Dr. David Platt is the Senior Pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Al. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism (A.B.J.) from the University of Georgia, and a Master of Divinity (M.Div.), Master of Theology (Th.M.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He has previously served at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary as Dean of Chapel and Assistant Professor of Expository Preaching and Apologetics.
In this interview, Pastor Platt addresses several issues. He tells us briefly of his testimony and his surrendering to vocational ministry. He tells us about his private study life in prayer and scripture memory (he has memorized large portions of Scripture, check out his sermon at SBTS where he quoted Romans 1-8). He speaks to the pitfalls and challenges of being a 30-year old Pastor. He tells b21 about his passion for missions and how he challenges the Church at Brook Hills to be involved in missions. In addition, he addresses powerful biblical preaching and how he laid the groundwork for being able to challenge his people. David also addresses why he is a Southern Baptist and some of the things he thinks we should focus on to address some of the issues in the Southern Baptist Convention. Finally, he tells b21 about the books and people that have been influential in his life.
If you are unfamiliar with his ministry and his preaching then we at b21 would highly recommend checking it out. He is a phenomenal preacher of God’s Word, we would probably label him as one of the best and certainly one of the young up and coming preachers in the SBC. God is blessing his ministry as Brook Hills is growing and sees weekly attendance of over 4,000 people. More than being a dynamic preacher and leader, David is a man of God. It is hard to be around him long and not understand that his life is radically shaped by the gospel. Our younger audience especially would do well to learn spiritual development and humility from him. He displays a radical devotion to Christ and urgency for the nations and the glory of God. He is one of our favorites, check out this podcast and check out his preaching at SBTS (Great Commission Lectures), SEBTS (from Job on Suffering and the Gospel), and his church.
In addition check out a video interview at SBTS.
The first post in this series can be found here.
Carson’s “Cross and Christian Ministry” should don the library of every gospel minister or aspiring minister. I commend this book especially to those of us (like the Baptist 21 writers) who are preparing for gospel ministry. In addition, it should don the bookshelves of pastors who have been along the “trail of the years” in ministry, as we should never lose sight of the cross as we seek to shepherd those purchased by the precious blood of our King. I will attempt to glean implications based on the themes that Carson mined out of the Apostle’s first epistle to the Corinthian Church, and seek to assemble the picture of the minister who lives under the cross.
Carson says “fads” will sideline the gospel, and we see that in some of our churches. This is more than just the “prosperity gospel”, although it entails that. We must avoid in our SBC pulpits preaching that imitates Fosdick (self-help). We should instead imitate men like Spurgeon who make “beelines” to the cross. Carson says “They (gospel ministers) will be wary of ‘gospel’ preaching that talks much about God meeting our needs and enabling us to feel fulfilled, if it is not squarely anchored in the message of the cross” (56). Carson adds, “Biblical preaching emphasizes the gospel and constantly elevates Christ Crucified” (40). This is the calling of the cross-centered minister.
A Final post in this series will deal with the cross’ implication for the church ministry and mission.
I have been hearing for sometime about the preaching of David Platt. A friend of mine said of Platt that he knows of no one who preaches with such urgency and passion. I have to say the first time I heard him was last week in a lecture series that he preached at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and he did not disappoint, but I have to say that is because he treated The Word with such gravity. He spoke on “The Presence of Christ in the Great Commission” as well as “The Authority of Christ in the Great Commission.”
I will only mention some highlights that jumped out to me because I think you need to listen to both of these for yourself. His first lecture was out of Exodus 33 pushing us to be a church that is desperate for the presence of the Spirit. He says that “it is dangerously possible to carry on with means and programs of our church and to do them all smoothly… and realize that the Holy Spirit was absent from the process. We have made a deadly mistake… I am convinced the greatest hindrance to the advancement of the gospel to the nations may be the attempt of the church of God to do the work of God apart from the Spirit of God… Are we as the church… dependent on ourselves or are we desperate for His Spirit?”
He speaks to the weakness of our faith and some of our evangelism techniques that say, “Enjoy the promises… pray this superstitious prayer… and you’ll get best life. You’ll get heaven, but you don’t have to live with him as your savior and your lord and your God, and our churches are filled with people who are living far from the presence of God, saying well I prayed the prayer.” He says of this “Blasphemy, you don’t go to heaven if you don’t want God… We have taken God out of evangelism and offered His gifts instead.” That is powerful.
He moves on to say that we get to have the privilege of the Spirit indwelling us; we get the gift that was reserved only for Moses in Exodus 33. If this is true, Platt says “then how in the world can we get so busy that we would neglect this privilege, how can the books appeal to us so much when the prayer closet beckons us to the greatest privilege of all.” He quotes Samuel Chadwick on prayer, “Satan fears nothing from prayerless studies… he laughs at our toil, he mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.” Platt instructs that if we want to see the glory of God then we have to be a people that are desperate for His Spirit.
On Thursday of that week, he preached from Romans 9:1-6, he says that if we understand Romans 1-8 we are responsible for Romans 9. If we really believe The Book then the ramifications are huge, there are multitudes that stand outside of Christ. He explains his main thesis, that we cannot know and understand Good Gospel Theology without having an Urgent Missiology. If we rightly understand Romans 1-8 then we understand that 2/3 of the world is right now “storing up wrath against themselves for the day of God’s Wrath.” A quarter of these have never heard the name of Jesus. He says, “If this is true then we don’t have time to play games in church, we don’t have time to play games with our lives… We don’t have time to spend our resources on ourselves and indulge in our stuff, we don’t have time to sit back and say ‘I don’t know if I am called to foreign missions, I’m just trying to find the will of God for my life’.”
Platt says about the Will of God, “It’s not lost, it’s not lost, its clear.” He explains that there are some Bedouins in Algeria, over a million, 100% lost with no translation of the scripture and no missionary and yet we say, “What do you want me to do God?” He says powerfully, “God raise up a church who no longer waits for a tingly feeling to go down our spine to causes us to rise up and do what God has already called us to do, where did we get the idea that missions is an optional program in the church for faithful few?” Even if we are called to pastor, it is for the express purpose to take the gospel to the nations. He speaks of how Paul says he is obligated to preach this gospel, and yet “we have taken ourselves out from under the weight of their lostness… If we turn a deaf ear to the nations we miss the whole point of Christianity.”
He finishes by pointing out that Paul is in agony pleading for his brothers, so much so, that he is willing to be cut off for the sake of his brothers and God’s glory. Paul says that he wishes that he himself “were accursed” so his brothers of the flesh could obtain salvation and that they could see God’s supremacy. Therefore, Platt concludes saying “this is why we go to the urban centers of our nation…to Africa…to Japan and Laos and Vietnam… India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh… China and North Korea… and 1.3 billion Muslims… cause Jesus Christ died on a cross, rose from the grave and He is Lord over all.”
The week prior Dr. Russell Moore preached on Romans 9 as well. He preached the Great Commission theme through a sermon entitled “Predestined to What? Why the Doctrine of Election is So Hard to Believe.” Dr. Moore is one of my favorite preachers in all of SBC life, and this message is particularly powerful and convicting. Dr. Moore says, “When you see in your own life what God through his mercy has rescued you from, then you see what is at stake.” When we understand this, we should have anguish for the salvation of the nations. Moore continues, “If you understand the doctrine of election then you understand that there is not a kind of person who is likely to accept the gospel… Gentiles and Jews don’t like it, none of us are the kind of people who are likely to believe the gospel. The power of God comes through the gospel so that those who previously who were not the children of God are now called the sons of the Living God, Romans chapter 9 is not about God keeping people out of the Kingdom, Romans chapter 9 is a missionary text… God will build for the fame of Christ, a people.”
He continues, “There are some of you who are afraid to go share the gospel with someone on Bardstown Road because of how many piercings and tattoos he has” and he says, “You can prance in your Geneva gown all you want to, you’re a Pelagian.” Dr. Moore gets to the heart of the matter, “If you are not more evangelistic now than you were when you came to understand the doctrine of election you never understood the doctrine of election.” Moore concludes with a call for Great Commission fervor rooted in a confidence in God, “God created Sweden for Jesus… God created Russia for Jesus.”
Both of these men are telling us “Our God is mighty to save.” These three sermons are must hears. May we heed these lessons going forward confident in our evangelism and urgent about the mission, longing for the presence of the Spirit in our lives, trusting in the sovereignty of God, and the supremacy of the Christ because “it is not as though the word of God has failed.”
Historically speaking, the question of whether or not inerrancy matters has been a significant one for the SBC. Unless the reader is new to the SBC, he or she will be aware that this very issue was pivotal in the battle for control of the convention in the last quarter of the twentieth century. While there were many other issues involved, and while there are exceptions to the following statement, those in the conservative and moderate camps (in the battle for the convention) can be generally classified as those who arrive at different answers to the inerrancy question. Conservative leaders strategically lighted upon the inerrancy issue, speaking and writing about its importance to lay Southern Baptists. This issue, perhaps more than any other, awakened a grassroots movement among Southern Baptists; Baptists began to show up in greater numbers at the annual convention, casting their votes for SBC presidential candidates who believed the Bible was the inerrant Word of God. If the reader will allow this grossly over-simplified historical retelling to continue, the plan among conservatives was that the newly elected conservative (and inerrantist) SBC president would make appointments which would lead over time to theological change at the level of our denominational entities (particularly at the six Southern Baptist seminaries). As history has demonstrated, this plan to recover our historical, biblical roots and preserve our convention’s theological heritage worked. All six Southern Baptist seminaries now teach their students that the Bible is inerrant and are sending out pastors, church leaders, and missionaries who are conveying that message to the people with whom they serve. Sadly, this could not have been said of all six seminaries in the years before the “Conservative Resurgence” took place. Of course, those on different sides of this issue have different feelings about this change in the convention. While some approvingly refer to this time in SBC history as the “Conservative Resurgence,” others, with a note of mournful disappointment, call it the “Fundamentalist Takeover.” [Just so there is no confusion, this author calls it the “Conservative Resurgence,” thinks the question of inerrancy is, to borrow from Judge Pressler, “A Hill on Which to Die,” and is eternally grateful to those who fought to keep our denomination from taking the path of theological liberalism tread by so many others]. No matter your position, what has taken place in our convention is a matter of historical record. Those interested in learning more about the “Conservative Resurgence” can do so by reading any number of books on the subject (see below for a few examples).
This way of understanding the question “Does Inerrancy Matter?” isn’t actually the point of this post. This post is not written with the goal of convincing non-inerrantists to switch camps and take an inerrantist position “because inerrancy matters.” I am writing to conservatives. I am writing to those who would affirm the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. I am writing to those who would say wholeheartedly “Inerrancy does matter!” And I am asking you the question, “Do you live like it matters?” I am convinced that if it really did matter to us like we say it does, we would do some things differently. I am convinced that we as Southern Baptists are not living, teaching, preaching, and worshipping like inerrancy matters to us.
Let me mention three key areas where I think we can do a better job of demonstrating that inerrancy matters to us and is indeed “A Hill on Which to Die”:
(1) Personal Bible Reading—We say we have a perfect Bible, with God as its ultimate author, and yet the number of those in our convention who have actually taken the time to read this perfect Bible in its entirety is relatively few. Does this fact jive with our belief in inerrancy? If it’s not perfect, maybe there are some parts we should skip? But if it’s perfect, and if 2 Timothy 3:16 is true and every single piece of Scripture is beneficial for us, then how can we not read it all? Yet many who take an inerrantist position on Scripture have read each volume of the Lord of the Rings trilogy many times over but have never taken the time to read through the Bible even once. While our copies of Harry Potter have well-worn pages with tattered edges, our Bibles are in mint condition from want of use. Which book on our shelves does this practice suggest is the perfect one?
(2) Scripture Memory—The Bible we believe is perfect is filled with commands to hide God’s Word in our hearts. Even apart from such commands, since we believe that every verse in Scripture is intended for our spiritual well-being why would we not want to have as much of the Word as possible memorized? Yet I fear that accurate statistics on scripture memorization in the SBC would be even more alarming than statistics on Bible reading. Pastors, try this out in your next worship service. Ask every person in the congregation to rise. Then ask them to sit down if they cannot quote one verse (with its reference) for every year they have been a Christian. See how many you have left standing. Most likely, you will only have a handful for every hundred believers in your church. What does this say about how important we think our perfect Bibles are? Apparently we believe that since the Bible is perfect, it is perfect-ly fine for us to look up every verse we need when we need it.
(3) Preaching—How can a Southern Baptist congregation, that presumably believes in a perfect Bible, tolerate a sermon which barely mentions the Bible? I have heard, and heard of, Southern Baptist preachers constructing entire messages around the latest Christian book they’ve read or the latest forwarded email they received in their inbox. How did we as a convention get to a point where, in any of our churches, such behavior passes as “preaching” in any sense of the word? Preaching, as understood in Scripture, takes the Word as its subject matter. “Preachers” are tasked with explaining the meaning of Scripture so that their hearers can apply the Word to their lives (e.g. Neh 8:8). While this task of “explaining” will include the appropriate use of illustrative material, the subject matter of the sermon is never in doubt—it is the Word of God. Preaching anything but the Bible expresses either the height of arrogance (“I have something more valuable to say that what God has said”) or laziness (“It is easier to read this email and talk about it than to actually study the Scripture and find out what it says”). While this is a topic too large to expound fully at the close of this post, I would submit to you that expository preaching best matches a stated belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. The preacher who delivers an expository sermon in effect says to his hearers, “We have been given a perfect Bible. I don’t need to add anything to it; I just need to explain it. I will let the God-given text of Scripture determine my main point and my preaching outline (my supporting points). Why would I think I can organize this material any better than God and try to preach this passage some other way?” Sadly, while many in our denomination label themselves “expositors” their preaching could not be called “expository” by any conceivable definition. It is not enough to call yourself an “expositor;” you must actually “exposit” (uncover, lay bear) the text during your message to merit that self-designation. [For more on the connection between inerrancy and expository preaching, consider: John MacArthur, Jr., “The Mandate of Biblical Inerrancy: Expository Preaching,” in Rediscovering Expository Preaching, John MacArthur, Jr., ed. (Dallas: Word, 1992): 22-35.]
The battle our theological fathers fought for inerrancy was a difficult one. We should not give away the fruit of their victory so easily. We should continue to fight for inerrancy, because it really does matter—without a perfect Bible, we have an unsure epistemological foundation for our faith. But we must also live as if inerrancy matters. We must live under the realization that because the Bible is the inerrant Word of God it has absolute authority over our behavior as individuals, families, and churches. God has spoken to us and we are to listen and obey. We should read the Word, memorize the Word, and preach the Word as if we believe we have a perfect Word from the Lord—because we do!
–Scott S. Wilson
Recommended Resources on the Conservative Resurgence in the SBC:
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