I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Together for the Gospel 2016. I have also enjoyed reflecting upon some of the messages I heard over those three days, and I have posted some brief articles on a number of them (see my “T4G Reflections” articles.
In a breakout session address, David Platt spoke about the local church and its participating in global mission. Below is a recap and my own considerations concerning the speaker and the topic.
My introduction to David Platt was about seven or eight years ago when I read his popular book, Radical. I came away with mixed thoughts about the book, but I was certainly compelled by the author. Any man with such deep convictions must be a man worth watching and hearing (maybe even following). Over the years, I have heard Platt speak a small number of times, and I have appreciated the “Christ-Centered Exposition” commentary series, in which Platt is a contributing author. Honestly, I am not a huge fan of his delivery style (he always seems to be right on the verge of crying), but his content has yet to disappoint me.
In this talk, Platt made an important early statement. He said, “A passion for mission is characteristic of all Christians.” After he said that, he expanded upon it for just a bit and pressed it a little as well. Such a statement has big implications, and Platt directly applied them to the local church context. While some implications are negative (for example: lack of passion signifies an unregenerate heart), his talk was primarily focused upon the things a pastor (or pastors) can do to stimulate missional passion among the local church congregation. Below are some of the stimuli Platt listed as essential.
Platt first talked of presenting God as “God-centered.” The glory of God, the holiness of God, and other attributes which inspire awe, are coming to the forefront in many churches as long-neglected doctrines like these are revived in our day. Whatever one might say about the causes, it is beyond debate that the churches in America have had a very low view of God for some time. God is underwhelming to churchgoers everywhere, and this is simply incompatible with a true (even if only introductory) understanding of God. Platt argued that presenting a man-centered God is much to blame for uncommitted and underwhelming Christianity, but presenting a God-centered God (the God of Scripture) is the antidote.
Platt then argued for a “Word-saturated” ministry. God’s Word is that medium through which God regenerates, renews, and refreshes His people. Since this is true, then all aspects of local church ministry should be saturated with the Word of God. Scripture should permeate everything the local church does. Additionally, Platt contended, we should present a Gospel that is more than mere superstition. Of course, we should expect the Gospel to change lives, but we should not neglect to speak of the Gospel in such a way that we provide sufficient ground for the transformation. If we merely invite people to add Jesus to what they are already doing, then we have left them with no expectation or desire for life-change. But, if we invite people into the Kingdom of Christ, by way of His sacrificial life and death, where they may participate in Kingdom expansion (both personal and communal), then we have opened them up to a whole new world – a “Life-changing” Gospel.
Platt also made things very practical by claiming that pastors are obligated to create and implement a “Disciple-making” strategy. Platt did not seek to reinvent the wheel here, nor did he suggest that any pastor do so. Platt did, however, lay out the simple and biblically-exemplified task of taking others alongside you through spiritual cultivation and growth. The daunting task of discipling others is made more manageable when it is viewed as an ongoing and multiplying process. One man cannot disciple 1,000 others, but he can disciple 5-10, who in turn can disciple 5-10, who in turn disciple 5-10 more, and so on. By the 4th generation removed from the first individual, there would be between 625-10,000 disciples. This kind of discipleship strategy is important to missional living in the local context as well as the cross-cultural context.
I appreciated Platt’s talk tremendously. These overarching principles and practical application were helpful as reminders of what we are truly supposed to be doing on the ground in our local and cross-cultural contexts. I pray that God would bless my own efforts to apply these things, as a Christian and as a local church pastor. I also pray that others among my own congregation will see the tremendous benefit and the biblical mandate to live in this way.