This I bring up for discussion and out of my own curiosity — what is the Biblical view of “celebrity” Christians, not the shallow kind but the in-depth pastors and teachers whom God has clearly gifted and used for His Kingdom? And conversely, how do we handle it when “celebrity” Christians, amongst all that they do right, also overcorrect or else do something very poorly or even un-Biblically?

Perhaps a recent review of David Platt’s Radical Together, reviewed by J.D. Greear at Nine Marks Ministries, is one way to do it.

As some readers know, I’ve read Radical, and offered some thoughts; I haven’t yet read the sequel and so far, I’m not certain it was meant for folks like me anyway. Speaking personally, I find books like Radical tempting. They’re tempting because, as I read, I may easily be led into gobbling up red meat — good meat, very finely grilled and seasoned, but without a whole lot of challenge.

Absolutely, the American Church has bought into morality-prosperity gospels.

Absolutely we need to recover the Great Commission and be willing to do anything God may, in His quiet sovereignty, lead us to do to further His Kingdom.

Often it seems I already know this, in my head and heart, and I also know that I already try to do that, by rejecting the American Dream and I’m living averagely and not clawing to the top for its own sake, and all those other Christians need to hear this message and realize …

Hmm. Not sure if that’s the most Biblical way for me to read and react even to a good book.

Perhaps I ought to be seeking, instead, books that challenge my pride (even pride in “humility”!) and remind me to love and graciously point to the real Gospel, even for those folks still trapped in the lesser, pathetic “American Dream” moral-prosperity-and-politics “gospel.” Perhaps we could use a few more teachings and books — such as Christopher Wright’s The Mission of God’s People — that show us how God was at work, and remains at work, in many other ways foundational to the Great Commission.

As vital as the Commission is, it’s not new. It’s a subset of God’s single mission plan, arcing from the Old Testament to the New.

That was my reaction to Radical and similar books, anyway. It seems we have a lot of reaction-based books: wrongful pragmatism and megachurches are bad, and we need the Gospel. Amen times ten, I say! And yet, what happens when megachurch programs aren’t as popular, or the majority of Christians have already accepted that one can’t combine “American Dream” moral-prosperity-ism with the Gospel? What books will we have then? Anticipating more timeless appeal, should we perhaps already be leaning in that direction?

Yet it also struck me that almost every review of the original Radical followed a similar formula: “I like David Platt a lot. He’s a close personal friend of mine and God is working in his ministry. At the same time, I have reservations/concerns about [such and such]. But still, the book is a good read, for a Somebody Else who needs it.”

That was also the case for Greear’s review of Radical Together — in which I found it interesting that, despite the positive start and end, the author shares almost equally his praise of the book’s contents and concerns about what he calls a potential to overcorrect and reduce the Gospel’s effects in our lives only to overt Great Commission fulfillment — missionary work and witnessing.

Praise:

As the title implies, RT contends that the only way to really live in radical response to the gospel is in the context of a local, gospel-centered church. Along the way, RT corrects some misconceptions that resulted from Radical, such as the tendency of some to read it as a “to-do list” for super-Christians.

[…]

Platt’s primary target is a worldly wisdom that he believes has displaced simple faith in the gospel. For example, contemporary church wisdom holds that the single most important factor for growing a church is the quality of the weekend program. Quality programming indeed builds an audience, Platt concedes, but will it build a church? The real power of Christianity is in the preached word, Platt says, not in the soundboard. While the latter may attract an audience, only the former can transform the heart.

(I must have missed that reaction; I never saw it that way. What I read, instead, was a “to-do list” for all Christians, grounded in the Gospel, but assuming that all Christians would share in the exact same callings to work out their salvation in overtly “radical” ways.)

Concerns:

As with Radical, RT tends, in places, toward reductionism. Platt sometimes speaks as if the Great Commission is God’s only purpose for us, and only things done toward that end have any real value. Yet the Scriptures teach that God is glorified by, and has a plan for, skills that aren’t “directly” applied to the Great Commission. For example, the Spirit filled Bezalel and Oholiab with skill in artistry and craftsmanship, which they used to beautify the tabernacle (Ex. 31:1–5). And Paul told Timothy that God gives material blessings to his children for their enjoyment, and they can and should enjoy them in moderation, without guilt (1 Tim. 6:17).

But how can we bear to use some of our money for enjoyment when there are so many needy around the world? How could God have directed Bezalel and Oholiab to “waste their time” on beautifying the tabernacle when there were so many poor, homeless strangers in Israel? The biblical answer is that God is glorified as we exercise our talents and enjoy his gifts, not only when we directly engage in Great Commission work.

As the reviewer found Radical Together overall enjoyable, and a challenge to read, you may find this review enjoyable and challenging. I’m reminded again that we need this kind of “radical” activism, to keep people from getting too comfortable by claiming they’re already being “radical” now with their giant houses, each of them, in different hemispheres, thank you very much. And yet we also need reminders that true radical service is often best done exactly where we are already, in our “unspiritual” tasks, in our family lives, and in the times that we do things with excellence even without overt Great Commission-style witnessing and missionary work.

J.D. Greear

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