Ask anyone what the word “radical” means and you are likely to receive a myriad of different responses. Merriam-Webster defines it as being “very different from the usual, even extreme.” The sandy-haired surfer from Southern California uses it to describe his experience landing the latest death-defying stunt upon the rolling Pacific waves. Frequently, the term radical appears in headline news, characterizing terrorists who exhibit dangerous behavior as an extension of their devout, often extreme beliefs. But, after the 2010 release of a little orange book — aptly titled Radical — climbed to the top of the New York Times Bestseller list, the etymology of the word has begun to evolve.
“Radical” author Dr. David Platt, pastor at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, has become a prominent proponent of Jesus in the modern-day Gospel resurgence. Platt’s biblically centered teaching and writings have been used as an instrument by the Holy Spirit to awaken hearts to the Gospel and its inescapable implications on believers’ lives. In response, some have forsaken the fleeting joys of the American dream to thrust themselves onto the front lines of kingdom advancement among unreached people groups of the world — becoming radical. Others have heard the call to maintain their current living situation while leveraging their resources and reorienting their lives within their present context to fulfill the mission of Christ — becoming radical. No matter how you look at it — Platt’s book Radical has wildly affected today’s Christian culture.
The overwhelming success of Radical catapulted Platt into national recognition. As more and more people got their hands on the book, the number of pastoral inquiries and requests for speaking engagements skyrocketed. Just a couple months prior to releasing the book, Platt had felt the need to establish a stand-alone ministry focused on making disciples among all nations. Little did he know that this new organization would be providentially in place to facilitate the new attention brought on by the book. After receiving wise counsel from peers who had previously partnered with pastors and authors in similar seasons of success, Platt was encouraged to steward well this new outward facing influence. The creation of the non-profit organization Radical allowed him to do just that.
With the establishment of any new non-profit organization, a business-like architecture of staff and directors must be constructed to ensure efficiency and accountability. To facilitate this initial growth, Platt knew that he would need to build a core team of trustworthy, kingdom-focused, and business-minded individuals who shared the Radical vision. These fellow leaders and peers would share the desire to provide Gospel resources birthed out of a local church to support disciple making in local churches throughout the world. As a result of much consideration, Platt asked a friend with years of business experience to be on the founding board of directors. This friend was Jim Warren.
A Great Businessman
Jim Warren grew up in small-town America; Evergreen, Alabama to be exact. There he was drawn into the entrepreneurial way of life as he watched his dad manage the local Ford dealership. Given the opportunity to work at a local bank for his first “real” job, Jim discovered a love for numbers and financial analysis. He then decided to pursue a degree in accounting. Jim viewed accounting as a low- capital venture where he might be able to grow his own business one day. After college, he took a job with a public accounting firm in Montgomery, Alabama before moving up to Birmingham where he accepted a position with another public accounting firm. Within seven short years of taking this position, the founders of the firm each decided to make career changes. Jim and his fellow officemate, Randy Averett, soon found themselves as senior members of the firm with their names now on the front door. Warren Averett, CPA, was officially established in 1984 and has steadily grown since then to become one of the nation’s top financial firms. Jim had the great privilege to serve as CEO and Managing Director of Warren Averett for 30 years. These years were laden with hard work, devotion, and great success.
Following a Great Savior
As a product of the deep South, Jim was indoctrinated with good morals and a thorough understanding of how to “do the right thing.” By the standards of culture, he considered himself a Christian. He knew about God and Jesus; he always strove to do the right thing. Yet, it wasn’t until he and his wife started attending The Church at Brook Hills in 2006 that he realized he had substituted his “doing the right thing” for true salvation. Though he knew of Jesus, Jim wasn’t trusting in Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection alone for salvation. Consequently, when it came to following the commands of Christ, Jim saw that he was failing and stood in condemnation before God. But by the grace of God and the biblical teaching to which he was being exposed, Jim heard the hope found in the Gospel; the hope that tells sinners that though their good works will never measure up, Christ’s work on the cross is sufficient to bring salvation. Upon hearing this, Jim decided to fully surrender the lordship of his life to the one true God. He began to understand that being a Christian means to follow Christ wherever you currently are. In doing so, Jim reoriented his time, work, and life around the mission of making Christ known in all the world.
Disciples Who Make Disciples
As Jim continued to grow in what it meant to follow Christ and to make disciples who make disciples, he and his wife felt lead to open up their home to begin leading a small group Bible study for young married couples. In the first night couples gathered at the Warren home, the statement was made that if everyone currently there was still there five years later, the group would have failed in their mission to make disciples. With the Lord’s plan and purpose at hand, this original group exceeded all expectations. In the last six years, Jim and his wife Betty, have sent out nine groups. Most of these new groups have also multiplied while one group has dissolved. Amazingly, the group that dissipated only did so because the majority of the members have been sent out to make disciples both in the U.S. and around the world!
As God continued to grow Jim in his personal life, the Lord also moved him to make changes professionally. Jim felt that he was being led to step outside of the business world and into a ministry role. As Radical began to grow in their scope and vision, Jim saw an opportunity to further use his entrepreneurial skills by leading the team that now comprised the Radical staff on a part time basis, sharing his time between his firm and the ministry. In 2011, Jim fully transitioned to lead the team as full-time Executive Director.
This is not a story of ungrounded, reckless, radical abandonment. Rather, this is a story of radical, sometimes incomprehensible obedience. When Jim was exposed to the gospel and its call for followers of Christ to come and die, he chose to take up his cross and walk into the good works that the Lord had set before him. What would cause the CEO of one of the Southeast’s most successful businesses to step away from such a position of prominence? A right understanding that this world is not about man climbing a corporate ladder of worldly success, but rather about the Creator God of this world humbly becoming man, bearing the wrath of God against our sin upon the cross, and demonstrating his power over sin and death in his resurrection so that he might become the ladder by which man can get back to God. How does one obtain such an understanding? By being exposed to the truths found in God’s Word as revealed by the Holy Spirit. And that’s exactly the mission that Jim seeks to guide Radical to accomplish: equipping the church to make disciples of all nations through the spreading of these truths, namely the Gospel, all for the glory of God.
When we hear a story like Jim Warren’s, let us not only be encouraged by his truly radical steps of faith, but more importantly, let us be drawn into the worship of our great God; the same God who chooses to use helpless sinners in His great plan of redeeming a people from every nation, tribe, and tongue.