On May 31, 1792, William Carey preached a sermon that has come to be called the deathless sermon because it changed the entire Christian world. Preaching from Isaiah 54:1-2, Carey declared that we must, “Expect great things from God” and “Attempt great things for God!” Radical things happened at that meeting—the Baptist Mission Society was formed, the modern missions movement was launched, and William Carey became its first missionary.
The radical experiment
In 2010, David Platt challenged the Church at Brook Hills to engage in “The Radical Experiment,” to spend a year praying for the world, reading the entire Bible, giving their money to those in need, spending time in a context beyond Birmingham, and building community. Platt later published the book Radical, which became a New York Times best seller.
Of course, the plan is radical in the sense that basic Christianity itself is revolutionary in a fallen world. Basic Christian discipleship is radical because of the propensity of believers in any culture, especially an affluent culture like America, to absorb into the world around rather than live as the counter-cultural outpost of the kingdom of Christ—the church. Platt’s call was to stop interpreting Christianity through the lens of the American dream, to live lives transformed by the gospel, and to interpret all of life determined to know nothing among anyone but Christ and him crucified.
“The Radical Experiment” was influential at the Church at Brook Hills, and through the book Radical and other resources, it was influential in countless evangelical churches. David Platt now serves as the head of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
David E. Prince is the pastor of preaching and vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church and a professor of Christian preaching at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.