David Platt, who addressed the American dream in his 2010 bestseller Radical, is drawing on experiences as senior pastor of the multi-site McLean Bible Church near Washington, D.C. to examine the health of the American church. In his new book, Don’t Hold Back: Leaving Behind the American Gospel to Follow Jesus Fully (Multnomah, March 14), Platt identifies what is plaguing the modern church, including infighting, racial division, and an obsession with power and prosperity, seeking instead what he calls “the true Gospel of Jesus.”

What inspired your new book?

The challenges of pastoring in metro D.C. over recent years have led me to deeper dependence on God and greater understanding of and appreciation for the biblical gospel. We as a church have worked to bridge racial divides, seek justice, and reach the unreached. I truly love Jesus and the church more now than I did a few years ago, and writing this book has been the overflow of so much God has been teaching me.

How does the American gospel differ from the gospel of the Bible?

The American gospel is a message that prioritizes comfort, power, politics, and prosperity in our country over and above the words and ways of Jesus. The biblical gospel is a message that does the exact opposite: it exalts Jesus over and above comfort, power, politics, and prosperity. The biblical gospel transcends countries and cultures. It calls people to live for a far higher purpose than the preservation or even promotion of any one nation. It calls people to live—and die—in order to love and lead people to Jesus. All around the world, people are making great sacrifices to follow this gospel—some whose stories I share in the book. God is calling us in the United States to sacrifice in the same way, to believe that the reward of following Jesus wholeheartedly is far better than anything this world has to offer.

What does the biblical gospel look like?

Examples range from bringing orphans into our families, helping widows in our communities, providing for the poor in our cities, serving refugees in our country, rescuing [enslaved people] from traffickers, visiting people in prison, caring for victims of abuse, coming alongside moms and dads with unwanted pregnancies, and working for just laws, leaders, policies, and practices in the organizations, systems, and structures around us. Doing justice and lovingkindness in all of these ways is a fundamental part of what it means to be followers of Jesus. We live in a world filled with injustice, which means the opportunities for doing justice abound.

You write, “Professing Christians have perpetuated the racial divide in our country, leading the body of Christ to become and remain one of the most segregated institutions in American society.” How can healing the divide begin in American churches?

We need to start by recognizing this racial divide has existed for centuries and still exists today in the church, honestly ask why this is the case, and then humbly examine what needs to change in us in order to experience healing and unity around Christ in the church. The biblical gospel makes all of this possible if we are willing to truly embrace it, instead of holding on to an American gospel that has created, and still maintains, this divide.