I had the privilege of reading Radical, Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt as a result of an Early Reviewer giveaway at Librarything.com, where I maintain an electronic record of my library. I actually received the book and read it before the book ever hit the market. The book, as a whole, is a challenge to all modern American Christians including me. There is a letter that is contained in the book that I would like to share with you. I have several questions about this letter that I hope will serve as a catalyst for your comments and we can all learn from our dialogue to think biblically.
1. What is so radical about the content of the letter?
2. Why does this seem so strange and so right at the same time?
3. Why isn't this the norm instead of a radical departure from normalcy?
Ok, here's the letter. Read it in its entirety and leave your comments. It is well worth the read.
Dear Dr. Platt and the Church at Brook Hills,
I assume, based upon what others have said about you and the faith family at Brook Hills, that you are accustomed to receiving complimentary letters. I hope that you will indulge me as I write to you from a different perspective. My letter could be considered more of a complaint or a warning. It is intended to enlighten you as to how your "radical" actions and teachings related to the Word have been destroying my life and probably the lives of others like me.
Let me explain...I was raised, unchurched, by loving parents who were perfectly content with their lives. The worldly perspective I grew up with allowed me to see the hypocrisy in the lives of the few churchgoing families to which I had been exposed. Thus as I grew into a worldly man, I found myself on the path to the American dream. This path, as far as I could see, did not go through or even near a church. I went to college and then grad school, married a kind and beautiful woman, and got a decent, respectable job, which allowed me to ultimately buy a house or at lest make payments on a mortgage and make maximum contributions to a 401(k). My wife and I eventually had a family with two beautiful daughters and a couple of dogs. I was living the middle class version of the American dream.
I was a kind, decent family man who was grounded in the realities of the world. I was perfectly content to devote myself to working hard to provide the financial resources my family would need: 401(k) retirement plan, 529 college savings plan, a general savings account, and a vacation saving account. I also worked to provide the necessities of life such as a flat screen TV. My charitable giving could be described as minimal at best. I loved my family and loved spending time with them, but I was constantly distracted by the financial realities and needs of our lives. I looked to my balance statements for a sense of security.
Like many good, worldly men devoted to getting ahead in this world, I would find moments of joy when the quarterly 401(k0 statement showed a profit. I also experienced pronounced periods of stress, disappointment, and anger when the 401(k) dropped or when we had to take money out of savings to pay the bills. However, I accepted these ups and downs as the realities of life, an overall we were doing okay.
Then one day my wife, who I thought loved me, told me that she would like to raise our daughters in a church and requested that we start visiting local churches. Up to this point in my life, I had done a good job of avoiding churches and the hypocritical Christians who attended them. I had always felt uncomfortable around faith-professing Christians because I lacked biblical knowledge and assumed they would look down on me. Now, in order to make my wife happy, I was going to have to attend a church and interact with those people on their turf. I reluctantly agreed and added church to my list of dreaded weekend chores. Initially our trial run at visiting churches proved relatively painless. The people were nice, but the watered-down version of the Word they were serving had little impact and left me with no desire for more. My wife who was also unimpressed by these experiences, suggested we try Brook Hills because she had heard good things about this church. Well, if attending a regular church was bad, I was sure attending a megachurch would be worse. However, as usual, my wife convinced me, and we attended your church for the first time last fall. That day was the start of a process in which you and your faith family have been progressively destroying my life in this world.
The Word you served up that day was strong and pure, not like the watered-down versions I had received in the past. It had an immediate impact on men and, like the most addictive drugs, left me wanting more. We started to attend fairly regularly on Sundays, but soon that was not enough to satisfy my growing need for more of this Word. I started buying CD's of previous sermons so I could get my fix on the way to and from work each day. I started to interact more with members of this faith family who were not only consuming the Word but also appeared to be living it as well. This only fueled my desire for more. Soon we were attending a small group on Sundays in addition to the service and were occasionally attending a Wednesday night Bible study.
You and this faith family seed all to happy to encourage and support my habit. As I got deeper and deeper into this addiction, a side effect known as faith began to grow inside of me. As my faith grew, I felt a greater need for fellowship with others suffering with this same faith. All along I was gradually losing my grip on the realities of this world, which had been my foundation, and I came to Christ.
I cannot believe what the Word and this growing faith have done to my life over the past year. I used to avoid church altogether. Now we attend the worship services on Sundays and have joined a small group, which meets for three to five hours each week at a neighbor's house. I attend a class on how to study the Bible. I used to avoid Christians who professed their faith, and now I am becoming one. I find myself seeking opportunities to share the Word and discuss my growing faith with others.
I stopped saving for the flat screen TV, which is just as well since I don't have much time for TV anymore. I have reduced my 401(k) contributions and stopped looking at the quarterly statements. I have gone from trying to save as much money as I could to trying to find ways to give some of our savings away in addition to regular contributions to the church and various faith-based charities devoted to the poor and other ministries. Strangely enough this brings me greater joy than I ever experienced with a quarterly 401(k) statement showing a profit.
What is wrong with me? It's lunacy!!! What have you done to me?
The worldly man I was a year ago would not recognize the man I am becoming. I was a man believing in the realities of this world, living the American dream, saving up riches for a comfortable future, and looking for security in a strong bottom line. Now I believe in, pray to, and seek after a relationship with a God I cannot see. I have found salvation in Christ, whom I cannot see. I long for eternity in an unseen future creation. I now look for security in my faith. All of this would have sounded like foolishness to the man I was a year ago. However, the man I was a year ago and the worldly life I knew are being destroyed. This has obviously had an impact on me, but it has also impacted my family, whom I pray with daily.
I wanted you and the faith family at Brook Hills to be aware of the role you have played in destroying my worldly life. I also feel the need to warn you that if you persist in teaching and living out the Word as you are doing currently, then you will likely have a similar impact on the worldly lives of others like me. I hope you realize that you may have to live with the knowledge of your actions and their effect on the lives of others for all of eternity. I will be there in eternity to remind you of what you have done.
Your brother in Christ
Now that you have read the letter, how about those three questions presented earlier in the post?