Church, Culture, Leading, Ministry, Missional Living

Dr. David Platt, Pastor of The Church at Brook Hills: Why I Wholeheartedly Support the GCRTF Report … and More

See below for David Platt’s recent comments regarding the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force and their final report.  Like, David, I personally support the GCRTF not for the sake of the SBC, but for the sake of the Gospel and the Great Commission.  This is an incredible time in the life of the American church… through the economic, cultural, and moral changes in our country, the church has an opportunity to be a light in the darkness.  Not just a stationary beacon of light that says “come to me,” but a dynamic missional firestorm that blazes outside the walls of the church throughout the country.  There are times when disciples of Christ must come together “for such a time as this.”

In what follows, I want to express why I wholeheartedly support the final report from the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force of the Southern Baptist Convention. Since the report was released, much discussion has ensued concerning whether or not the recommendations in this report are healthy for the future of the Southern Baptist Convention. To be perfectly honest, that is not my concern at all. Although I believe the arguments articulated by the task force concerning the health of their recommendations are more than sufficient, in the end my concern is not really about what is healthy for the Southern Baptist Convention. My concern is much different. Let me explain.

Where My Loyalty Lies

I am a product of the Southern Baptist Convention. I grew up in a Southern Baptist church. I was involved in a Southern Baptist campus ministry during college. I spent five years in a Southern Baptist seminary. Most of my mission involvement around the world has been through Southern Baptist mission agencies. I now find myself, by the grace of God, pastoring a Southern Baptist church. I am thoroughly Southern Baptist.

All of this to say – the Southern Baptist pastors who have shepherded me, the Southern Baptist campus ministers who have mentored me, the Southern Baptist seminary professors who have educated me, and the Southern Baptist mission leaders who have given me opportunities to serve have all taught me one thing: my loyalty is not to the Southern Baptist Convention.

Southern Baptist leaders whom I have admired in the past and Southern Baptist leaders who have poured their lives into mine in the present have never encouraged me to give my allegiance to the Southern Baptist Convention. Instead, they have exhorted me at every turn to give my allegiance to the Word of God and to the mission of God revealed therein. Southern Baptist leaders have ingrained into my heart and mind that the Word of God is my supreme guide and the mission of God must be my central passion.

For this reason, precisely because of the influence of Southern Baptists on my life, I am not interested in what is best for the Southern Baptist Convention. No, I was created for and called to something much greater than this. We were all created for and called to something much greater than this. We have been placed in a world with nearly 7 billion people comprising over 16,000 people groups. Over 6,000 of those people groups still have little to no access to the gospel, and my Savior (our Savior) has commanded us to take the gospel to every single one of those people groups. He has not just said, “Get the gospel to as many people as you can.” He has said, clearly and unmistakably, “Make disciples of all the people groups.” Therefore, the energies of my life and the resources of the church I lead must be radically committed to making disciples in Birmingham, AL, who are taking the gospel to as many of those 6,000 people groups as we possibly can. That is where my allegiance lies. That is where Southern Baptists have taught me my allegiance should be.

What Jesus Commanded Us To Do

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. Now not everything we do is directly for the unreached. For example, many of our families are selling their houses and moving into a low-income area in Birmingham to spread the gospel there. But inner-city Birmingham is not the end goal. We are going into different parts of Birmingham so that we can mobilize that many more people to take the gospel to 6,000 people groups who haven’t heard it. That is what Jesus has commanded us to do.

The faith family I lead knows that as we go to those unreached people groups, we will encounter unprecedented poverty. We know that we are incredibly rich compared to the rest of the world. We know that half the world is living on less than $2 today, struggling to find water, food, shelter, clothing, and medical care for the same amount of money we spend on french fries for lunch. We know that we have been given much wealth, and that wealth is not intended to center on us. That wealth is intended to center on the spread of the gospel of God and the declaration of the glory of God to the ends of the earth.

As a result of the work of God’s Word in the hearts of the people I pastor, they have been making generous sacrifices with their money. Based on what they have seen in the Word, they want their resources to be spent taking the gospel to all the people groups. As a pastor, then, I have a responsibility to help shape our budget so that we are giving to what God has told us to do in his Word. During this last year, that meant making dramatic changes – cutting $1.5 million out of our budget – monies that we were spending on maintenance and ministries, projects and programs for ourselves – so that those resources could better be used toward the accomplishment of the Great Commission (making disciples of all the people groups). By the grace of God, these brothers and sisters want their resources going to the ends of the earth, and they are making sacrifices to ensure that it does.

All of this to say as plainly and I pray as humbly as I can – the people I pastor are not wanting the money they have sacrificed to go toward denominational structures that are not making similar sacrifices. We are not sacrificing programs and events in the church only to support programs and events in a convention. Moreover, in light of the mandate these brothers and sisters have seen in God’s Word to get the gospel to all the people groups, they are not willing to give to a cooperative structure where the majority of money stays in the southern part of the United States where there are already thousands of Southern Baptist churches, a plethora of trained pastors, and the resources of one of the wealthiest countries in the world. This makes no sense to the people I lead, and it makes no sense to me.

A Means To An End

Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I am not saying that I do not want to cooperate with others. On the contrary, I am saying that I desperately want to cooperate with others. I know that every church does not look like Brook Hills and I know that Brook Hills has so much to learn from other churches (and I have so much to learn from other pastors!). I want to serve other churches and pastors and to lock arms together with them. But I don’t want to cooperate for the survival of the Southern Baptist Convention. I want to cooperate for the sake of the Great Commission. I don’t want to waste my life advancing the Southern Baptist Convention. I want to spend my life accomplishing the Great Commission. The Southern Baptist Convention is not the end; it is a means to an end. The Cooperative Program is not the end; it is a means to an end. The end is pastors, churches, and followers of Christ locked arm-in-arm sacrificing all the resources we have to do what Jesus has told us to do: make disciples of all the people groups. The end is giving everything we have in urgent, radical, death-defying obedience to Jesus as we live and long for the day when a multitude that no one can count from every nation, tribe, people, and language will bow around his throne and give him the praise that he alone is due.

This is the end for which we were created, and this is why I am supportive of any steps, now or in the days to come, no matter how small or large, that we can take as a convention of churches to be more devoted to the Great Commission. I am supportive of changing anything and everything we do in the Southern Baptist Convention as long it means more resources from our churches going toward the accomplishment of all people groups having disciples of Jesus. I am supportive of such change simply because this is what Southern Baptists have taught me to support.

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