In these final days leading up to the Annual Meeting of the SBC in Orlando, FL, the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force has been sending a series of emails from notable SBC leaders and pastors who are in favor of the final report. These emails have been fairly simple in nature and have been designed to clear some of the confusion elicited by the final report. The last email I received was from David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, AL.
David Platt is one of the more respected and appreciated young pastors in the SBC. I had the opportunity to hear him preach while at seminary in Louisville, KY. That the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who is very selective in who they allow preach during chapel services, would extend an invitation to Platt speaks volumes of his heart and ministry. He is a man well gifted by God and seems to be humbly in His service.
Platt, in typical fashion, cuts to the core of what he sees as the central issue in the GCRTF final report. I will provide some quotes and a brief summary in this post, but if you wish you can read his full email here. Although acknowledging that he is a devoted Southern Baptist and has been mentored by faithful Southern Baptist pastors, Platt says that his endorsement of the final report is not because he is concerned “about what is healthy for the Southern Baptist Convention.” He goes on to say that he is “not interested in what is best for the Southern Baptist Convention. No,
I was created for and called to something much greater than this.” Platt makes very clear that he considers the “something” to be the Great Commission, or as he puts it, “make disciples of all the people groups.” He then goes on in the remainder of his article to describe how his church is making radical changes to their own budget so that programming and maintenance items are minimized and more monies are available for Great Commission work.
Keeping in mind the above comments about David Platt and his ministry, I found his arguments to be less than convincing. As someone who has not yet made up their mind concerning the final report, my comments here are about as unbiased as you can get. I am looking to be convinced, one way or another. But, Platt’s words didn’t quite do the job. Here is why.
First, Platt does not really make a real defense for the effectiveness and legitimacy of the components of the final report. What he does is provide a soul-stirring sermon of sorts. After reading his article, I would imagine most Southern Baptists would say, “right on” or “this is exactly what we need to be about.” After all, who wouldn’t agree that more money and effort should be given toward the Great Commission than for maintenance and programming? Although it may be true that many of our churches fail in this regard, my hunch is that most who are even remotely concerned about the GCRTF would echo Platt’s sentiments. But so what? That still does nothing to help us decide if this final report is the best way to accomplish those goals. In essence, Platt says “I believe first and foremost in the Great Commission” and then in one small paragraph says, “that is why I support the final report.” Well, why? Just because one holds to the primacy of the Great Commission should not by default mean a report that has the words “Great Commission” in it is the right direction.
Second, Platt unfortunately plays the “Jesus didn’t tell us to do this” card and, in my opinion, makes the mistake of losing balance. A.W. Tozer in his classic book “The Knowledge of the Holy” writes that when we emphasize one attribute of God over another, then we instantly hold to an improper understanding of God. In other words, if I focus all my attention on God’s sovereignty to the exclusion of some other attribute, then my image of God is skewed. The same is true for this situation. Listen to how Platt makes his argument: “Now the Southern Baptist church I pastor is tempted to do everything
except for what Jesus told us to do. Jesus never told us to construct
church buildings, start programs, or organize Sunday School. He never
told us to host conferences or events. Instead, he told us to get the
gospel to all the nations. Therefore, as a church we have stopped
construction on buildings, we are removing programs, and we are
reorganizing our structure so that we can more intentionally focus his
church on what he said is most important.” Jesus didn’t tell us to do a lot of things. That is why we critically read the entire counsel of Scripture. It is why we pay attention to 2,000 years of church history. And it is why we use the brains God has given us to best promote the good news of Jesus Christ and edify the saints. Buildings are actually quite helpful in that regard. As is Sunday School and even programming. This is a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bath water, in addition to just being a bit naive. Obviously we must, and surely God expects, us to do things with all our heart that are not explicitly spelled out in the words of Christ. If you follow the argument of Platt, where do you draw the line? Now, I have no problem agreeing with Platt in principle; I believe the Great Commission should be our heart and our focus above and beyond buildings, programs, etc. I am at a church that is in the middle of a building project right now and I have concerns that some are placing too great an emphasis on it. So, I am not disagreeing with Platt’s principle. I just don’t like the way he makes his argument.
Third, Platt spends a good bit of time saying, “here is what we are doing at my church.” I am certain that he means nothing but good by this and it in no way highlights a sense of pride or superiority. Yet, I found it to be a bit shallow, especially when you consider that Platt’s church gives an incredibly low percentage to the Cooperative Program.
So, my prayers and my mind are still turned to this report and if this is a positive step for our denomination. Feel free to email me with any insight you might have. I enjoy the dialogue. Blessings!
One Reply to “David Platt and the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force”
Fascinating. Yours and David Dockery’s observations are both spot-on, I think. The balance of nuturing current Christians and pointing others towards the faith itself is crucial, I think. I frequently get hot under the collar when either of these elements is magnified to the exclusion of the other. I do appreciate the focus of the GCRTF on North American I think it is vital to focus on our Jerusalem in addition to our Judea and far flung countries in the world. I am hesitant that the whole thing is so standardized, (the north american mission board) but that might just be because I don’t fully understand it. Is the intent to provide funds to plant churches in unchurched areas in North America, or for general missions? Or do general missions include church planting? Also, the cooperative program…is that a way for churches to network and connect about what each is doing to promote greater unity? If I’m understanding that correctly, I appreciate the initiative behind it but cringe somewhat because many churches struggle to make ends meet simply with their own finances as it is. I know our church has financial issues, even though they’re not dire or incredibly pressing, but they are present, and I think those need to be acknowledged before we spend money on other things like this.
Seems like a good idea, but I’m not completely sold. Thought-provoking posts Philip.