Radical Obedience…to the Gospel?

“I am convinced that we as Christ followers in American churches have embraced values and ideas that are not only unbiblical but that actually contradict the gospel we claim to believe. And I am convinced we have a choice. You and I can choose to continue with business as usual in the Christian life and in the church as a whole, enjoying success based on the standards defined by the culture around us. Or we can take an honest look at the Jesus of the Bible and dare to ask what the consequences might be if we really believed him and really obeyed him.”

 These are the words evangelical mega-church Pastor David Platt writes in his popular 2010 book, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. His aim is to provide a corrective for what he views as a terribly self-centered North American church, and he is passionate about it:

Here we stand amid an American dream dominated by self-advancement, self-esteem, and self-sufficiency, by individualism, materialism, and universalism. Yet I want to show you our desperate need to revisit the words of Jesus, to listen to them, to believe them, and to obey them. We need to return with urgency to a biblical gospel, because the cost of not doing so is great for our lives, our families, our churches, and the world around us…

 For the sake of more than a billion people today who have yet even to hear the gospel, I want to risk it all. For the same of the twenty-six thousand children who will die today of starvation or a preventable disease, I want to risk it all. For the sake of an increasingly marginalized and relatively ineffective church in our culture, I want to risk it all. For the sake of my life, my family, and the people who surround me, I want to risk it all.”

Platt is to be commended for his insight into the condition of many North America churches, as well as his boldness in calling them out. Also laudable is his insistence on lifting up the grace of God in Jesus Christ alone, as the way of salvation. “In the Gospel God reveals the depth of our need for him. He shows us that there is absolutely nothing we can do to come to him.”

 However, as one reads along with him, a repeated theme and ever increasing burden begins to reveal itself. In short, though he notes it is by grace alone that we are saved, he asserts it is by this same grace that we are “required,” “commanded,” and even “demanded” to reshape our lives into radical obedience to Jesus and his command to make disciples of all nations.

“If you are serious about taking this journey I believe a couple of preconditions exist. This goes back to the two big questions I started asking myself when I realized I was a megachurch leader trying to follow a minichurch leader. First, from the outset you need to “commit” to “believe” whatever Jesus says…Then second, you need to “commit” to “obey” what you have heard. The gospel does not prompt you to mere reflection; the gospel requires a response.”

 The title of his book is Radical for a reason. His premise is that if Christians had an authentic radical obedience to Jesus Christ, they would look and act a lot different than what is typical in churches today.

” And I am not alone. In the faith family I have the privilege to lead, I am joined by wealthy doctors who are selling their homes and giving to the poor or moving overseas; successful business leaders who are mobilizing their companies to help the hurting; young couples who have moved into the inner city to live out the gospel; and senior adults, stay-at-home moms, college students, and teenagers who are reorienting their lives around radical abandonment to Jesus. I’ll introduce you to many of them in the course of this book…”

 This is where the burden begins to continually increase. Though he claims we are saved by grace alone, through Jesus Christ alone, the portrayal of this grace turns out to be rather confusing and decidedly legalistic.

You might think this sounds as though we have to earn our way to Jesus through radical obedience, but that is not the case at all. Indeed, “it is by grace you [are] saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” We are saved from our sins by a free gift of grace, something that only God can do in us and that we cannot manufacture ourselves… [Yet] we want him so much that we abandon everything else to experience him. This is the only proper response to the revelation of God in the gospel.

 With that last sentence all of his wonderful gift and grace language is, in the end, utterly destroyed by assertions of “the only proper response” is to “abandon everything else to experience him.”

Lutheran theology is very uncomfortable with theology that says one can experience God through our own actions or behaviors. This is why Lutherans are so profoundly sacramental in our understanding of how we experience God. “Accordingly, we should and must maintain that God will not deal with us except through his eternal Word and sacrament. Whatever is attributed to the Spirit apart from such Word and sacrament is of the devil.” (SA, Part III, Article IV, 10).

True, Platt is offering God’s Word. And he is simply saying that we must be “radically obedient” to it. But the problem is that the way he speaks about God’s grace is not consistent with how he portrays God’s grace: “While the wonder of grace is worthy of our attention, if that grace is disconnected from its purpose, the sad result is a self-centered Christianity that bypasses the heart of God.” The purpose of this grace, then, is portrayed through all those whom he notes to abandon everything, go overseas, care for the poor, and give up their life for the Gospel. Though he attempts to say doing such things are not necessary for salvation, he is bold to question the authenticity of someone’s faith who does not do such things. Thus, his portrayal of grace goes from a gift of love to a demand for obedience.

However, for my thoughtful critics out there, please note. I do get it. I understand where Platt is coming from. My first congregation was a white collar, advanced degree, business oriented, suburban, (LCMS) Lutheran mega-church, that had three full time pastors and 3,300 members. So believe me when I say I get what he is saying. But even so, I cannot give up my Lutheran sensibilities that clearly disagree with making the gift of the Gospel into a law to be obeyed.

When I later became the Sr. Pastor of a mid-sized, small town congregation (800+ members) and school, filled with primarily blue collar and farming, salt of the earth folks, I question if Platt’s critique is aimed more at his own evangelical denominational affluent cultural tendencies, rather than all of North American Christianity?

Even so, I found no small amount of irony in his book. Though he wants to risk it all, I find it curious that he remains in all the comforts of his megachurch lead pastor role. Even more, it is curious that the congregational members, who he elevates as wonderful examples of responding to the Gospel, come primarily from an affluent, white collar, business oriented, advanced degree, privileged culture—the very culture he is railing against!

Yet, the farmers, the electricians, the mechanics, the construction workers, the carpenters, the factory workers, and the teachers who make up the majority of my congregation, would be made to feel inadequate in their “response” to the gospel because they do not have the skills that doctors do or the means that wealthy business owners do. Sure, they can serve the Lord, their neighbor, and their family in their vocations, and they can most certainly give witness to their neighbors, but should they read Radical, they would quickly get the feeling that what they are doing is not enough, and most certainly not “the proper response to the Gospel.”

In the end, I appreciate the corrective that Platt is trying to make upon the organizational nature of many North American churches. I also commend him in his zeal to reach out to the lost by radical means. But I cannot agree with how he portrays grace. For all of his wonderful propositional statements about the grace of God in Jesus Christ, his narrative demands of grace will leave most readers feeling unworthy and inadequate, quite possibly even despairing if they are doing enough to “properly respond to the Gospel.” For Lutherans, that is not grace. That is not the Gospel.

As always, I invite your collegial reactions and your constructive comments as we seek to dialogue about what it means to be a 21st century Lutheran who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

Yours,

Rev. Woodford

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16 responses to “Radical Obedience…to the Gospel?

  1. The challenge in raising legitimate critique of the church you serve is that many often go too far in prescribing a corrective. This is seen over and over again in the history of the church.

    The true corrective to the challenges faces is not legalism, or programs, or restructuring, but rather a radical return to the Gospel – that Word of forgiveness that tell sinners that in spite of their weakness, and their inadequate response to God’s love the promise of Jesus holds true – “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” The Gospel produces true change in our lives, and leads us to service in our vocation. The poor works done by us in faith in Christ are seen by our Father in heaven as being more precious than all the work done by churchly busybodies.

  2. Pastor Kevin Jennings

    Hi, Pastor Woodford! I’m not sure where you come up with all these books and quotations, but I’d love to see your bibliography some time – this is really great to read and glean from your research.

    At once, two things rear the ugly heads. First and foremost, the author embraces the common error of both Rome and American evanglicalism: infused grace. As I sometimes describe this error, God must add a quart of grace to my faith tube (think oil, filler cap, and dipstick) so I can get to the really important stuff I need to do for Him. Whenever I teach new members about justification by grace, they get that. What these newbies struggle to understand is the right teaching of grace: Favor Dei Propter Christum (sp?), the Favor of God On Account of Christ. The proper understanding of grace teaches an imputed righteousness from Christ, which is an abomination to the sinful human way of thinking. Yet, the teaching of imputed righteousness (the right way of grace) is the one taught in Holy Scripture. In fact, the error perpetrated (perpetuated?) by Platt is a confounding of Law and Gospel in really bright colors.

    The second rearing of the ugly head is, in my estimation, just as diabolical. The second error is a delegitimizing of Christian vocation. In this error, only those works which I (in this case, read “Platt”, but insert the pope, Aquinas, most evangelical leaders, etc., and you can’t go wrong, either) choose are truly good and right. How many of these are commanded by God? And, who’s going to clean the dishes, mow the yard, do the multiplication worksheets, and stock the grocery shelves? It is in the arena of daily life as a Christian that good works are truly done (as friend, mother, father, citizen, student, etc.). This devaluing of vocation flies in the face of the preaching of John the Baptist and some of the letters of St. Paul.

    We could go on with the implications of this misunderstanding of vocation, like what happens to the Divine Service, etc. Alas, I’m getting long winded again.

    I still maintain, and maybe wrongly, that this kind of model has its beginnings in sales – getting folks to sign on the dotted line. Nowhere in the writings you provided is there any hint of baptizing and teaching in order to disciplize; in this model, the only thing is getting folks to agree to the purchase price.

    God bless!

    • Pastor Jennings,

      Thanks for your thoughts. Though it was tough to do full justice to this book in the short amount of space, I wanted to balance as best I could the helpful elements of it with those that were less than helpful. I know there are some big fans of the book out there, but, as you note, the affront that it takes on vocation was simply more than I could be comfortable with. Thanks for your insights! Also, I would be happy to send a bibliography to you sometime if you like.

      Yours,

      Rev. Woodford

  3. Pr Woodford,

    You say:

    With that last sentence all of his wonderful gift and grace language is, in the end, utterly destroyed by assertions of “the only proper response” is to “abandon everything else to experience him.”

    Which is interesting, considering what Jesus says to the rich young man, of course: Sell all you have and then follow me.

    Or, what Jesus says to the man wanting to follow Jesus—but first wanting to bury his father, “Let the dead bury their dead. Follow me.”

    I’m curious how you understand these passages. Is Jesus saying “Ho ho! You need to repent and then trust in my atoning death and resurrection!’ Or is Jesus saying something else?

    David Platt says that “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 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.” (p.13)

    I think this is the driving point of his book: so your salt-of-the-earth people—are they following a Jesus that they have made up? Who excuses their sins? Who lets them off the hook so that they can hold grudges and get even and watch some occasional porn…

    Is it ok to act like that? To say “Well, Jesus, you’ll forgive me, so I’m going to sin boldly here!”

    This is ultimately the question that David Platt is asking.

    I agree that he is wrong about stuff. I just think he is more right than wrong.

    • Dear Rev. Louderback,

      Thanks so much for your comments. You raise a legitimate point. My objection with Platt’s portrayal of grace and the Christian life is not meant to provide me the means of protecting the false Jesus I (or anyone else) have created, though, to be sure, I suppose I can see how it may appear that way. As I mentioned in the post, Platt does raise some legitimate points, of which, as you point out, do stem from Jesus’ interaction with the rich man. However, as you ask, what is the nature of Jesus’ conversation with the rich man (Matt. 19:16-30)? Is it prescriptive, descriptive, both? And why does Jesus say “if you would be perfect” in verse 21? Is he truly calling for perfection here, or is he indicting the rich man of his idolatry and calling for repentance? Regardless of where you put the exchange, if Jesus is calling for all followers to truly abandon everything, who and how is it to be measured and enforced? The disciples even gasp in verse 25, “Who then can be saved?” Further, what do we do with Jesus word’s in verse 26 that say, “with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible?”‘ Peter then interjects, “Lord we have left everything and followed you.” Is that descriptive of the disciples or prescriptive for us? Jesus addresses Peter’s question noting the twelve would receive their reward and “sit upon the twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Does that mean Judas too? How about us? Then Jesus notes that the first would be last and the last would be first. Again, is this prescriptive or descriptive? Finally, the culmination of this then comes with a parable of grace in the continuing words of Jesus telling the parable of laborers in the vineyard, where the last to come and work for the master were paid the same as the first.

      Please understand that my objection to Platt is by no means giving any permission whatsoever to any one person ever, at anytime, to indulge in any sin, or excuse any of their sinfulness, nor is it to omit any ethical dimensions or obligations to the Christian life. Yes, Jesus gives imperatives, and yes Jesus gives commands, but is that the heart of grace? Is that the heart of the gospel? My contention is that Lutherans hold it is not, while I think Platt’s portrayal (which is different from his propositional statements) of grace, would seem to assert that it is. Nonetheless, I am fully prepared to let Platt’s use of the law stand and indict you, me, and all North American Christians. It ought to convict us of our selfishness, drive us to repentance, stir a desire to do better, drive us to Jesus, who then frees us of all sins and burdens, and frees us to love and serve our neighbor.

      However, what I hear you saying is that you feel Lutherans (in practice) have made grace cheap, have become lazy and self indulgent rather than abundant in the fruits of repentance, and are using “vocation” as an excuse not to have to deal with the fullness of the abundant life that Christ frees us to live. In other words, we have become secure sinners. If this is the case, then yes, dear brother, preach the law! Call for reform. Indict. Condemn. Threaten Hell! This is all good, right, and salutary. But that is not, I contend, what Platt aims to do. Rather, he holds up Jesus command “to disciple all nations” as the pinnacle of what grace and the Gospel are all about, wherein, those who do not do this, either because they have become comfortable chasing their American dream or because they have not truly “committed” to “obeying” Jesus’ words, are therefore suspect in their faith. That kind of qualitative, seeing into the heart of believers, judgment goes beyond the Gospel and smells of the law. I make no excuses for sin or sinners. Repentance is necessary. Loving our neighbor is necessary. But sinners, like the rich man, will fail miserably. But with God all things are possible, and like the master of the vineyard, Christ is outrageously generous in giving his grace.

      In the end, my point is that Platt is propositionally right about grace, but narratively wrong (from a Lutheran perspective) about the reality of grace lived out in the life of sinners. Thus my objection is not to his desire to change ethical and moral behavior of Christians, but rather to his portrayal of what the Gospel is, stands for, and does. Lutherans hold the Gospel makes no demands. Platt says it does.

      Yours,

      Rev. Woodford

  4. I guess it just seems as though what you are giving is a generic objection to any evangelical idea. I mean you say:

    Rather, he holds up Jesus command “to disciple all nations” as the pinnacle of what grace and the Gospel are all about, wherein, those who do not do this, either because they have become comfortable chasing their American dream or because they have not truly “committed” to “obeying” Jesus’ words, are therefore suspect in their faith. That kind of qualitative, seeing into the heart of believers, judgment goes beyond the Gospel and smells of the law.

    And, you know you could say the same thing about just about any other evangelical. In fact, we as Lutherans often do. Because ultimately we want to deflect the Law. One of our defenses is feeling superior to others.

    So, what I find troubling is that there is a distinction without a real difference here. That is to say, the Gospel brings about a new creation. That new creation lives a life of Christian obedience.

    I mean, look at the Ten Commandments. “I am the Lord who brought you ought of the Land of Egypt. You shall have no other gods before me.” It is the salvation, the grace that the Israelites have received that now brings them to follow the 10 Commandments.

    So, does the Gospel makes demands? No, but the result of the Gospel is that there are demands upon the Christian. He lives out a new life of obedience.

    As Platt says: Everything in all creation responds in obedience to the Creator…until we get to you and me. We have the audacity to look God in the face and say, “No.” (p.31)

    In addition, I think I’d like to tweak further your criticism: David Platt sees that a problem with how we define the Gospel is ultimately Me-centered. What is the Gospel? Jesus saves ME. Jesus died for ME. God sent His Son for MEMEMEMEMEMEMEME.

    So, David Platt says, we must remember, that we exist for the glory of God. God saves us to bring Himself glory. Not just for me and my glory.

    Isn’t this what he is referring to when he says “While the wonder of grace is worthy of our attention, if that grace is disconnected from its purpose, the sad result is a self-centered Christianity that bypasses the heart of God.”

    You say “The purpose of this grace, then, is portrayed through all those whom he notes to abandon everything, go overseas, care for the poor, and give up their life for the Gospel.”

    But that is not the purpose of the grace. The purpose of the grace is to bring glory to God. Platt eschews legalism: “Nor do I claim that there are legalistic measures by which we can or should answer these questions. We must avoid the error of imposing upon ourselves or others laws that are not commanded in Scripture.” (137)

    In this way, I think that we need to give Platt an honest hearing. What EXACTLY is our vocation? Is it to make as much money as possible, giving away, oh, 5% of it to the church (can’t be legalistic about the tithe!) Is that ok?

    You say: “It ought to convict us of our selfishness, drive us to repentance, stir a desire to do better, drive us to Jesus, who then frees us of all sins and burdens, and frees us to love and serve our neighbor.” So is that 6% then?

    The whole point of radical — to Lutheranize the language — is to get us to reconsider what we have been taking for granted what vocation means. So you tell me: what exactly is does it look like to live out a life of Christian vocation? You think that his examples are poor—that they go too far and place unnecessary burdens on people. Ok: what then? To only have a 54″ and not a 60″ Plasma?

    As the core of it, I think that Radical is pretty gosh darn right in what it actually calls people to do. And I think that this is the obedience that comes from the Gospel of Christ. (that is to say, it is because of the Gospel of Christ that I can have this obedience).

    • Dear Rev. Louderback,

      As always, you offer good food for thought. I am certainly willing to consider if my objection is generic, though, at this point, I am not convinced by your argument. Perhaps the distinction can be demonstrated even by your use of the word “evangelical.” As you are aware, Lutherans were the first to actually be called by the term as it simply means “good news” and distinguished them from their Reformed and Roman detractors. Nonetheless, those who today call themselves “evangelicals” are very different from the first (Lutheran) “evangelicals.” And where you may have an affinity, or perhaps a gentler spirit, for engaging the merits of their theology, I tend to be suspect because of previous and present personal interaction with them, along with the very real historical and present theological differences.

      In fact, a recent post of Gene Veith’s blog notes this difference (as do a few of his books): ” ‘Evangelical’ used to be the name for “Lutheran,” in distinction to both Roman Catholics and Calvinists, a.k.a., “Reformed.” The term comes from evangelium, the Latin version of the Greek word for “good news”; that is, the Gospel. And the Christian Gospel is that salvation is a free gift, won by Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, who atoned for the sins of the world when He died on the Cross and who rose from the dead for our justification. ‘Evangelical’ was used to describe Lutheranism because the Gospel is the “chief article” of its theology–not God’s sovereignty, not morality, not church government, but the Gospel–the linchpin of every other teaching, including Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.”

      Thus, to put it simply, I believe Platt does not make the “Good News” as his chief article. But, as you observe, he makes “grace to be for the glory of God” where we are to act in Radical Obedience, as His Chief Article. That is distinction and the difference that I see.

      And, to run with your concern regarding what our vocations should look like, I could pose the opposite to you. Who gets to say how much is too much and how far is too far? If its all for the glory of God, shouldn’t we really give it all? (I noted this in my original post, as well as another previous post.) Who gets to measure your obedience or my obedience? When is it successful? For example, are my three young children out of line for literally hanging onto my leg because I am leaving, yet again, to care for another church member or unchurched person? Is my pregnant wife out of line because she is crying and upset that I am regularly gone more than I am home, (and begs me to be home just a little more) especially when I am doing the Lord’s work to seek and save the lost. Shouldn’t they all just realize that is what radical obedience to Jesus means? In fact, shouldn’t they be out there doing the same thing, rather than my 7, 4, and 2 year old playing on the swing set we got as a bargain on sale with money we had to save up for over a year because we first increased our level of giving to church? Perhaps we should really sell that swing set and give the money to the unchurched poor family six we had over to our house?

      Or, take these last two weeks in my ministry. Right now I am working with two other completely unchurched (and unrelated) individuals. One is an adult and one is a youth. Is that enough or should I have more unchurched I am working with? Two weeks ago I gave $500 in grocery/gas cards and another $500 rent check to a complete stranger in need. Is that enough or should I have given more? (In one case, I spent over two years and $3,500 on one unchurched individual, only to have him up and break all contact with me and the church. Was that enough or should I have done more? Am I a failure? Was God glorified?) And today I met with an adult daughter whose mother passed away last night. I spent an hour and a half with her remembering her mom, praying and sharing the hope of the resurrection. Is that enough or should I have done more? Who gets to say? In fact, shouldn’t I have told her to let the dead bury the dead? Has my obedience been enough?

      And to be clear, as I have noted before, no where am I advocating for Christians to be self-centered, self-indulgent, plasma screen loving, materialistic, “me”-ists, as it seems you perhaps imply my position would lead to.

      In the end, I will agree with you that because of the Gospel of Christ I can have radical obedience to Christ. I will disagree with you the moment you try and measure it according to any pietistic, legalistic, or mechanistic standards. We will fail every time. That is the difference between present day evangelicals and the first (Lutheran) evangelicals. And, as I have said before, Platt has merit in critiquing and calling for the reform of many North American churches, but as I see it, the portrayal of his theology is nothing that Zwingli and others like him have not already attempted to enact in the past.

      As always, thanks for your thoughts!

      Yours,

      Rev. Woodford

  5. As a quick question: Have you read The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother? I think that this book, next to Wingren’s Luther on Vocation, has done more to make me re-think how we see vocation.

    In it, the mother goes above and beyond what we would normally think of as acceptable in working/pushing her kids. The results are a bit mixed, but still it is entirely thought provoking.

    I understand the distinction about evangelical—that is to say, one Lutherans were, now we are not. But that is how language goes.

    I don’t have Platt’s book — I’ve lent it away, so I’m unsure whether the Gospel is the chief article or not. But I do know that this is a pretty standard knock once again. And it is a challenge: because any time you want to say “You need to stop doing that!” we Lutherans tend to point and say “Legalism!” Our hyper-sensitivity to books that say “Obedience” leads us to imagine that they have departed from the waters of grace. Is it true?

    So, you ask the $64,000 “Who gets to say if it is too much?” And that is where Platt comes in and asks the question “Are we deceiving ourselves?”

    The woman who had two mites had a heck of a lot of things that she could have done with those mites.

    But Platt gives a pretty simple recommendation in his book doesn’t he? Give a sacrificial amount to an organization that helps the poor. Have it be a big chunk, not a toss away. Isn’t that his recommendation?

    The stuff about the time that you spend with your family versus the time you spend on your job is not touched upon in Platt’s book. It is not an entire work on vocation. It deals with how the American church has been corrupted by American ideals.

    I don’t know how much $500 is to you. Is it 25% of your monthly take-home pay? Is it 5%? 0.1%? I don’t know. Obviously, only you do.

    But understand, this has nothing to do with Platt. Even if he had not written the book, you still ought to be struggling with this question. How much can I give? How much can I help? What do I do with what God has entrusted me with?

    Obviously, you have to live with yourself. But asking the question is not wrong. It is not wrong to say “Are you being stingy with what you have? Are you passing by a Lazarus lying by your front door and thinking ‘Well, I’d give him some, but my kids need braces. Not today.'”

    We all have rationalizations for why we can not give. We need to bust through them.

    My problem with your review, is that I do feel as though you are giving people reason to not read the book and so to ignore the truth contained in it. Or, to read it with too critical an eye, and say “Well, my obedience will never be compete—thanks be to God! Now, where is my $5 to go in the offering plate…”

  6. Rev. Woodford,
    I was quite excited to see your name attached to this blog, shared by a mutual pastor friend. Thank you for your dedication to the Gospel and its advancement.
    On our last visit to the states, I began to notice how churches functioned with better perspective, as I had been away from a “normal” church home for two years.
    One thought that came to my mind with some frequency is related to one of your comments in this post.
    You say, “…I cannot give up my Lutheran sensibilities that clearly disagree with making the gift of the Gospel into a law to be obeyed.”
    I could not agree more. Well put.
    I wonder if some churches, in the communication and explanation (let me be clear: not in their practice) of their Holy Communion policy are in danger of failing to communicate the glorious Gospel that is present in the Lord’s Supper.
    I visited so many churches this summer that I can’t remember which churches sparked these thoughts, or how the church where you serve communicated about communion. But I think a lot of churches and their pastors would do well to sit down, look at how they are communicating about Communion, and do their best to warn as Paul does in 1 Corinthians, but to let the forgiveness, love, power and Gospel dominate the communication about the Lord’s Supper.
    Just a thought I had. God’s blessings as you continue to serve faithfully.

  7. Thanks for this review! I have a lay member who desires to use this book as a resource for a Sunday morning Bible Class he’s proposing. I had been searching for a Lutheran review of the book and came across yours. I’m the process of reading it myself to give him a critique and am finding your review to be dead on with my own feelings on the book thus far.It’s helpful to know that at least one other person feels the same way on this one!

  8. Thanks so much for this review. I read this book before looking at your review and from my perspective here are some things that I pulled away from the book:
    There is a lack of mention of baptism. When it is mentioned, it is just in passing. This really bothered me.
    Also, as a mother of three young children, I feel that the author neglected to view children as expanding the church and thus the role of the mother in caring for her children as a way of being “missional.”
    For example: I have three children. One is four. She is baptized. As she has grown in this house, we have taught her who Jesus is and what he did for her. She knows the story of salvation. My middle child is almost three. He is baptized. He has also been taught who Jesus is, but when asked about Him, he says he doesn’t know. My youngest is 3 months old. She has been baptized and has heard about Jesus as well.
    Teaching my children about who Jesus is and what He has done for them is quite missional. As they grow it is my responsibility to teach them. To me, Platt seemed to say that if I am not willing to die in a foreign country then I’m not doing good enough.
    I am not willing to die in a foreign country at this point. If for some reason I do die, well, I suppose that that is a different story, but I have a job here and a responsibility to my children that is quite valid and I desire to do my duty. I do not wish to die at this point because I want to finish raising up these three lives who have been intrusted to me.
    In addition to that, Platt forgets my neighbor down the street. She grew up in a Christian house, but somehow does not know the story of Easter. She thinks that Easter is “God’s second birth.” I’m not really sure what that means, but I’m hoping to tell her what happened on Easter soon. I know that there are a couple of Mormon men who stop by her house frequently. I pray for her, her husband, her stepson, and her two daughters often. I pray that our conversations are ones that the Holy Spirit works through.
    The lives in my neighbor’s home are just as important as any life anywhere. Platt seems to think that I can neglect my neighbor here as long as I am serving one elsewhere.
    I think that he doesn’t understand that we all have vocations and responsibilities in those vocations. Right now some of my responsibilities are to my children and others are to my neighbors right here in my own town.
    Doing my duty here does not earn me favor or grace with God as Platt suggests in his book. It is not a demand or a requirement of the gospel, as nothing can be. The gospel wouldn’t be good news if I had to do something to work it out. The misunderstanding of the gospel is what you talked about in your review, so I’ll just leave that part alone.
    Thanks for your wonderful review of the book!

    • Dear Laura,

      Thanks for your comments and for sharing a little bit about your life!

      The Lord Bless you as you continue in your wonderful vocations as a Christian mother and neighbor. And you are right about baptism. As a promise and gift of God’s grace we certainly rejoice, as the Scriptures declare, that it is given even to our infant children (Acts 2:39). May the Lord also grant you the words to say and the actions to do as you continue to witness to (and pray for) your neighbors, as well as raise your children in the faith.

      Yours,

      Rev. Woodford

    • Thank you so much for your comments Laura! I am a mother also…my children are 3 and 20 months. I feel that my duty in life right now is to be a solid Christian wife, teach my children about Jesus, and to reach as many of my neighbors, friends, and family as I can with the Good News! Platts book…while it had some good reminders and some valid points.. left me feeling very disturbed that my role in life is “not good enough in God’s eyes.” Reading your review gave me a sigh of relief….the lives I am touching here are just as important as any life because we are all God’s creation! I feel like the time will come when I am more free to travel to distant parts of this world and risk my life but right now my children need their momma to teach them about Jesus. We are all called to live our lives for God but how that looks can change based on what season of life we are in. Thank you for reminding me about that!!! Your review really helped me digest that book!!

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