This book was one that I read because of several favorable book reviews that were generated from several blogs that I read. Although I actually read it a couple of years after its initial release (2010) and it is a book that stretches you out of your comfort zone.
Author: David Platt
Publisher: Harper One, 2011.
One of the reasons that this book resonated with me was because of another book that I ran across several years ago by Randy Alcorn (SafelyHome). It was then that I first became acquainted with the house church movement that have become prevalent in countries where there is very limited if any freedom of religion. They go to great measures often in fear of punishment and incarceration to get to church. When they get there it is a very subdued and quiet environment because of the fear of discovery.
David Platt relates to this because of an overseas missions trip he took to an undisclosed location in Asia. He was huddled in a tiny house with twenty leaders who implored him to teach the Bible to them. Later in the book, Platt reveals that he would teach for as long as four hours and they would urge him to share more with them.
He then transitions back to the church he pastored in Birmingham, Alabama where there was theater seating, multi-colored lighting systems, cutting edge sound, high-end facilities surrounded by green, and well-manicured recreation fields. He began to make a comparison between the two venues and was very discouraged about the McChurch state of things where he was the pastor. It was as if he was involved in a Christianity that revolved around catering to ourselves when the actual message of Christianity is about abandoning ourselves.
This book was very troubling to me in the sense that I do my best to make sure that everyone who comes to the church that I pastor finds a good worship “experience.” We want everything just so-so in order to “do church.” While we shouldn’t do shoddy and haphazard work with our services, is that really the essence of what we have been called to do? We are to evangelize the world and make disciples. The understanding behind the word disciples is that we want to make people martyrs to the Cross.
. . . we are starting to redefine Christianity. We are giving in to the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with. . . A nice, middle-class American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have. A Jesus who would not expect us to forsake our closest relationships so that he receives our full affection. A Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts, because, after all, he loves us just the way we are. A Jesus who wants us to be balanced, who wants us to avoid dangerous extremes, and who for that matter, wants us to avoid danger all together. A Jesus who brings us comfort and prosperity as we live out our Christian spin on the American dream. . . And the danger is now that when we gather in our church buildings to sing and lift up Jesus, we may not be worshiping the Jesus of the Bible. Instead we may be worshiping ourselves.
I realize that this is a non-apostolic author but I have come to realize that some of the same attitudes prevail among us and we are being dishonest with ourselves if we choose to deny it! He deals with money issues among Christians and I have to wonder aloud if we have not fallen to the idea that God’s blessing is reflected in what we hold on to as far as material things compared to what we let go of to advance the Gospel. We can say what we will but we aren’t advancing the Gospel nearly as well as we would like to think. Reading books like this is what will provoke you to a state of self-examination! Then you have to go about making changes in your budget and lifestyle. Apostolic lifestyle is more than the way we worship, dress, or the doctrinal positions that we hold. Far too often we measure our worship “experience” by the little emotional lifts we get instead of behavior altering actions that are necessary to advance the mission of the Gospel.
Chapter 2 was incredibly convicting. Platt ended up spending eight hours going from one passage in Scripture to another as these people in the house-church listened to him. They invited him back the next day and it was another session of the same nature. All total they went for ten days and would work through the Bible for eight to twelve hours a day. I am highly doubtful that we could get that kind of response here in America. There is a famine in the land and not for bread but for the Words of the Lord (Amos 8:11). You should go v-by-v through Amos 8 to get a good picture of what takes place to people who do not treasure the Word of God.
Platt goes on:
But is his Word enough for us? . . . This the question that often haunts me when I stand before a crowd of thousands of people in the church I pastor. What if we take away the cool music and the cushioned chairs? What if the screens are gone and the stage is no longer decorated? What if the air conditioning is off and the comforts are removed? Would his Word still be enough for his people to come together?
As I write this, in four days Alabama’s Crimson Tide will play for the NCAA National Championship. If they pull it off, it will mean that the last four NCAA National Championship teams have come from the state of Alabama. I was preaching recently and mentioned that people think nothing of getting involved in a 3 hour football game but can hardly pray through a 15-minute half-time. In a day when some want shorter sermons, even shorter altar services, and want to cut back to one-and-done services on Sunday, we don’t need less, we need more!
These are the kinds of books that make you step back and analyze what you are doing as a church leader. I would recommend that you add this book to your list to read in 2013.
Thanks for reading. . .