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I expected to see a burly man with blazing eyes barreling toward me down the hotel hallway. Instead, a blond Southerner in blue jeans greeted me with the easy warmth of a middle-school Sunday school teacher.

"Thanks so much for your time," gushed a fellow interviewer, who like me was trying to snag 20 minutes with the Alabama preacher. "After reading Radical, my wife and I sold our home. This year we left for Thailand to preach the gospel." A second interviewer repeated the theme: Reading Radical meant good-bye to the suburbs and hello to the mission field. A third proudly handed the strikingly young pastor a button inspired by his book. It boasted: I rebelled against the American dream.

As I quickly learned at this year's Urbana conference, where 16,000 totally-on-fire-for-Jesus college students descended on St. Louis to worship and discern God's call on their lives, David Platt has attracted quite the fan base.

The irony of this fandom—evidenced by best-selling books and speaking engagements and Radical testimonies like the ones above—is multilayered. For one, Platt regularly lambasts the very consumer Christianity that allows believers nationwide to hear his teaching, via book sales in the millions. And then there's his teaching itself. Here's a smattering:

  • "Your life is free to be radical when you see death as reward" (Radical).
  • "We have reduced Jesus to a poor, puny savior who is just begging for us to accept him into our hearts" (Urbana talk).
  • "I'm convinced there are scores of people who culturally identify themselves as Christians who are not followers of Christ" (to me).

It's ironic, at least striking, that ...

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March 2013

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