not judged according to what others have, or what we have, but the command we’ve been given. Even my church, with our limited resources, must admit that we don’t do all that we can for the mission to which our Lord has sent us.

Thus, Radical is a stinging book at times. It is ripe with stories of Christians that have far less and do far more; that face greater risks, and minister with greater abandon. In the end, I must admit that Platt is right. There is no way to claim to have surrendered our lives to Jesus and still live for ourselves. The book concludes with a challenge: Pray for the entire world, Read the entire Word, Spend time in a different context, Sacrifice your money for a specific purpose, and Commit to a multiplying community. I am praying through what that means for me. I strong recommend that you read this book and pray about the same.