Is ‘Radical’ really radical? (why David Platt is the new Francis Chan)- my book review here

126 Comments
March 7, 2011

After being bombarded by several friends about this book, I finally broke down and read David Platt’s book ‘Radical’. As you may know, Platt is the Sr. Pastor of a ‘Mega-Church’ called ‘The Church at Brook Hills’ in Birmingham, Alabama. Platt is one of the youngest ‘Mega-Church’ pastors in the country who seeks to, in his own words, “take back our faith from the American Dream”. His book has been causing quite a stir in evangelical circles!

Many people told me to read this book because, in their opinion, he was saying many of the same things that I had been saying about the American Church system. When a friend finally handed me a copy of the book, I figured I should take the time to read it. Wow, let me just say that I am stirred as a result of what I read in the book! This book review will take about 5-10 minutes to read. You should read this review even if you haven’t read Platt’s book. If you simply skim this review however, you will misunderstand me. Let me encourage you to read this whole article carefully.

Before I get too far into this book review, allow me to let the cat out of the bag…

I dislike this book very much!

No, I’m not saying that I dislike this book because it challenged me, or because I didn’t like Platt’s tone. I think he is a good writer and comes across very gracious. I dislike this book because it said many true things about the American church system, yet was built on several completely false understandings.

Now before all you David Platt fans crucify me, let me assure you that I am not making any judgment calls about his heart in a negative way. Actually, I am pretty convinced that David Platt loves the Lord and really desires to serve and bring Jesus Christ glory. His heart and compassion for the poor and marginalized in society is beautiful! I have no issue with him personally.

I resonate with Platt’s heart because I was him. While I was not a pastor of a mega-church in the bible-belt, I was an institutional church pastor for a few years nonetheless. Like Platt, I became disallusioned with the American church system pretty quickly. I desperately wanted to see and experience Christ through the church community that I read about in the New Testament. Like Platt, I went overseas and experienced parts of the church that were glorious and desired that here in America as well.

I came to the same conclusions about the American Church system that Platt did, and like Platt, I even wrote a book about it! I kid you not when I say that except for the stories he used, the book I wrote was almost word for word what Platt wrote in ‘Radical’. It was weird to read such similar thoughts. No, I am not suggesting Platt plagiarized my work because it was never published.

Why was it not published you ask? Well, one reason is because I was not a mega-institution pastor. When you are a pastor of a small or averaged sized institution, you cannot question the system. When you are the pastor of a mega-institution, you can get a pass and say just about anything. As I read ‘Radical’, I thanked the Lord that my work was never published. I would have had to disavow the book!

Before I get into the disagreements that I have with this book however, let me start with some things that I agree with.

I agree with Platt’s assessment of the institution.

Here are some quotes from Platt in chaptert 1 that are brutally honest:

…I was on a collision course with an American church culture where success is defined by bigger crowds, bigger budgets, and bigger buildings. I was now confronted with a startling reality: Jesus actually spurned the things that my church culture said were most important.

Wow, what a statement! This next quote was Platt’s reaction to a Baptist newspaper that had two unrelated articles printed side by side. One article was celebrating the opening of a $23 million church facility, and the next article was celebrating how much money was sent overseas to Sudan. Here is Platt’s reaction:

Twenty-three million dollars for an elaborate sanctuary and five thousand dollars for hundreds of thousands of starving men, women, and children, most of whom were dying apart from faith in Christ. Where have we gone wrong? How did we get to the place where this is tolerable?

I applaud Platt’s questioning of this reality. Such is the reality of the institutional church world. I am convinced that, like Platt, more people need to question this system. Here is where I found Platt’s book severely lacking however. Platt does not seem to know the answer to the question he is asking regarding how we, as a church culture, got to this pathetic place. He seems to think that a lack of discipleship and obedience by people who claim to be followers of Christ is the real reason why the American church system is in the mess it is in. Basically speaking, he is blaming people.

Let me cut Platt some slack. He is on a journey and he even says in the book that there is much that he still has to learn. I respect that, and I resonate with him. With that said, let me illustrate here the three major untruths that this book is built upon.

Misunderstanding #1- Platt Still Sees The Institutional Church System As Legitimate

While Platt questions the response of the church system regarding elaborate buildings and a lack of compassion for the poor, he never questions the existence of the institutional church system itself. He does not seem to understand that the institutional system he is openly questioning is actually built upon two unbiblical things:

1. An Old testament temple mentality

2. An unbiblical clergy / laity divide.

I actually wrote about this in response to Francis Chan’s recent message about the American church at a collegiate conference called Passion 2011. I will not rehash that argument here, but I would strongly suggest that you read that article by clicking here.

I agree with Platt’s assessment in the first section of the book when he says that you can’t share the life of Christ with the masses.  My question for him is this: Why is he attempting to do that each and every Sunday in what he is calling church? Why is he beating the church for not looking like Jesus who lived outside the religious institutional box?

Does he not realize that, as a mega-institution Sr. Pastor, he is sitting in a position that keeps the box in existence?  I am in favor of destroying the box and setting the people free. As Francis Chan is currently finding out, it seems that you can call out the current religious system as being unbiblical and still be accepted and loved as long as you don’t leave the ‘system’. As soon as you do, you are seen as unstable, and as someone who has ‘walked off the deep end’. In my opinion, Platt would have more credibility if he followed in Chan’s example. Hopefully He will.

Misunderstanding #2- Platt Does Not Have A Grasp Of What True Repentance Actually Is

Repentance is one of those words that has been hijacked by man’s religious system. According to man’s religious understanding of repentance, the burden is placed on our actions. In order to repent, we are urged to confess our sins and then seek to change our behavior and actions. It is all about ‘obedience’ to what God requires. This understanding of repentance is unbiblical and false. It does not produce freedom, rather more bondage and performance.

I have concluded that David Platt and Francis Chan’s messages resonate with us because, in a sort of a religiously sadistic way, the fleshly religious side of us likes a good ‘beat me, I’ve been bad’ message. Basically speaking, we feel good when we feel ‘bad’.  Our religious flesh has an addiction to ‘conviction’.  We just keep hearing how bad we are, keep attempting to be more obedient, and we never seem to see that part of the problem is the system that is keeping us in bondage to the ‘box’.

Platt does not seem to understand that repentance (which literally means to ‘change your mind’) is a one step process, NOT a two step process! Once your mind truly changes about something, action naturally follows. Those who think you must (1.) have a change of mindset (repentance), and (2.) try to implement a new set of behaviors to go with the new mindset, usually revert back to religion and rules.  

Platt does not seem to understand that the real reason people arn’t living like Christ in the American church system is simply because their minds aren’t changing about who Christ really is.  Christ has not been made manifest to them. Many Americans in the church system know truths and information about Christ, but few know Him and are infatuated with Him.

When we meet the girl or guy of our dreams and fall in love, we don’t have to be convinced to give up our lives, and other lesser loves, for this person of our dreams. Do we have to give up our other lovers? Yes, of course, but it is a joy to leave everything else behind for the one we are in love with! People need a revelation of Jesus Christ in order to fall in love with Him, and Christ is fully manifested and revealed through the church as He designed her according to Ephesians 1:23. This is why our understanding of the church is vitally important.  

By church, the scriptures mean much more than what we see in the institution that is typically called ‘church’ today. One guy standing behind a pulpit beating us to be more obedient will not give us a full revelation of Christ. A group of people giving up things and going out as individuals to do good things (as Platt suggests in his book) will also not give us a revelation of Jesus Christ either.

Please understand what I am saying. True repentance will always produce a change in action and behavior, but true repentance is not a change in behavior. Correct actions and behavior are simply by-products of repentance. If we get this wrong, we simply will revert back to man made attempts at righteousness. Good works may result because of our human attempts to be more ‘obedient’, but it will not be the revelation of Jesus Christ that the creation is actually longing for.

Misunderstanding #3- Platt Does Not Have A Grasp Of What True Biblical Discipleship & Missions Is

Unfortunately, Platt’s misunderstanding of what it means to make disciples is nothing new. It is a common mistake. In his book, Platt repeatedly tells us that we need to simply be obedient to Christ’s commission to make disciples of all the nations. Like Platt, for years I read Matthew 28:18-20 as a command to me individually. I need to make disciples…I need to go to the nations…I need to baptize…I need to teach…I…I…I, etc… I no longer believe this!

Let me explain. If we just read Matthew 28 with an institutional and individualistic frame of mind, and separate it from the rest of the New Testament, then Platt’s understanding of discipleship is correct. If we rid ourselves of our western individualistic mindset and look at this command in the context of the rest of the New Testament, however, we’ll see that Platt’s understanding of making disciples falls way short of what Jesus was actually talking about.

Jesus said that when a disciple is fully trained, he would be like his master. When we talk about making disciples of Christ in all the nations, we are talking about seeing His essence and person manifested in every tribe and tongue. I have a few questions for you:

If someone cloned your big toe, would it be a representation (disciple) of you, or just a part of you?

Do you think that you ‘individually’ are one of the many members of Christ’s body, or do you think that you ‘individually’ are the fullness of Christ’s body?

Does Jesus simply want body parts manifested in every tribe & tongue of the earth, or does He want His full body represented in every tribe and tongue?

Platt’s description and examples of making disciples clearly show his individualistic and institutional mindset. The fundamental mistake that Platt is making is that he is viewing the person of Jesus Christ from a pre-pentecost mindset, not a post-pentecost mindset. When the church was birthed, Christ’s body fundamentally changed. Christ went from being a single individual, to a multi-membered body that could no longer be expressed by any one individual. According to Ephesians 1, the fullness of Christ now resides in His body which is the church made up of many functioning members! Isn’t that amazing?

God is actively advancing one purpose in the world today. He is advancing the image and essence of His Son to all the nations. Here is a statement that I would like for you to dwell on:

A true disciple of Christ is a community, not an individual.

Only a community of fully functioning (not passive) members who are living by Christ’s divine life can adequately contain and promote the fullness of the person of Jesus Christ to the nations. The scriptures describe us, individually, as being ‘living stones’. We have been made alive in Christ. God is not interested in only turning dead stones into living stones however, rather He is building a house out of those living stones according to 1 Pet. 2:5. This house of God (people in Christ, in local areas, operating together as a family unit) is what God is building and assembling.

Like Platt, most institutional Christians and most missionaries are completely ignorant of what this means. Platt sees his current American church culture as unbiblical, so the last thing he wants to do is replicate his current church culture elsewhere. I totally agree.

The answer, however, is not to compel individual Christians to ‘work harder’ or be ‘more obedient’, rather the challenge should be to revisit what a fully functioning local church actually is, and what it means for a local community of believers to abide in the vine and live by the divine life of Christ. Anything short of that is simply more religion. Unfortunately, Platt’s book completely skipped over these essential realities.

Christians who have only experienced life inside the institution are going to have a hard time reproducing the community life of Christ they have never experienced.

Conclusion

While I agree and applaud Platt’s assessment of the broken American evangelical church system, it is my desire that we would not respond by doing more ‘good works’ and trying to be more ‘obedient’. What is greatly needed is a fresh vision of Jesus Christ. T. Austin Sparks said this:

‎You and I, dear friends, individually, and if we belong to a company of the Lord’s people, that company, will only make progress toward that full, ultimate end of God in Christ if we have a spiritual vision of Jesus Christ. Vision is essential to progress.

This vision must include a correct understanding of Christ as Head, and Christ as a body. This vision is not understood, nor practiced, by the institutional church world. In the institution, man is the functional head of the church. There is also no understanding of the body of Christ as a participatory community as well. In the institutional church system, we are treated and function simply as a collection of individuals. A lack of this ‘whole vision of Christ’ is why the institution looks completely different from the church of the New Testament.

While David Platt’s book recognizes that the American Church system is not biblical, this book is completely void of a profound vision of Jesus Christ (Jesus as the Head, & body). We need a fresh vision of Him, and we must not settle for anything less. May the Lord give us all a renewed vision of Christ.

For His bride,

Jamal Jivanjee

Jamal Jivanjee

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126 responses to Is ‘Radical’ really radical? (why David Platt is the new Francis Chan)- my book review here

  1. Jamal,

    Saw your review on FB and gave it a look because the book was suggested this week in our celebrations at NL. I have not personally read the book, but had a few thoughts.

    –I like the idea of true repentance leading to real actions, but just trying harder to do good things does not show that repentance has been experienced. Behavior modification is a scary thing and one that I think happens all to often especially in youth ministry.

    –I enjoyed the question about cloning a big toe. I think too many folks understand discipleship as taking someone and getting them to do things as you do them, when in reality we are not making disciples of “us” but of “Him” and He may choose to form in us something totally different than the person we are “discipling”. Would you say that discipleship, when we are teaching someone to obey the commands of Christ, might look like this: As I encounter a command of Christ through His Word, I prayerfully submit to the Holy Spirits leading in my own life in how I am to obey and THEN tell someone else of what I have learned and what the HS did in me and then encourage that person to do the same “process” of prayerful submission to the HS and see how that command takes effect in his/her life? I know that is not the end all of discipleship, but it is a part and for instance, their submission to loving God with all their heart soul mind and strength might look totally different because their heart, soul, mind and strength are not anything like mine.

    –How do you envision Paul’s command to Timothy to “preach the word”? How does that practically look? My thought is that no matter where you are or when the Word is preached, pulpit or stage or not, people will turn their attention to you and listen for what God is saying. So fundamentally, how is the preaching of the word different in a group of 20 people looking at you standing on carpet than it is being preached in front of 500 behind a podium?

    –Concerning the “vision” of Christ that Sparks says that we all must have: Is that term being used in a figurative way synonymous with understanding or in a literal one where we all must have an experience? I agree that we must have a better understanding of Christ as the Head as well as His body, the church, and wouldn’t you agree that this understanding will only come from a better understanding of God’s Word and then seeing it lived out in the people who make up the church?

    Thanks
    Brett

    • I had one more thing I wrote on paper, so my brain must have told me I already wrote it. Anyway, thinking about the church and “church”, isn’t it safe to say, as Paul did, in 1 Cor 13 that “we know in part and prophecy in part, but when the perfect (which I believe to be speaking of Jesus himself) comes, the partial will pass away” so therefore, we don’t shy away from trying to “get it right” with regards to the church, but we do our best biblically to “be the church” as best we can? We, as long as we are waiting for Christ, will only know in part the full extent of what “the church” truly should be like and then, upon His return, we will truly have a perfect vision of Christ.

      • Brett,

        Brother, thanks so much for reading and adding your comments and questions. I think it is interesting that New Life recommended this book the same time that I just wrote this review. That’s probably not an accident:)

        I agree with you that true repentance has nothing to do with behavior modification. If our mindset has changed, that alone is repentance. Obviously behavior change is an evidence of repentance just like works is an evidence of faith. I think we are on the same page there.

        As far as your thoughts regarding discipleship, I agree with what you are saying regarding not simply making people disciples of us, but of Christ. The problem that I have with your understanding of disciple making, however, is that you are still looking at it from an individualistic perspective. According to Jesus, when a disciple is fully developed, he will be like his master. No one individual can fully express the fullness of Christ, but a community can. The local church is this community. By local church, I do not mean a building, or a meeting in which people watch some people on the stage perform. I am talking about much more than that.

        As far as your question about Paul’s instruction to Timothy is concerned, Paul meant something very beautiful when he told Timothy to preach the Word. The problem with your assumption, Bret, is that most of us read our current institutional experience into the scriptures and assume that Paul was telling Timothy to open His Bible and preach to a passive audience each week in a typical ‘church service’. That couldn’t be further from the truth. First we have to understand what Paul meant by ‘Word’. Remember, the Old Testament scriptures were usually kept in a synagogue and were not readily available for people to take out. Only educated Jewish folks were familiar with them anyway. The gentile churches would not have access to them. The New Testament was not written yet, and Paul’s letters were just starting to be circulated. They did not have them put together, and most were illiterate any way. I am amazed that most Christians are not aware of what scripture says regarding the ‘Word’. Most Christians mistakenly think that the ‘Word’ is a book. Scripture never refers to the ‘Word’ as a book. While the scriptures are inspired words of God, the ‘Word’ of God is a man named Jesus. That is clear. Timothy was being told to preach the revelation of Jesus Christ that Paul was also preaching.

        Also, I am amazed at the number of people who think that Timothy was a local church institutional pastor similar to the way we would envision today. This is a false understanding. Timothy was an extra-local church worker like Paul. He assisted Paul and traveled to different communities laying a foundation of Jesus Christ and strengthening local church communities with this message and revelation of the ‘Word’ which is Jesus Christ. In the scriptures, there are examples of apostolic meetings in which an outside worker would come to a local church community and lay a foundation of Jesus Christ (the Word). He would do this by preaching and teaching. There are examples of this in the scriptures. This was the job of the apostolic worker. The outside worker’s job was to teach them how to function with Christ as the head of the church, and how to operate and function with one another in community. These apostolic meetings were not the regular church meetings however. These were special meetings that the outside workers (like Paul & Timothy) would conduct. The regular week to week church meetings were not led by any one man who would preach to a passive audience. I can give you some scriptural examples of regular church meetings if you’d like. They look nothing like what we would typically experience today in an institutional church setting. There is much confusion today about the differences between apostolic gatherings and regular church gatherings.

        The church was meant to disclose the mystery of Christ to the world. This happens now, not later, although we will see Him clearer when we do see Him face to face. Trying to see Christ through the individualistic lens of the institution is a huge part of the problem. I hope that helps brother:) Thanks for your comments.

      • Jamal,

        Thanks for the response. I know that what Paul told Timothy was to preach Christ, I get that totally, like John 5:39 where Jesus said that all the Law and the Prophets are about him, so we have the written word of God to reveal the living Word, Jesus. So each time we speak God’s words to people, Jesus is the main central theme of it all. I understand Timothy did not have a book per se, although I wonder if the parchments and books that Paul asked Timothy for were used possibly in the same way, as he, along with the part of the “church” body he was near, devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching (pure speculation, I know).

        How is it that we measure “the body” being a disciple as a whole? I want the exact same thing, I think as you are saying in this area. I want each member of the body of Christ to have God reveal to them their gifts, talents, strengths, weaknesses and so on, so that they are functioning members of the entire body so that the body is responding the way that the head tells it to. On some level there has to be individual responsibility as a disciple of Christ to seek out God’s will in those areas, just as Christ himself said, not my will but yours be done. I know that was pre-resurrection and all, but are you trying to take all responsibility off of the individual and saying that spiritual growth in being a discipleship will just miraculously happen with no concentrated, mental individual joining with God?

        I guess I am not clear on what it is you are saying about discipleship other than picturing in my head a row of 100 individuals who float together skydiving out of a huge plane and forming the shape of a body. I do think this is what Christ does for us and puts us into Him. I understand that the church is the fullness of him and the church needs to grow to the full stature of Christ (Eph 1,3, 4). But does that eliminate individual responsibility?

        Respectfully,
        Brett

        • Brett,

          Hey brother, again you have asked some great questions. I would like to refer you to a great article about seeing discipleship from a community perspective as opposed to an individualistic perspective. This is one of the best articles that I have read on the subject. Let me encourage you to print it off and really pour over it. It is a pdf file. It is called ‘Reframing Discipleship’. Here is the link: http://ptmin.org/ministrytoday.pdf

  2. Jamal, that’s a well written and insightful review. It is a book that I have looked at a few times but not bought yet. i was actually just reading an article about it on Relevantmagazine.com. Not having read the book I can’t offer anything new as far as the book goes, but I will say that Platt might be just beginning his journey out of the institutional church system. For the record, I think Francis Chan is too; he’s just further along.

    Platt has been given a vision of sorts in that he has begun to recognize the frail, lifeless church systems that we cultivate in our culture. I totally agree with your statement that he, and almost every other pastor, don’t realize that their very position is one reason the body is malfunctioning and its growth is retarded.

    Realizing your sick beyond your own means to heal is the first step towards going to the doc. So maybe, hopefully, Platt is open to receiving the Lord’s vision and intention for HIS church and will willingly let go of the status he’s achieved at such a young age in favor of God’s passions and purposes.

    • Craig, thanks so much for your comments. I totally agree, and I pray that Platt & Chan continue on this journey. The road will be costly for them, but it will be well worth it. It sounds like you have been down this road as well:) Blessings to you brother:)

  3. Great review, Jamal. I really enjoyed it. I’ve had people rave to me about this book, but my understanding of it is as you have written here. Lots of great points about the failings of the institutional church system, but falling far short on having truly radical conclusions or suggestions. Radical, of course, comes from the Latin for root, and Platt doesn’t seem to get to the root of the problem. The Body of Christ does not need more blame/guilt – they need a revelation of Christ as a real Person Who is the living Head of His Church!

    I really like this: “Our religious flesh has an addiction to ‘conviction’.” So true. A full revelation of Christ and His Church will break this addiction and set the people free.

    • Amen Mark…I have never seen ‘conviction’ as an addiction until recently. It makes sense, however, because it appeals to our flesh much like other fleshly addictions do. You are right, Christ can break all of our addictions!

  4. I’m wondering how building a blog following for giving ones opinions on the current condition of the church is any different than standing in a pulpit once a week to address the same issues. Your pulpits are equally valid. Or equally invalid. Not sure which yet.

    • Mark,
      Hey there, thanks so much for your comment. Here are some differences between blog forums and institutional church services. In most institutional church meetings, you simply take your seat on a chair and listen to what somebody else has to say. You cannot contribute freely. If you are able to contribute in a typical institutional church setting, it is severly limited, and under the headship of the pastor or a group of people who are running the show. You are not free to participate under the headship of Christ Himself. Don’t believe me? Next Sunday, stand up and offer your perspective of Christ during the service. If you have something to share, walk up on the stage and grab the mic. Let me know what happens:) Obviously, this is much different than what happened during New Testament church gatherings. They were fully participatory and Christ (not man) was leading.

      You actually have more freedom to communicate here on this blog than you do in most institutional church settings. That is one major reason why, in the institution, it is hard to ‘stir one another up to love and good deeds’ as the scriptures say.

  5. At the end of the day I would imagine that most of the wrestling that happens with this has to do with money. Who wants to admit that the career that they have worked for years to build isn’t necessary and if they were to follow their convictions and conclusions it would mean they would have to walk away from all of the money, accolades, and personal recognition every sunday, the leadership positions etc… I’m not saying for one moment that the person who wrote the ‘Radical’ book is exactly in this spot – I’m just saying it would be shocking to me if he actually walked away from the business / institutional hierarchy.

    There is way to much at stake for him and quite frankly, it would be difficult for him to achieve the level of success, recognition, and financial stability in the business world. Not saying it will not happen, but it would be a huge paradigm shift.

    • Michael,
      Brother, you hit the nail on the head! Power, money, and fame is a large part of the addiction and pull of the institutional ‘leadership’ idol. It reminds me of the ring from the movie Lord of the rings. If we don’t get rid if it, we cannot be free. It will control us and others, and can be used for evil. That’s probably why Jesus said what He said in Matthew 23:8-12.

  6. I’m reading this book now with a friend, and appreciate what you have to say, especially as I also am leading a faith community and seriously questioning the ‘system’.

    As for Misunderstanding #3, I’ll be curious to hear what you think of Platt’s coming book, Radical Together: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God.

    I highlight these to excerpts in particular from the back of the book, as seen on the Amazon review:
    - “Take the next step. From radical followers of Christ to radical communities of faith.”
    - “How, he asks, might such a vision reshape our priorities as the body of Christ?”

    • Zach,
      Thanks for your comments brother. This should be an interesting read as well. I’m curious to know what Platt thinks the purpose of God is. I think he really missed the mark of what God’s purpose is in this book. Maybe something changed?

      Zach, if you are rethinking the institutional church system, I would strongly suggest a book called ‘Reimagining Church’ by Frank Viola. You will be stunned by the beautiful description of the church outside the institutional system that this book talks about. Trust me, you will be glad you read it.

  7. Thank you for this insightful review! Personally, I will continue to recommend Platt’s book to friends who are very stuck in the “traditional church institution” because of how it made me challenge my own assumptions.

    Yet, I look forward to your book(s) that will address “…..a profound vision of Jesus Christ (Jesus as the Head, & body). We need a fresh vision of Him, and we must not settle for anything less. May the Lord give us all a renewed vision of Christ.” I agree with these assertions and I find that books of this sort greatly help me sort through the application of the teachings of THE book, the Bible. If your book has already been published, please let me know how to access it.

    • Jennifer,

      Thanks so much for your comments. I appreciate you taking the time to read this review. If you are looking for some books that will redirect you to the profound vision of Jesus Christ that is contained in the scriptures, let me suggest two books written by a friend of mine that have greatly helped me. The first book is a book called ‘From Eternity To Here’ and the second book is a book called ‘Reimagining Church’ both written by Frank Viola. I actually did a 3 part book review of ‘From Eternity To Here’ that is posted on this blog site. These are the books that I strongly recommend to those who are stuck in the institutional religious system.

  8. Shay McLaughlin March 8, 2011 at 12:22 am

    YAY! For Misunderstanding # 2!! YES!!!! These are the same conclusions I came to witht he help of the Holy Spirit years ago…and every book I picked up since then to read and further my study has soured…short of learning the pictoral Hewbrew and understanding word usage…all the books I relied upon to ‘pump me up’ for years are just collecting dust on my shelves…a really personal relationship with the Lord sets in mostion a desire to step away from the unsavory…personally examine one’s self and change or entirely stop doing those things which which we know now through the Holy Spirit are not good for us spiritually to engage in. In fact…true repentance LEADS to salvation. The desire for the Worldly becomes physically agonizing to partake in and at the same time gives us compassion for those who–in our churches, especially, are still living behind a constraining veil…this is part of working out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Many times I would look at someone else who is stil imprisioned by altar calls and I’m-only-a-sinner-saved-by grace mentality and bemoans besetting sin–and just shudder. Because I once was what they are–trapped in an institutional lattice-work of what most call ‘church!”
    A friend once told me this and I never understood it till recently: The Church is the only supposedly Godly Institution that still eats their newborns alive by using their own confessions against them and closely scrutinizing them until the guilt or error is to great to bear and they leave–never knowing the REAL transformed life….

    • Shay,

      Thanks for your comments my sister. I always appreciate what you have to say. I know what you mean regarding misunderstanding #2. I never knew the hold this false understanding of repentance had on me until recently. The good news is that the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin & death! Jesus= freedom:)

  9. great review Jamal – very insightful – with some other good comments as well – i havnt read Platt’s book but i heard him speak at First Baptist of Orlando last June & i suspect his short message contained the essence of his book – his passion to see the Church become a less insular & more generous & socially conscious body resonated w/me but it seemed a great irony that he was pastor of a megachurch – i’ve attended a megachurch for the past 18 yrs and in the past year I’ve come to accept the sad fact that its way too much about marketing, big numbers and entertainment – there is more to our faith than just implementing the great commission – God created us in His image and unfortunately we returned the favor.

    • Thanks for your comments. I totally agree. God does not see things the way man does. Man is impressed with building large physical structures and institutions…God is not. While man’s system may think that being a ‘mega-institution’ pastor gives you more credibility and authority, it actually gives you less.

  10. “…where there is no vison the people perish.” May we ALL see Him for Who He is now while it is still called today.

  11. Great review and insights!! Knowing you personally, I would have been surprised to hear you say “I really liked this book!” :) I really tried to read it without considering the fact that he was speaking against something that he is still a part of maintaining. However, I failed to do this. I enjoyed his passion for the church and for missions, but I still saw him as a mega-church pastor.

    To be fair, when comparing him to Chan, I had listened to many of Chan’s podcasts and heard his passion for Christ and the church before I ever read his books. I also realize at the time he wrote those, he was still a pastor of a large passive audience. My prayer is that as the Lord moves in Platt’s ministry that he too will realize, as Chan obviously has, that as some point, he can’t keep serving two masters.

    Always value your comments as the Father continues to put pressure on the sides of the box that contain me.

  12. Jamal, I find this critical review of Radical’s author, David Platt to be one of the most arrogant, harsh, unfounded, and embarrassing reviews I have ever read. I am not one of his “fans”, but I do respect him greatly. Your seeming ‘corner on the truth’ attitude simply repulses me.

    • Joe,
      Brother, I’m not sure what to say to that. Thank you for reading the review. Obviously something touched a cord within you based on your response. I appreciate your honesty. In this book review, I was careful not to attack Platt personally. I never questioned his motives or his heart. I just think his book is built upon some pretty major misunderstandings. Joe, if you wish to disagree with my review of the book, please let me know the specifics of what you disagree with. All I heard in your comment to me was personal attacks. Please afford to me the same respect that I gave to Platt in my review.

      Remember, we’re still brothers:)

    • I think that you must not read book reviews very often, in that case. I make a habit of reading them, especially the negative ones. I’ll confess I often enjoy the negative ones more than I should, perhaps because I’m an author who’s received negative reviews before and I like to know that other people have gotten it worse than me. People really rip into books they don’t like, most of the time, and I don’t just mean non-Christians. If you want to see an example, google reviews of “Real Marriage” by Mark Driscoll.

      All that to say, this is one of the nicest negative reviews I’ve ever read. If I were the author, this is how I would feel: I would be mad. Of course I would. But I would know full well that I didn’t have the right to be, that it was my flesh that was mad, as it always is when anything I do is criticized. And I would get over it, for that reason–and quickly, too, because the tone of the review is so polite.

  13. Joe I couldn’t agree more… makes me sick. Its embarrassingly arrogant and completely self centered. Who do you think you are to bash Gods bride and his people as you stand up on your pedestal of pride and flaunt your “wisdom” about how every church has it wrong. You should really seek some council from the men who you have thrown under the buss. You could use.

    • Tom,

      I will say to you what I said to Joe. In this book review, I was careful not to attack Platt personally. I never questioned his motives or his heart. Remember, there is a difference between a system, and the bride. David Platt is a part of the bride, but a church system and ideology is non-living and should be examined. Do I need some special authority that I do not already have?

      I just think his book is built upon some pretty major misunderstandings. If you wish to disagree with my review of the book, please let me know the specifics of what you disagree with. All I heard in your comment to me was personal attacks. Please afford to me the same respect that I gave to Platt in my review. Blessings:)

  14. You rip the church up one side and down the other, accusing it of not being the bride of Christ and being some “system” that is apparently totally unbiblical and against God. God is absolutely using the churches you speak of (the ones that aren’t Christ’s bride according to you) to accomplish His work in the world. Yes there are blind spots, as David called them, in todays church as is in every believer. What I find so appalling about your write up is while David is desperately trying to change and seek after the heart of God with the flock that God has entrusted unto him, going strongly against the grain of todays world inside and out of the church, you stand back and criticize that body of believers (Gods children) of being some sort of “unbiblical” system that God certainly couldn’t use for His glory. Instead of getting into a specific body of believers and trying to work out these problems and improve on Gods church, you stand on the “street corner” and call everyone else out for what they are doing wrong.

    While Davids church is absolutely and totally a body full of sinners, as is every church, God is absolutely and totally using those churches to accomplish his will in this world. There is never going to be a perfect church while we are away from Christ, but while we are here we are commanded to be in a body of believers. My question to you is who are you to judge another body and call them what you have, while they are seeking after the heart of God and being used by God to give himself glory which is the ultimate goal.
    It seems to me that your doing more harm then good, but thats between you and the Lord.

    • Hey,
      Jesus said the temple would be utterly destroyed, “there shall not be a stone left on a stone, which shall not be DEMOLISHED.’” (Matt. 24:1-2). “God left the building and he wants to live “in temples made without hands” (Acts 17:24). This was seen as not cool. But, “YOU ARE THE TEMPLE OF THE LIVING GOD” “I will be making My home and will be WALKING in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (II Cor. 6:16). God’s house gets around town… :-) in the streets… Isn’t that exciting!!! That’s when the temple ceased, the priesthood officiating at the temple CEASED! Yeah, we know that some ain’t gonna like this… believers under the New Covenant forms a NEW priesthood, “Yet YOU are a chosen race, a ‘ROYAL PRIESTHOOD’…” (I Peter 2:9).

      In the N.T. Paul was NOT shy about people that tried to put Christians back under the Law. He was quick to name names too. This was not judging but he did it because he truly desired that people have a free RELATIONSHIP in Christ. Death to institutions does not equate death to saints as the scriptures have just proved… Actually, it brings LIFE~ He died for people not institutions. When we were on the inside we couldn’t “see” how we were doing this… We did it for 30 years and have major regrets… but not any more… Now that we are on the outside looking in, we can see that we were causing more harm than good with our traditions to those on the OUTSIDE of religious systems. Heaven forbid!
      Now we reach many more without the systems…

    • Tom, I think you just may be making assumptions about me. You said that I am “standing on a street corner” and that I am not in a body of believers working out problems. Really? Who told you that? Where did you get your information?
      Tom, the church is people. I never said that God is not using these people did I? Again that is another assumption you are making. I was commenting on the institutional religious system they are operating in. The church is a living entity. The institution is a system. There is a difference between the two things. See the difference? Maybe you should not make so many assumptions. You know what happens when we assume don’t you?

  15. Yes, yes, yes. We will be conformed to the image of Jesus that we have of Him. Unfortunately, the image the church at large has of Him is not Him! It is largely another Jesus and another Gospel. Therefore, our understanding of the early church and consequently what we are to be is distorted. What we need more than anything is fresh revelation of the Man Yeshua (Jesus), not the unbiblical concepts of “The Christ” (which is entirely detached from Him as the hands-on, look-you-in-the-face Messiah of Israel who walked among people, slept with the guys, ate with them, met their needs and taught them how to become and lead the community of the early church who shared life together so that no one had any needs! Most people’s idea of “The Christ” detaches Him from our humanity. How then would can we allow Yeshua to live through us if we can’t see Him as us – and us as Him. This is not heresy, this is the Gospel. Messiah Yeshua in us, the hope of glory.

    • Amen Lonnie! Thanks so much for your comments. I agree completely. The body of Christ is Christ! We are His very own body. Scripture says that His fullness is found in His body, and that our lives are hidden In Christ. The scriptures say almost 200 times that we are ‘In Christ’. That will do wonders for our identity won’t it?

  16. Hey guys, I read this article yesterday about making disciples from a community perspective, and not an individualistic perspective. It is one of the best that I have read about the subject and it also more fully expresses some of the problems that I have with Platt’s book and his individualistic understanding of ‘making disciples’. Because of the institution, most of us have never been taught what making disciples really means and can look like. Here is the link to the article.

    http://ptmin.org/ministrytoday.pdf

    • I love this article! God is calling His children to an expression of life, worship, discipleship, community… the end is near and I don’t think He would be a loving Dad if He let American churches keep leading as they have. I have learned a lot in “church”, met nice people willing to get together each Sunday, etc. But I have felt for SO long that there HAS to be more than this! There just has to! God is so utterly awesome and worthy of everything: our soul, home, possessions, praise, thoughts, lives… how can singing some planned dongs, listening to a message from a man, the same man, each week, lead us into this true community? I have been having conversations with my husband about these things for years. I am so thankful that our Lord is speaking these truths and giving all of us the same yearnings. Praise Him!

  17. I read this blog/review and did not sense anything too harsh, just honest. To those posting attacks, please read here, http://frankviola.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/an-important-insight-from-president-obama/.

    • Jamal,
      You have to give David Platt kudos for what he is doing. I believe someone commented on your facebook aboutworking through this in his context. The entire new testament was written to the church, to believers in Christ, followers of the Way and it is full of correction, rebuke, and exhortation. This book does that. We didn’t get this way overnight, and to turn this around is like making a 90 degtree turn with a freight train. We don’t know what Davids heart is and what God has and is doing through his life. He has a fairly large platform to do what he is doing, just as Francis had and still does, to a degree. We don’t know waht is happening in the lives of those people who are in that community. Its almost like no mercy here, because they meet in an institutional manner throw everything out, its all rotten. The bottom line is it seems that peoples lives are being changed and they are coming to know Christ as a result. I only assume based on what I have read, like you I presume, because I haven’ sat down with him or anyone from that community to know first hand. The greatest commandment; Love the Lord your God with all you heart, soul, mind and strength and the second, love your neighbor as yourself. That seems to me what David is trying to get those in his community to do.

    • Good words from the president. I agree with him on this one.

  18. Hey,

    Who on here believes that God can raise dry bones? How does that inform what, how and who/Who we debate about?

    Grace and peace,

    Eric

  19. Jamal, read David’s book a while back. Thought your review was right on! Looking forward to see what is going to happen with David Platt. I have been praying for the guy…

    I’ve kinda been watching Paul Washer too… You never know??? Ten Indictments on youtube makes me wonder… He’s hungry for God… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7wzfvYkCW0

    Margaret

  20. Jamal,
    I don’t think I posted this correctly the first time so here it is again, lol.

    You have to give David Platt kudos for what he is doing. I believe someone commented on your facebook aboutworking through this in his context. The entire new testament was written to the church, to believers in Christ, followers of the Way and it is full of correction, rebuke, and exhortation. This book does that. We didn’t get this way overnight, and to turn this around is like making a 90 degtree turn with a freight train. We don’t know what Davids heart is and what God has and is doing through his life. He has a fairly large platform to do what he is doing, just as Francis had and still does, to a degree. We don’t know waht is happening in the lives of those people who are in that community. Its almost like no mercy here, because they meet in an institutional manner throw everything out, its all rotten. The bottom line is it seems that peoples lives are being changed and they are coming to know Christ as a result. I only assume based on what I have read, like you I presume, because I haven’ sat down with him or anyone from that community to know first hand. The greatest commandment; Love the Lord your God with all you heart, soul, mind and strength and the second, love your neighbor as yourself. That seems to me what David is trying to get those in his community to do.

    • Rob, thanks for your post brother. I think the key word you used about Platt is the word ‘trying’. He is ‘trying’ to get his people to respond the right way. The reason is because the system produces something different. Platt recognizes that the American church system is producing an undesired and unbiblical product, I just don’t think he understands that he is ‘trying’ to work within a system that us directly opposed to living out the values that He wants. When Christ is reigning as the head, and we are dwelling in Him, there is no ‘trying’ involved, just life and life’s byproducts. That is what Platt wants, but he is trying to get there in and through the system. That is impossible. You can’t put new wine in old wine skins, or perverted man made ones.

    • Rob, have you read the article called ‘Reframing Discipleship’ that I posted a link to yet? You should really check that out:)

  21. Brandon Bullock March 11, 2011 at 12:52 am

    Jamal,
    This was eye-opening. I have yet to read radical, but having discussed it with many people I can see where this is coming from. I loved the insight and thanks for sharing your thoughts. I can’t wait to talk with you about this more.

    • Brandon,
      Hey brother, thanks for reading the article. I’m glad that you found it to be insightful. I’ve been thinking about you recently. I’ll be in Columbus in April, we should get together for sure and catch up. I want to hear what the Lord is showing you these days:)

  22. Rather than respond in this thread, I think what I wrote in the “Francis Chan’s Talk…” is sufficient.

  23. Jamal asked me to share some of the thoughts that I shared with him in private regarding this post. I haven’t yet read everyone else’s comments, so I apologize if I am re-stating something that has already been said. What I share here is and edited version of what I shared with him more privately.

    1. I appreciate how you express concern in regard to the dangers of saying something is wrong while continuing to be part of perpetuating the problem. Mega-churches that are pastor-centric do not solve the consumer church culture issues. Mega-churches have their strengths and weaknesses, but in a general sense in the United States speaking against consumer culture is not one of their strengths.

    At the same time, it is important that we be where God has called us to be. Sometimes God calls us to remain in the situation that we are in for the purpose of being a voice that can be heard. (God helped us to get to that place in the first place, didn’t He?) For example, God has called me to be in the institutional church for this time period in my life in order to fulfill His calling on my life to be an evangelist. I am part of an institutional church that strives for the unity of the church and in many ways has made this our polar star. As a Christian movement we discovered that we needed to become a recognized institutional denomination in order to gain the respect from other denominations so that we could be a voice for unity amongst them. When we are obedient to answering God’s call to be where God has called us to be we often our blessed by seeing unexpected fruit! Who knew that my being a woman ordained in the Protestant tradition, several doors would be opened for the gospel to be preached among my friends and family members?

    2. I appreciate what you say about myth 2. Here are several different thoughts in response:

    a) I disagree with your statement: “When we meet the girl or guy of our dreams and fall in love, we don’t have to be convinced to give up our lives, and other lesser loves, for this person of our dreams.” This is more true of adolescent romance, than adult romance. Love/marriage as an adult really requires a decision – there is the infatuation stage, but then there is also the choice stage. In many ways I think this is why after a certain age it is so difficult to get married – because we want it to all happen in one swoop like it did when we were teens, and it doesn’t.

    b) I agree, if the Christian community functioned the way it does in the Bible – people would both be attracted to and pushed away from Jesus in a powerful way! I think that Christianity in the U.S. has two aspects – there is our Christian community – this is the family and friends who we maintain Christ-like relationships with and then there is the institutional church – which is where we are challenged intellectually/academically in our thinking and our given the opportunity to worship cooperatively. Institutional church helps us to imagine the descriptions of worship in the book of Revelation, whereas our Christian community helps us to live out service and love as described in Acts 2. There are ways of practicing our faith that we can do best in smaller more vulnerable communities, but there are other ways of expressing our faith that require the gathering and resources of a large number of people.

    c) I agree that repentance is a transformation of the heart – for some this happens instantaneously and for others it is a process. For example, God has been working and growing me in regard to the idea of what it means to be a steward of creation. I am convicted in little ways and am slowly interpreting Scripture in new ways as a result. But I also think God teaches us the way we learn best. Some of us need a knock on the head and a quick transition, for others of us it is as the United Methodists describe the Holy Spirit, a strange warming. And even if our hearts and worldview has been changed by repentance, it doesn’t mean the world around us will allow us to transform immediately. I practice the Sabbath, but as a teenager when I first started the practice I found it difficult because my father expected me to mow the yard specifically on Sunday. It took some time and work to be able to show both my human father and my Heavenly Father respect. Anyways, I like how you point out that repentance is a transformation of how one thinks and believes and the action is the fruit of that repentance. Sometimes though, I think we need to start with the action, because this then helps mold the heart.

    3. Lovely! Growing up in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), I was taught that communion/the Lord’s Supper is communion because the body of Christ was present in the people that were gathered. It wasn’t so much about the question of whether or not the bread actually or representatively became the body of Christ as it was about whether the Christian community was gathered together and whether or not we had been reconciled to each other. It was also something we did whenever we were together and anyone could preside. In fact, once I was baptized and had confessed my faith in front of a congregation I was welcome to preside. I remember us youth presiding at and serving each other at summer camp. Communion is not only about Jesus Christ being the ultimate and final passover lamb, but it is about the body of Christ as present in the Christian community!

    I also agree that Jesus confronted the manner that Jewish religion was practiced at the time, although he did not speak against the Old Testament system which Jesus fulfilled. Ironically this is one of the key things we studied at seminary in our New Testament class – we discussed what it meant for Jesus to bring the Kingdom of God to earth.

    As you mentioned, we definitely need more “Kingdom of God” language – but we need to help both the mainline church and evangelical church re-examine the meaning of this language as instructed by Jesus. It wasn’t just about the four spiritual laws or social justice, but rather a complete transformation of who we are, how we interact, etc.

    In your concerns for the church, I hear a lot of Muslim criticism of Christianity, which is interesting.

    Side Note: One of the current questions I hear in our U.S. Christian culture that really gets on my nerves is the question, “Is s/he an evangelical?” Am I follower of Paul or John or Calvin or Luther or Piper? I am a follower of Christ! If I respond to this question by saying, “Yes, she claims to be a follower of Christ” I am supporting the definition of Christianity as “evangelical.” I don’t think we should replace our identifying ourselves as “Christian” with our identifying ourselves as “evangelical.” Christ’s name needs to stay at the center of our identity. So, I suppose if I’m asked, “Are you an evangelical?” and I respond “I am a Christian” and if that doesn’t seem satisfactory, I may answer, “Yes, I am a Catholic, evangelical, mainline Christian who is a follower and growing disciple of Jesus Christ.”

    Thanks Jamal.

  24. oops – clarification on point 1 – my point about being an ordained protestant was that doors have been opened among Catholics for me to share my faith. Which has been quite an unexpected surprise of fruit!

    • Stasia,

      Thanks sister for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. I appreciate how you have thought through these points. Here are some initial thoughts that I have:

      1. I like what you said about remaining in the place where God has called you. That’s really all we can do. God has us where we are for very specific reasons. For me, there came a time that I was no longer able to continue in the system because it went against the vision of Christ that I was coming to see. I used to think that God could not use me unless I was in the institutional system. That is why I stayed so long. When God showed me that He was not bound by man’s system, I took pleasing or serving that system a lot less seriously. It gave me freedom to pursue Christ (both Him and His body) no matter how it went against man’s system.

      2. I like what you said about teenage versus adult romance. Great point! It starts with infatuation, but develops into something much more deeper.

      3. As far as repentance goes, I still think that ‘mind change’ comes first. I don’t really think action change leads to repentance. That is man’s way. That is the world’s system. That is the heart of man’s religion. Action always flows out of renewal. Yes, we could do good things in a ‘religious’ way, but God is not interested in that. He is looking for internal transformation.

      Thanks again for your thought out response. This is all the thoughts I have for now, but I will share more later as well. Blessings my sister!

  25. Jamal,

    Two thoughts: One, I really disagree with your understanding of metanoia (repentance). While pagan Greeks assuredly used the word to mean “change of heart/mind”, Jews in Jesus’ day certainly did not. In the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, the word metanoia was used to signify either a changing of direction (behavior) or a change of heart and behavior at the same time. Amos 7:3 is a good example. Where the Septuagint declares that the Lord “metanoia-ed”, the ESV renders it “the Lord relented.” Another instance is Proverbs 14:15-16 where the Septuagint says that “the wise comes into metanoia, carefully planning his steps, fearing and turning away from evil.” Much more learned than I have demonstrated time and again that the defining of metanoia as “change of mind” is the worldview of Greek pagans (assisted by liberal moderns such as Rudolf Bultmann). This is why Jesus says, “Repent and believe” in Mark 1:15. Belief (pistis) is a heart trust. By your definition, Jesus would seem to be repeating himself. But he’s not. He’s telling people to turn away from their sins and trust in him.

    Second, I am constantly confused and bemused by your use of the term “institutional church.” I know it’s meant to be pejorative, but I’m not sure what it means. Do you mean “connectional church”, a church with some kind of formal attachment to other congregations? Do you mean “congregational church,” where people identify with a single gathered local group? Do you mean hierarchical church where there are some kind of formal offices? Or do you simply mean a “worldly church” which has ceased to be a dwelling of the Spirit and is only the place where men do some kind of religious business?

    You see, I belong to a denomination which I am sure you would declare “institutional,” but which resembles very little of what you describe, especially the two congregations I have belonged to. I read your stuff and I think, “Wow, the congregations you’ve taken part in must really suck.” The problem is that I run into lots of Christians that talk like you write and I find a great deal of rejection of accountability, undealt with sin, and a decided lack of Kingdom fruit. I’m sure that they’re not all like that, but I run into it a lot.

    I have a hard time making sense of the New Testaments picture of community without what I suspect you call the “institutional church.”

    And by the way, I’m not a hater here. I like you and love you. I’m grateful for what you’ve done and think about many of the things you write. Peace to you.

    • Additional thought – I am also curious about your definition of “institutional” church. I suspect we all hear what you say when you use that term differently. When I hear it, I think “denominations.” Sometimes it sounds like you mean “liturgy.” Could you define it for us? Thanks.

      • Stasia,

        You have asked a great question my sister. Instead of defining the ‘institutional’ system, I’d like to quote a friend of mine who has put into words what He sees as the church that is described in the New Testament. In my opinion this is the most biblical definition of the N.T. church that I have seen. Here is the quote:

        “By “organic church,” I mean a non-traditional church that is born out of spiritual life instead of constructed by human institutions and held together by religious programs. Organic church life is a grass roots experience that is marked by face-to-face community, every-member functioning, open-participatory meetings (opposed to pastor-to-pew services), non-hierarchical leadership, and the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ as the functional Leader and Head of the gathering.
        Put another way, organic church life is the “experience” of the Body of Christ. In its purest form, it’s the fellowship of the Triune God brought to earth and experienced by human beings.” -Frank Viola-

        Obviously, this is much different than what is practiced in the institutional system today. I hope that clarifies things a bit.

        Blessings:)

      • Thanks Jamal for taking the time to share this.

        My favorite depiction of the body of Christ as exemplified in the Christian community is from Acts 2, “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” This is so beautiful and matches with my experience of starting a new ministry. It is an exciting time!

        But as we study the book of Acts and even Paul’s letters we discover that the community of Christians, while remaining followers of Christ, transform their interactions as the church grows and the outside circumstances pushing against them changes.

        When you study the formation of denominations in the United States – because we are the birth place of such things (in the Protestant Reformation organization was more closely tied to language and geographic location), you discover that there is the time that looks much like the time of Acts 2. But then as the numbers increase and the outside pressures change, Christians begin to realize that they need to organize in new ways in order to maintain accountability and be more affective in their witness. About year three of doing a start-up ministry, I realized that we needed more of an administrative structure, which I could not give the ministry. In order to be more affective in our outreach we needed more money, and when you are outreaching to the poor and those whose families have had no religious association for more than two generations, it is difficult to find the money to continue the outreach. (I wish our U.S. society was not so money driven – but it is. If we all had farms and grew our own plants, we wouldn’t have needed money to buy food for our gatherings. Yes this also shows a disconnect in the church in that we are segregated by economic and ethnic “status,” but I’m not sure if it is the institution that causes this problem or other factors.) At about that time God placed on both my heart and this other woman’s heart that God was calling her to take over and lead the ministry in this direction.

        There are some things that are much easier for us to do as a well linked national and global community. For practical purposes we need key people to be our communication officials to help us link together to do this. How do we end human trafficking if we are only in relationship with only 20 Christians? If one in our midst is called to this ministry of fighting human trafficking, how do we assure the person gets the proper training, learns from the mistakes and success of other Christians who have gone before, and acts in such a way that brings help not further harm to the victims? It seems that when we all link together as Christians and form organizations like International Justice Mission that we are more affective. IJM is a Christian institution with a hierarchy. It is a fruit of the church.

        When we read though Acts, and even the gospels, there is an order that is developing. Jesus chose 12 disciples, and of these he focused his attention on 3, and then 1. Peter was called to be the evangelist to the Jews while Paul was called to be the evangelist to the Gentiles. Paul had to check in with the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. Scripture clearly speaks as early as the book of Acts about elders, deacons, apostles. Even before this the church was delegating roles, Stephen was one of seven chosen to provide pastoral care while the others were focused on preaching.

        Yes, there is brokenness in the church. There will be until the Kingdom of God which is already here is fully here. Yes, some church structures are too hierarchial and have led to abuse. I am a woman in ministry, I know well the patterns of the church and the stage that many denominations, Christian organizations, and geographic communities of Christ go through – because it seems that all begin allowing women to be in leadership and all go through a time frame that is related to educating that limits women’s roles and eventually it seems that they all move out of it. So, if one thinks a community of Christians is not institutional, check to see what percentage of women are in leadership. If it is small, there is some type of insititutional structure going on. But not all institutions act this way.

        I think what your blog readers desire, is for you to be a prophet who can speak against the weaknesses and the specific sins of the institution while recognizing that God is still at work within the institution and there are some strengths. It is obvious that God has placed this passion on your heart and I admire it much. I want your voice to be heard. But when what others hear is “institutional church is bad and this description of church is more authentic” it doesn’t give them any direction as to how to change. It leaves the reader with the question, “So what am I suppose to do?” Am I to bale on my church and all the Christian family I have there? What about the older people who I need and they need me? Am I to quit my job so I have more time? What part of the institution is wrong and how can it be changed?

        One thing that we discussed in clinical pastoral education is how what we say is perceived. Sometimes it is perceived differently than we intend. As a pastor ordained with the Disciples of Christ, I am expected to help fellow pastors see how others perceive them, so that they may more effectively communicate what God has called them to speak.

        When people respond strongly against what we say, we can see it as a convicting movement of the Spirit in their lives, we can see it as opposition for speaking the message God has given us, we can see it as a correction to our incorrect teaching, we can see it as a sign that what we are communicating is being misunderstood, and/or we can watch for themes in what people say and ask ourselves what do these themes mean and how is God calling me to respond to them.

        Just some thoughts. Thanks for being open on a forum like this!

      • So, what we hear you saying is that institutions are wrong and that we should get rid of any form of the body of Christ that manifests itself as an institution. Is this accurate?

        If so, are you okay with us ending IJM? Christian global relief organizations? Any church that meets in a building that it owns? Any house church that has someone who is appointed as the organizer? Any Christian educational system? Christian retirement homes? Orphanages?

        What is the breadth and the limitations of your prophetic condemnation? (I mean this in sincerity, not as a reproach – I really do want to better understand what the message is that God is delivering through you – because I love reading Acts 2 and appreciate my experiences of the Christian community – I appreciate that my Christian friends will drop everything and fly out to see me if I need it.)

        And practically, we need a description of what this logistically looks like today. How does it happen? Describe your experiences that have modeled this! Who has been part of it? Do you meet? When do you decide to meet?

        gotta run.

    • Travis,

      Thanks for your thoughts brother. I appreciate the fact that you are not a hater:) You have asked a great question. Instead of defining the ‘institutional’ system, I’d like to quote a friend of mine who has put into words what He sees as the church that is described in the New Testament. In my opinion this is the most biblical definition of the N.T. church that I have seen. Here is the quote:

      “By “organic church,” I mean a non-traditional church that is born out of spiritual life instead of constructed by human institutions and held together by religious programs. Organic church life is a grass roots experience that is marked by face-to-face community, every-member functioning, open-participatory meetings (opposed to pastor-to-pew services), non-hierarchical leadership, and the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ as the functional Leader and Head of the gathering.
      Put another way, organic church life is the “experience” of the Body of Christ. In its purest form, it’s the fellowship of the Triune God brought to earth and experienced by human beings.” -Frank Viola-

      This is much different than what is practiced in the institutional system today. I hope that clarifies things a bit.

  26. Stasia,

    Wow, again you have asked some great questions. Let me say a few things to clarify.

    1. Institutions are not bad. Institutions (like IJM) are needed. The church (both locally & universally) is not an institution.

    2. We might be able to explain, through history, why the institutional system looks so different from the N.T. church that is described in the Epistles and the book of Acts, but that doesn’t excuse the lack of resemblance. If what we are calling ‘church’ looks nothing like what the N.T. describes as church, then we might not be doing things ‘by the book’ so to speak.

    3. Logistical / administrative issues, and issues of church ‘models’ are very important, but they come secondary to something much more important. Our systems and ‘models’ flow out what we value. While there is no ‘cookie cut’ model of how the church function and operate, the model and system that the church operates from should reflect what is true about the person and essence of Jesus Christ, not what is false about Him.

    4. I would not have people scrap their current models and systems of ‘church.’ That would simply assume that the problem is practical or logistical in nature. We don’t need a new church ‘model’, we need a whole new understanding of the person of Jesus Christ.

    5. When we have an accurate vision of Jesus Christ Himself, some of our ideas, systems, and models of church will no longer be acceptable. Those conclusions will be drawn quite naturally. Then, and only then, will the conversation about church models that effectively reflect what is true about Christ be profitable. Simply put, everything flows from how we see the person of Jesus Christ. The institutional church system is simply a byproduct that flows out of a limited and somewhat false view of Him.

    6. I will talk more about this on Wednesday of this week in a completely new blog post that will have to do with how my vision of Jesus Christ has changed. Blessings my sister!

    Jamal

    • James D.G. Dunn’s summary:

      Increasing institutionalism is the clearest mark of early Catholicism – when church becomes increasingly identified with institution, when authority becomes increasingly coterminous with office, when a basic distinction between clergy and laity becomes increasingly self-evident, when grace becomes increasingly narrowed to well-defined ritual acts. We saw above that such features were absent from first generation Christianity, though in the second generation the picture was beginning to change.

      (Unity & Diversity in the New Testament, Westminster Press, 1977, p.351)

  27. Thanks for posting this review. It is difficult (I think) to find such an honest statement about David Platt’s book amid all the adulation that surrounds him.

    My husband and I were attending Brook Hills when David Platt was called to be its pastor. At first we really liked him as a preacher and were excited when he became our pastor. But over the past four years we have come to the same conclusion that you write about in your review. Christianity is about more than making disciples of all nations. It is a huge part of the Gospel, but what about the believers who are already inside the church building? Are we not supposed to continue growing in the Spirit?

    We are the couple David talks about who gave away our items to the poor (I think it’s on page 131-32). So we started out very much in support of what Dr. Platt was saying, and have since burned ourselves out. We won’t be making that mistake again. After hearing David Platt repeat the message of his book every Sunday at Brook Hills, week after week, and watching the church members around us strive harder and harder to obey by their own efforts, we grew tired of working off our own steam, of feeling guilty all the time, and of not growing in Christ. So we left Brook Hills.

    I had thought we would be members of Brook Hills for the long term. We were members there for seven years. Now, we are taking our kids and praying for God to lead us to the church body he wants us to join. I don’t know where that is, but after our experience with David Platt and Brook Hills, I’m pretty sure it won’t be another mega church with a celebrity pastor.

    • Scott & Dara

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting on this blog post. I appreciate your courage in doing that. I completely understand the heart of what you are trying to say. I think what you have to say is very important in this conversation. You are not disgruntled with a person as much as you are the system and philosophy of religion that you, and others around you, have been affected with. It always leads to burnout if the focus is not a person (Christ), but on good things to do. He is the mission. While good works will flow from Him, you can never focus on anything other than Him in order to get the ‘works’ that are byproducts of Him. The difference is night and day as you know all too well. Thanks again for offering your perspective.

      • Jamal,

        It is difficult to take issue with what Radical says. It sounds biblical, at first glance. But in our attempts to implement the Radical Experiment, we ran into problems. You are right — the focus, for me anyway, was never Christ. It was about being obedient and earning my way to him, which I already knew is incorrect.

        What I didn’t know, until recently, is how exhausting and discouraging it is to try to obey Christ on my own. But just a few weeks into the Radical Experiment, I got to where I didn’t want to go to church anymore. I couldn’t look at a painting of the nativity scene without feeling bitter and tired.

        In trying to live out the Radical Experiment, I began to realize, even more than before, that I’m not capable of being obedient to Christ on my own. And the answer is not to feel guilty or try harder, or ignore the way I feel. The answer is to turn to Christ. So Scott and I finally acknowledged, it was time to prayerfully seek another church, where Christ is proclaimed not just his commands.

        What I want now to learn is how to draw closer to Christ himself and get more of him. So in that sense, the Radical Experiment was helpful to Scott and me, in an unexpected way. But I wonder how many other people are still in that place Scott and I were in the past few years, trying to implement the Radical Experiment, with Christ as the goal instead of the means.

        Only prayer can lead me to where I need to be. But any resources you know of that you think may be helpful would also be appreciated. I have seen references to Frank Viola and other authors on this site but have not yet looked into them. But thanks already, just for saying what you’ve said about Radical. As I said in my other comment, I haven’t heard that many people review the book without praising everything it says (and doesn’t say).

        • Dara,

          Thanks for your comment. I do have a suggestion for you. I think you would be refreshed by a book called ‘From Eternity To Here’ by Frank Viola. It is the good news gospel that very seldom gets told. It is essential, and you will find yourself falling in love with the person of Jesus Christ all over again. That was my experience. You can find a book review for this book on this blog site under book reviews. I did a three part book review of this book. There is a link in each of the reviews that will take you to the Amazon site where you can purchase the book. I’d love to hear your thoughts as you read it. Blessings my sister.

  28. Jamal,
    I really appreciate your heart for the Kingdom in all you wrote. It comes through very clearly. I actually enjoyed Radical and got a whole lot out of it. While I do agree that many things within the local church need to be reformed, is it necessarily the right step to “throw the baby out with the bath water?”

    warren

    • Warren,

      Thanks for reading and commenting brother:) Great to hear from you. Great question. I don’t advocate throwing out the baby (living church) with the bathwater (non-living system). I just think we should throw out the bathwater since it is drowning the baby:) That is what I communicated in the article.

  29. Jamal,

    I have begun to read From Eternity to Here. Just from the preface I can tell he is speaking to my central concerns. He even writes from my hometown in Florida :-) . Thanks so much for recommending it. I look forward to reading it all the way through.

  30. Interesting review. I had a similar response when I read Radical, that Platt was trying to be radical but do so while staying in the very system that quashes radicalism! In fairness, like you said, he (and I and many others) are on a journey out of institutionalism and we are all at different stages. I also read and reviewed his newest book, Radical Together, and I think it shows he is still making progress. Until he does what Chan did and walk away entirely, he will be hampered but at least he is talking about it.

    • Arthur,

      Thx so much for reading and offering your insights. I did hear that David released a second book called ‘Radical Together’. I’m looking forward to reading it eventually. As believers, our environment is extremely important. Fish were meant to live and function in one kind of environment. If you take a fish out of the water, they cannot function or survive. The same is true of us as believers. We were designed to function and thrive in the environment of the body (family) of Christ. We were never meant to live, function, and thrive in the institutional system. Life begets life, but systems and institutions cannot beget life. I agree, until David comes to the realization that Francis Chan did about the ‘system’ and leave, he will continue to be hampered.

  31. Jamal,

    Thank you for following HIM! I havn’t read Platt’s book as I find most books that are “for sale”, are just that; “for $ALE”. It’s been nearly 8 years since our family here embarked on this journey of realizing the true heart of our Father and our Brother Jesus! I can simply say that “HE IS SO WORTH IT” !!! It was and is very COSTLY to break the “chains” of the traditions of men and the institutional system given us by Constantine. BUT, the REALITY of actually living IN Jesus, worshiping HIM as a lifestyle not a time, place, set-up, practiced……, Is truly Amazing! I have sermon notes from 15 years ago where I preached the truth of HIM and HIS Church, yet, as apparently Platt may be doing, tried to put “it” all into the only thing I ever knew; re: “the traditional cultural church system”. He has shown Himself and given us sooo much more of HIS heart and Life!

    Just one thing for “all”, whether or not you see it, “a little”, “a lot”, or even “not at all”.
    HE IS LIGHT! “Everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is the LIGHT that makes everything visible…” When The Light first appeared, men loved darkness rather than light, BUT to as many as received the Light AND loved the Light… to them HE gave everything!
    Seek HIM, love HIM, See HIM, HE WILL LEAD YOU HOME!

    Jamal, I would like your input on: http://www.jesuslifetogether.com/
    you may respond to me personally if you like at my email address.

  32. Very well written critique, Jamal, well done indeed. If only everyone could exercise that kind of critical thinking and self-remove that results in constructive discussion.

  33. I’m new to this site, so I’m sure I don’t understand aspects of the site’s culture or lingo, but I like enough of what Jamal has said to want to be part of the dialog. I pastor what many would call an “institutional” church, and being that I believe the family is an institution, am proud to be part of the church institution established by Christ and His apostles. I am not proud of much of the corruption that has existed and continues to exist, but blame ourselves and not Satan, Rome, Constantine, or others for it. Letters from the 1st century and 2nd century apostolic fathers make it pretty clear that Christ and the apostles left us with a church family institution that included clear zones of authority, and the scriptures themselves exhort us to respect and obey those that have the rule over us. It may sound spiritual for a wife to say that Jesus is her authority and that she just answers to Him, but the fact is that she dishonors Jesus when she refuses to recognize that He established human authority and specifically the husband over the family institution for her to honor. In the same vein, it may sound spiritual for a Christ follower to say that Jesus is His authority and that he just answers to Him, but the fact is that he dishonors Jesus when he refuses to recognize that He established human authority, and specifically the bishops/pastors/elders over the church family institution for him to honor. (You can go our web site at http://www.calvarychapelspacecoast.org, click on About Us, and read the article on questions and answers on church leadership if you’re someone that has problems with the scriptural basis of senior pastors and such.) God set up the institution under Moses of the nation of Israel, and God set up the institution under Christ of the church. Our Bible tells us that the Old Testament temple system contained many shadows and types of Christ and the New Testament, and it therefore shouldn’t surprise us that there are ‘similarities’ or even that various church authorities have sought to model aspects of the church after the Old Testament system. I guess I say all that to say that what has defiled the church is what has defiled us, and Christ made it plain that defilement is a matter of the heart. Hope this sparks some edifying discussion, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit for the cause of Christ.
    Yours in Him, Baron

    • Baron,

      Hey brother, thx so much for reading and commenting. I appreciate all that you have said here, but you probably won’t be surprised if I disagree. I am pretty convinced that the ‘institution’ that we see today is nothing like the church that Jesus started and is not the New Testament example of the body of Christ. I understand your perspective regarding church leadership. I myself used to be an institutional church planter and Sr. Pastor. The problem, however, is that words like ‘Pastor, Elder, Deacon, Bishop, etc…have been redefined to mean something they were never intended to mean over the course of church history.

      You may be interested in reading an article that I have recently written about this very thing. True Biblical church leadership is nonhierarchical. The title of the article that I wrote is ‘Parenting Adult Children Is Harder, & Why Your ‘Pastor’ May Not Be Your Pastor.’ There is a lengthy discussion that follows the article, but you might be interested in that as well. Here is the link:

      http://wp.me/p1hf9o-4C

  34. Hi Jamal do you remember me? well in twitter i said I have more questions…then, how may I in my secular job make availaible the True Gospel? I mean in these days there are differents Interepretations about the Jesus Gospel

  35. Jamal,
    I obviously missed the conversation but wanted to post a comment nonetheless. I have read Platt’s book and listened to half a dozen sermons of his at Disciple Making International. I have also read the article you recommend on this blog.

    I agree with both of you strangely enough, but only to an extent. Platt is in fact talking about a mindset change here in the States, not just an outward behavioral change. He urges people to look at the core changes in their lives. This can only be done if we honestly look into our heart and see what really matters to us most. Our goal for the lost is salvation. And our goal as believers should be allowing Jesus Christ to be Lord of our life – this means total self sacrifice, leaving the comforts of this world and our own desires behind. As believers, have our thoughts, dreams, aspirations, and focus really changed? Or does the comforts of this world, the securities we hold on to, or relationships matter more to us?

    The lost cannot begin to truly understand grace until they first understand the wretchedness of sin. All of us have to be shown our guilt before we can ask to be forgiven. I don’t see Platt’s book as glorifying self guilt but emphasizing the need for Christ-like witness.

    The organic church idea is also appealing with the emphasis on authentic community. This is extremely hard to do in a mega-church. Small, intimate and personable is how Christ taught. He turned away the large crowds. The most important feature in the organic church, that of Christ indwelling us and that He is the head of the church, is also true. The American Church is disheartening because of its focus on programs, events, and size. We have allowed the world’s definition of success to infiltrate the church here in America. Organic church, however, does not allow for the Gospel to penetrate into restricted countries.

    Some folks make it a big deal that Platt is a mega-church pastor. Some could make a big deal about pastors who left the pulpit out of frustration. The fact that Platt is a mega-church pastor does not bother me. Nor does your position (or lack thereof now :D ) bother me. All of us, however, should take what both of you say with a grain of salt – no pun intended. If I follow Platt’s plan I will ultimately fail, and if I follow your plan I will fail too. No offense intended, but you both are human and have flaws – we all do. The only plan to follow is Jesus Christ. This takes balance and discernment. We are to be radical in our worship, in our witness, and in how we live. We are not to be swallowed up in a church culture that follows a self-centered approach to holy living. We are to give up ourselves for the purpose of Christ. We are not suppose to get so large in our local groups where we don’t know each other. We are suppose to follow Christ’s example, with the help of the Holy Spirit. All of this only comes from personal study, prayer, and meditation on His Word. It’s not the size of a church, lack of a church building, or house church that is to blame or the answer. Together we are the church and we look to Christ, whether we meet in a building or at a house on Sundays. We have only 2 purposes for life in this present age. First is to glorify and worship God, and the second is to spread the Gospel. It’s that simple; hard but simple.

    My heart aches for the couple who sold are their belongings then got burnt out. Just as my heart aches for those who think churches are to blame for our problems. The ‘system’ is not the answer, nor is it the cause of the Church, or Body, becoming irrelevant. We are the cause. Our lives, our focus, our own selfish desires are to blame.

    We don’t need organic churches. Just like we don’t need mega-churches. We need to let go of the things of this world while we live in it. We need to turn our whole life over to Christ and seek the lost.

    With sincere love.

    • Jim,

      Thx for reading and commenting on this article brother. Unfortunately, I think you misunderstand me completely. I wrote an article to correct this ‘misunderstanding’ a few months ago. I think you might be interested in reading this. Read it carefully, and when you get to the end of the article, click the link to read the second article. It is just as important. Here is the title and link:

      We Don’t Need A Model, We Need A Vision! (why the organic church model is NOT the solution) – http://goo.gl/2ExVN

  36. Hi Jamal,
    Interesting blog. FYI – I spent most of my life in the type of church that you are trying to describe – one where there was no pastor, meetings were open, communion celebrated every week, and everyone just pitched in together to make it work.

    After 30 some years in that environment and observing the many strains I have discovered that those systems can become just as rigid, legalistic, and spiritually dead. I have witnessed countless people fall in love with the method and the form of worshipping Christ in trying to copy the early NT church and many of these “testimonies” are dying out and the last one alive sells the building.

    The only sense we get of such an open, unstructured meeting is in 1 Corinthians 14. We have no indication that this was the norm for all churches everywhere (Acts 15 seems to indicate a dichotomy between the Greek and Jewish churches).

    And as you delve further into 1 Cor. 14, Paul institutes a system that instead of having a purely open system, that there should be a sense of order and God uses that order and clarity to speak to the unbeliever. Paul obviously had no issue with limiting the gifts and participation in the church so that everyone, including the unbeliever, should be edified.

    This is part of the reason why in so many of these “unstructured churches”, especially as they mature, that you often see little outreach and if the unchurched do happen to visit, they often leave confused. This experience dissuades members to invite others and eventually it becomes a group of the “frozen chosen.” The evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit is no longer seen in the changing of lives but in selection of the appropriate song so it all seems to “fit together.”

    The ones that do wake up after their multi-generational slumber have had to hire staff and switch to a more orderly arrangement, as the Apostle Paul did for Corinth, so that the fire is renewed and people are being reached again.

    But I appreciate so much the spirit of your response to Platt’s book. I often find myself substituting the love and passion for Jesus Christ to a works based religion where I’m seeking to gain approval.

    And it is exhausting!

    • Thanks for your comment here. Without going into too much detail here, let me say that I strongly disagree that Paul limited the expression of the body of Christ as you suppose in 1 Cor. 14. Actually, the order that he gives them does the EXACT opposite! Because they did not have proper order, some in the church gatherings were not able to share, women were being restricted from speaking, and the church was not being edified. Paul corrected this thereby allowing the participation of ALL. If you understand the context of the letter, then this becomes very clear.

      Just because you have had a bad experience with participatory gatherings does not mean that the body of Christ should become passive and an unbiblical hierarchical system should be instituted.

      I wrote an article that might be helpful for you. When you get to the end of the article, click the link to the second article:

      We Don’t Need A Model, We Need A Vision! (why institutions cannot become or give birth to organic church life) – http://goo.gl/2ExVN

      • Hi Jamal,
        First of all, I wouldn’t consider it a bad experience that I had – I learned a lot from the Word in these churches.

        I’m stating that whatever type of gathering you have, it is not immune from the tendency to become insider focused, legalistic, or spiritually dead.

        This is evidenced by the Plymouth Brethren and the Church of Christ and their collective centuries of experience.

        The problem with observing something descriptive in the Bible and making it prescriptive is that your identity now becomes tied to the method – not to the mission that God has more clearly called you to.

        And that is the struggle that I see now in those who are in such groups that want to reach people for Jesus Christ but the method becomes an obstacle. And you can’t change it because you are convinced that this is “the approved” way of God to gather.

        And btw, 1 Cor. 14:26 was not a description of the remembrance meeting at Corinth – that was celebrated with a meal at a different time.

        • Based on your comment, I am going to go out on a limb and say that it doesn’t look like you read the article that I linked in my response to you in the comment above.

          You misunderstand me completely. When you get a chance, read this article very carefully:

          We Don’t Need A Model, We Need A Vision! (why institutions cannot become or give birth to organic church life) – http://goo.gl/2ExVN

  37. It seems like you missed the point of the book, but I am sure you are well educated and so you want tear down everything that you disagree with. You come across as a little ignorant and a whole lot arrogant. Modesty is required in the ministry and humility. I don’t know if you are still a pastor or not but I would suggest focusing on the gospel and not the stuff you just wrote about

    • Ryan,

      Thank you for reading the article. While I do understand that you disagree with the article, I am disappointed with your comment. Your comment did not address the specifics of what you disagree with in this article. You made no attempt to add to the conversation in a constructive way. Instead, you simply engaged in harsh attacks against my character. In light of our need to discuss things of great importance in the body of Christ today, that is unfortunate. I was very careful to address the substance of Platt’s book without engaging in character asassination against him, or questioning his motives. I actually did the opposite and assumed the best about Platt’s heart and motivations. I wish you would have afforded the same spirit to me as well.

      I do not wish to answer your charge against my character that I am arrogant, however. I would like to use your comment as an example of why we need to elevate the discourse we have among one another. I wrote an article about this that I would like to ask you to read. Here is the title and link:

      http://jamaljivanjee.com/2011/01/healthy-debate-vs-personal-attacks-judgmentalism…what’s-the-difference/

  38. I think this video is relevant here: A 3-minute video dialog that I produced exposing the inconsistencies of that “missional” guy at any church. http://wp.me/p1lW18-e0

    Also this one: Wow, didn’t see that one coming. Response to feedback on missional guy video this week. http://wp.me/p1lW18-eA

    • Tim,

      Thanks for reading the article and posting the video. I watched it, and it is cute:) I’d like to add this thought, however. The two people in the conversation are both reacting to one another, but both miss the essense of the New Testament church. I have been both people in that video before. The person on the left is a defender of the institutional system, and the person on the right knows that the person on the left is supporting a machine that is not biblical. The problem with the person on the right is the fact that what he is looking for will not be found outside of the New Testament ekklesia. The problem with the guy on the left is although he sees the fallacy with the person on the right’s position, all he knows is this ‘machine’ mistakenly called ‘church’. He defends the ‘machine’ because that’s all he knows. The New Testament ekklesia is entirely different and is really what the person on the right is looking for, and what the person on the left has never seen.

  39. Jamal,

    Thanks for tweeting me the link to this review. I feel like a lot of what I’ve read recently points out the same faults within the American church system. This is good for me because I believe that it has given a more clear voice to something I have been feeling over the past couple of years but didn’t know how to explain properly. While I’m glad more and more people seem to be catching on to these ideas and discussing them more, I’m wondering if people are feeling as confused as I am afterwards. As I read things like Radical, I feel like the ground has been taken out from underneath my feet as the status quo is vilified to a certain degree and there is nothing concrete offered up to replace it with. There is plenty of momentum in pointing out the flaws of the Church but not enough on how to truly address and begin the process of institutional repentance. Everyone seems to agree that changes need to be made but no one seems to know where to really start. For example, rejecting to the individualistic focus of American Christianity and replacing it with a more community based approach. I think that feeds into why Platt can say all of these things but still be the pastor of one of those same mega churches he dislikes so much. People don’t know which foot is supposed to go after the other once these faults are exposed. People don’t know what concrete example to follow because the concept is so countercultural. I’m generalizing with those last two statements but I know that they at least apply to myself. Do you know of communities/churches that are getting it more right than wrong, that are trying to make the changes in perspective? I’m not seeking another model to follow to get myself stuck in another kind of religion-y practice but would like to see what others are attempting. The best I can personally do is to strive for that community based approach in my life and ministry. Thanks for providing your insight to get us all thinking.

    Julio

    • Julio,

      Welcome to the blog and thanks for taking the time to browse some of the articles here.  I think for starters, it is good to begin reading about what the church can look like outside of the institutional system.  By far, the best book that I have ever read about this is a book called ‘Reimagining Church’ by Frank Viola.  Reading this book will paint a picture in your heart of what the New Testament church was intended to be.  This is key before you attempt to visit any ‘organic’ church community.  You can obtain this book from Amazon.  Here is the link:

      http://www.amazon.com/Reimagining-Church-Pursuing-Organic-Christianity/dp/1434768759/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1324801059&sr=8-1 

      If you decide to get this book, please let me know when you finish reading it. Blessings to you brother:)

  40. Jamal- this was an excellent post to read! I just wanted to add some thoughts in regards to the Body of Christ. It seems we need our minds renewed in many areas and the understanding of the Body of Christ is certainly one of them. I have come to understand that Christ is not the surname of Jesus. Christ means anointed one. We are the Body of Christ literally means there is no separation between Jesus (the Head) and believers (the Body). Where we go He goes, whom we touch, He touches and we have the mind of Christ (anointed). This is so clearly seen throughout scripture in verses such as “he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him” and “my life is hid with Christ in God” and we can’t forget, “it s no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
    Marriage is also an example that Paul gave of Christ and the Church…the two becoming one. So anyone who is born-again is joined to Him. Our self-centered, sin-focused Adamic thinking (me, myself, and I) needs to go. But the scripture even tells us how to do that “Romans 12:2
    2 And do not follow the customs of the present age, but be transformed by the entire renewal of your minds, so that you may learn by experience what God’s will is — that will which is good and beautiful and perfect.”
    Thanks, Jamal! You are blessed with EVERY spiritual blessing!

  41. Ok, I just don’t have the time to read every post. But, my question is as follows: Radical places a lot of emphasis on the rich young ruler. Jesus tells him to sell all he has to become His disciple. In this context “disciple” clearly means “believer”. It is not a pattern for believers to follow to be “radical”. Instead, Paul told Timothy that the rich believers are to be generous to the poor (1Timothy 6:17ff). Faulty exegesis in “Radical”?

    • Welcome to the blog, and thanks for the question. I’d love to address what you have brought up, but first, let me ask you a question. What do you think would make a person want to sell all he or she has to become a ‘disciple’ of Christ?

  42. You’d do better to gauge Platt’s understanding of repentance by the fruit that he is bearing rather than by his verbal explanation. Yes he is a pastor, and yes he is a human. Meeting in a building also does not institutionalize the church.

    • Jamal Jivanjee April 11, 2012 at 6:01 am

      Nick,

      Thanks for reading the article and sharing your comments here. I do understand what you are saying, and appreciate your thoughts. I think this conversation about the book is necessary due to its popularity in the evangelical world. Personally speaking, I would not agree that the type of thinking that Platt espouses in ‘Radical’ bears fruit. Actually, quite the opposite. Obviously we disagree about this. It would be great to have a further discussion about what biblical ‘fruit’ actually is.

      Also, I completely agree with you that meeting in a building does not institutionalize the church. I do not think that I made that claim, did I? The organization that Platt presides over is an institution for other reasons than where they meet for services on Sunday:)

      • Jamal,
        Have you written anything on biblical fruit yet? I don’t remember running across anything in your blog posts, but I haven’t read everything yet. Could you share a link?

        Thanks!

  43. Please take my previous comment with respect from a brother in Christ. I also question why you would even present such an argument. It seems to me to be critical in such a way to a fruit bearer is divisive. Perhaps your intentions are to constructively criticize, but that does not seem to be the case.

    So much discussion is arising after this review over something that has encouraged many believers and bore fruit, the latter which would not be possible if it weren’t done in repentance.

  44. Perhaps I wrongly inferred your intent regarding institutionalization. What is fruit is connoted in the Bible?

  45. Well Jamal I want to thank you for diving into this arena, discussing a topic that is very passionate to many folks.

    If we can take a step or two back and strive from some perspective we may have a better view of “church”.

    The missing ingredient as best as I can see is not so much Jesus, as a better understanding of Jesus. We all can rightly claim our trust, and devotion to Him. This issue seems to fall upon how much, or how big Jesus is.

    In the Institutional Church “IC” setting Jesus speaks to a few for the masses, it seems to require special knowledge, or connection. Jesus is preached, and folks get a “dose” of what He is like, and how much He loves them. The issue is this is a limited, stunted, and partial experience of the amazing person Jesus the Christ. Dose after dose Jesus is preached, folks just like me strive to better understand, yet this Jesus seems to far off to really help, and to be willing to spend time with someone like me. Therefore Jesus remains limited, stunted, and partial. You can teach what you don’t know, the “preacher” is doing his best, but he also has this stunted perspective. The preacher consults with other preachers and find they all are in the same boat. How do I do my job better, why don’t these folks “get it”?

    The answer step out, step out of the IC, and into the open arms of Christ. Seek new wine skins, seek Jesus, and you will find Him. Allow Him to lead you, to feed you, to be your source of life. Allow Him to reshape, refine, and renew you in the way that He knows best. You will never regret this move, it will be the experience of your life,(His life in you).

    Thanks again Jamal for your gifts and talents to edify the body!

  46. Good article, particularly about man’s addiction to being “beaten up”. The masochist in the flesh wants guys like Platt and Chan and MacArthur to do their daily beatings for them.

  47. Jamal, were comments regarding David Platt from the Holy Spirit or your own personal feelings? I could probably find an argument for everything you said, but at this point, your mind seems to be made up, and I don’t believe what the Holy Spirit has laid on my heart would alter your personal opinion of David Platt. It’s definitely not difficult to understand why the world rips Christians apart, especially when we can’t even agree on some of the basic principles of the Bible.

    • Jamal Jivanjee April 16, 2013 at 3:39 pm

      Jonathan,

      Thanks for visiting the blog and asking this question. I have to be completely honest, however, that your question seems more like a statement. I’d like to remind you that I understand David Platt’s mindset. As I mentioned in the book review, I actually wrote a book that was almost word for word similar to ‘Radical’. I shared his sentiments.

      I also do not need you to alter my personal opinion of David Platt because I believe him to be a good brother in Christ who only seeks to honor Christ and follow Him. My review of ‘Radical’ has nothing to do with him personally. There is a profound reason this is hard for you to understand.

      I would like to ask you a question: In light of the fact that I held David Platt’s exact position, is it remotely possible that the Holy Spirit altered my views?

  48. Jamal, I can tell that you have really thought this through. This is a very thorough, well-written post. I think I agree with a lot of what you had to say.

    Have you read David Platt’s post about the three-year anniversary of “Radical”? You can read it here: http://ht.ly/lHnIP

    Also, have you read “Radical Together” or “Follow Me”?

    I don’t think that you and David are as different as you seem to think in both (1) your understanding of the importance of the community (church) in discipleship and (2) your feelings about the importance of a vision of Jesus Christ.

    I would encourage you at the very least to check out the link I shared.

    As far as completely abandoning the “box” altogether, I hear you. There are times where I can relate. But that’s not always the only (or the best) option.

    The irony is that there is a whole mission field inside our “church” buildings…

    • Jamal Jivanjee June 5, 2013 at 12:35 pm

      Chris,

      Thanks for reading this post, and for sharing your thoughts. I do agree with you that the greatest mission field is inside the ‘box’ so to speak. It was that way in Jesus’ day, and nothing has changed.

      Thanks for the link to David Platt’s latest article about the three-year anniversary of ‘Radical’. I actually read that before I tweeted you the link to this article. I have also read the follow up book to Radical (‘Radical Together’). I can honestly say that David Platt’s focus and message is entirely different than what I know the New Testament gospel to be.

      I know David Platt’s message well. It used to be mine. The New Testament gospel is entirely different. The mission of the New Testament gospel is entirely different than the ‘mission’ that David Platt presents in both ‘Radical’, and ‘Radical Together’.

      Chris, I would like to ask you to read another article that I wrote in response to ‘Radical Together’. It is titled ‘Missional Confusion and the Amway Gospel’. Here is the link: http://jamaljivanjee.com/?p=640

  49. I read your review after you linked your blog on my twitter feed.

    I have read all of platt’s books, sat under his teaching in seminary and listened to sermons for years. I don’t feel the need to “defend” Platt, because his life, teachings and ministry speak better than I could. So this is just a post to seek clarification.

    I will agree with you that there is potential danger in the interpretation of this book and others that leads to a “guilt-driven” and works-based “gospel”. However, I do not believe this is what Platt has communicated at all. Nor do I see his understanding of discipleship as missing the mark. I also will point out that all of the money earned from book sales go back into the radical ministry for distribution and translation of materials. Platt lives a modest lifestyle and takes no profit from the best-selling books. Just wanted to point this out.

    Four specifics points I would appreciate if you could clarify:

    1.) please describe how one can be both individualistic and institutional at the same. How does this practically look?

    2.) Please explain from Scripture how you arrived at the statement:
    “A true disciple is a community…” That statement seems illogical at best.

    3.) please explain how you believe Scripture teaches us to go about making disciples… Or in your terminology- how “community” carries out the mission of Christ?

    4.) What is your definition of the “church” or “bride” based on Scripture, rather than someone else’s statement about “organic” and “grassroots” gatherings?

    I appreciate your response in advance.

    Blessings brother.
    Brian

    • Jamal Jivanjee June 10, 2013 at 10:11 pm

      Brian,

      Thanks for taking the time to read the articles, and for your questions. I believe that many of the things that you have asked, are things that I have written about previously, or have linked to other resources that might be of help for you in finding answers to your questions.

      1. Your first question was unclear to me.

      2. Your second, third, and fourth questions are addressed in other articles that I have written that I will post links here for you to read:

      I would like for you to read a post I wrote about the difference between ‘factions’ and churches. There seems to be confusion about this. Here is the link to that article: http://jamaljivanjee.com/?p=24

      Regarding your question about what my definition of ‘church’ or ‘bride’ is, it may be helpful for you to read about my journey out of the religious system. The more I realize what the New Testatament actually describes regarding the church, the more I realize that the burden of proof is not on me to defend why a ‘non-institutional’ understanding of church is biblical, but the burden of proof is actually on folks who want to defend the western institutional system as ‘biblical’. (Be sure to check out the books that I link to in that article) Here is the link: http://jamaljivanjee.com/?p=1726

      Finally, regarding your question about how community carries out the mission of Christ, I wrote an article about the ‘missional confusion’ that exists today in evangelical institutions like Platt’s. It also addresses how community fulfills the mission of God. Here is the link to that article: http://jamaljivanjee.com/?p=640

      Brian, I am aware that you will probably not agree with much of the content contained in these articles, but I do hope that you will be able to at least see some truth in these things as you seek answers to your questions. Blessings to you.

  50. Do you think that David Platt’s teaching is fear based? The reason I say that is because David teaches that you have to prove your salvation, he opposes certain prayers (sinners prayer), you have do this or that if you really are a Christian, and he constantly condemns churches.

    As Christians we are going to hear Gods voice and we will follow Him by His power. God creates a clean heart (Psalm 51:10). God grants repentance (Phil 1:29). In our hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps (Proverbs 16:9). God is establishing the steps of His children. He will move each and every one of His children into the path chosen for His purpose. God who began a good work in His children will continue it, not by our hand, but His. When David teaches I feel he misses the Power, Love and Sound mind that Paul tells us about in Timothy. As God’s children we will possess His Power, Love, and Sound mind to do His will. Who cares about what David has to say against certain ways people are doing things or should do things. The word of God tells us that Satan is the god of this world and his influence is in everything. But, those born of God will overcome the world.

  51. It’s been a few years now and God is still using this book to teach me about the church. Here lately, I’ve been looking back to my first experience of church when I came to Christ at the end of college (I was 21). It was a new church plant, met in a movie theater. We were in a college town. All the members were in their 20′s and 30′s, including the pastor and his wife. The service began at 10:30 but everyone gathered earlier to “set up” – we unloaded a small pickup truck that pulled a trailer with the band equipment, items for the nursery (a single crib and children’s toys and things to crawl on). The kids’ area was in the lobby while the service was held in the theater itself. After the service, everyone stayed and loaded everything back up again. For me, church began not when the music started, but when everyone gathered early Sunday morning to start unloading and setting up. Church didn’t end until everything was packed up and that truck was driven off by the pastor, where he kept it parked in front of his house all week. Small groups met in people’s homes during the week. We played in a city softball league together. I, a new Christian, was baptized in a swimming pool at an apartment complex where one of the members (another college student) lived. That community was integral to my coming to Christ. It is the kind of church I long for today – no buildings, nothing to call it an institution, really – and some day hope to be part of again.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. My Walk with Christ has Lead me Here « the Squished Diorama - March 13, 2011

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  3. Church Member Mentioned In David Platt’s Book ‘Radical’ Responds To My Review Of ‘Radical’ | Jamal Jivanjee - June 27, 2011

    [...] I wanted to draw your attention to a specific comment that came in because they were made by a couple that was actually mentioned in Platt’s book ‘Radical’. They were long time church members of Brook Hills, the institution where Platt is Pastor. They made a couple of comments on the original blog, but I edited them down to one statement here. If you haven’t yet, I would encourage you to read the full book review of ‘Radical’ that I did by clicking here. [...]

  4. Going Deeper with David Platt’s Radical on the Path to the Hundredfold Life - July 17, 2011

    [...] So I’ve been trying to figure out how to actually apply the big “Why” from David Platt.  I recently read a blog which added even more coloring to my latest thinking:  http://jamaljivanjee.com/2011/03/is-radical-really-radical-why-david-platt-is-the-new-francis-chan-m… [...]

  5. Missional Confusion & The Amway Gospel…an assessment of a movement | Jamal Jivanjee - August 23, 2011

    [...] be. Several months ago, I did a book review of David Platt’s book ‘Radical’ (click here to read it). Needless to say, It caused quite a stir. ‘Radical Together’ was written by Platt to [...]

  6. Why Drugs Wear Off (worship conferences & the tree of knowledge) | Jamal Jivanjee - January 26, 2012

    [...] and emotional stimulus. Many of my sermons contained the premise that following Jesus was ‘radical‘ and required radical works. I felt the need to raise the bar of religious sacrifice to a [...]

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    [...] marketers‘, however. Although many sermons and books are falsely written about the ‘radical‘ self denial that must occur in order to follow Jesus, the heart of what Jesus meant by [...]

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