My Facebook comment, “Another cowardly prominent SBC leader, so sad,” was not intended as a slam against David Platt, or to incite dialogue about him. It was more of a lament over the trend toward cowardice within Southern Baptist leadership. In my frustration, I did not make that clear. However, given my observations are not obvious to all, I will explain.
Background: In 2016, as president of the International Mission Board, Platt moved the IMB to file a court brief, in support of the building of a mosque in New Jersey. Why would he personally support this, and even more concerning, why would he support it officially as an agency of the SBC? I don’t know if he ever properly explained that. But we do know that shortly after criticism came, he turned on his position, and apologized. Which position did he really support? His original stand was that the SBC should officially be on the side of building the mosque. In his apology, he expressed a conviction to remain true to the gospel, and not to get side tracked. Is this an example of a valiant and courageous man of God, standing in the face of social pressure?
Fast forward to 2019. The social context of the United States today, is that in order to be socially acceptable, is to either denounce President Trump, or stay completely silent. Anyone who publicly supports Trump, or appears to support Trump, is to be denounced along with Trump. This attitude also thrives in many churches.
The social pressure surrounding the moral and political divide in our Country right now is intense, and with so many people on the fence, it’s about to give out, forcing each of us to take sides. To be clear, by taking sides I in no way mean politically. I mean morally and biblically. With this being the case, it’s a great time to see the cards of strong followers of Christ, as well as the weak.
I believe it is interesting that the two major public mistakes Platt has made (my opinion), have been involving Muslims and Trump. Two categories where the Left has drawn lines in the sand.
To summarize my point, his cowardice can be defined as the fear of Man.
Following, is David Platt’s letter to his church and us, with inserted notes to explain my original comment.
PRAYER FOR THE PRESIDENT
June 2, 2019
Dear MBC Family,
Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that we didn’t see coming, and we’re faced with a decision in a moment when we don’t have the liberty of deliberation, so we do our best to glorify God. Today, I found myself in one of those situations.
[This is often true, but why is granting the president’s request for prayer one of “Those” situations? This opening in itself seems to be an appeal to the sympathies of those in his church who despise the president, and demand their pastor also despise him. Furthermore, had he had the liberty of deliberation, with whom would he have deliberated, and what would have been the likely outcome? In this opening statement of apologetic appeasement, he insinuates that proper deliberation would have led him to a different decision, i.e., denying the President’s request for corporate prayer. This is interesting because he later writes, “I am thankful that we had an opportunity to obey 1 Timothy 2 in a unique way today.” He seems to not really know on which side to stand (Strength?). It was of course within his right to deny the president’s request, but he did not.]
At the end of my sermon at the 1:00 worship gathering, I stepped to the side for what I thought would be a couple of moments in quiet reflection as we prepared to take the Lord’s Supper. But I was immediately called backstage and told that the President of the United States was on his way to the church, would be there in a matter of minutes, and would like for us to pray for him. I immediately thought about my longing to guard the integrity of the gospel in our church.As I said in the sermon today, Christ alone unites us.
[Clearly this would be a moment of shock for most pastors, even pastors of Platt’s notoriety and experience, but his immediate thought shows much clarity to his thinking. He writes,I immediately thought about my longing to guard the integrity of the gospel in our church. Would publicly praying for the president threaten the integrity of the gospel? He obviously thought not. Did the president’s presence or Platt’s prayer for him threaten the integrity of the gospel? No, it did not.]
I love that we have over 100 nations represented in our church family, including all kinds of people with varied personal histories and political opinions from varied socioeconomic situations. It’s clear in our church that the only reason we’re together is because we have the same King we adore, worship, fear, and follow with supreme love and absolute loyalty, and His name is Jesus.
[Yes, I too love the diversity of people we are blessed to have in our church, and I understand that with each difference in background and life experience, there can also be differences in belief and understanding about God, Man, and worldview. I also understand and admit that some of those beliefs, understandings, and views of the world, held by people in our church, are sometimes wrong, dangerous, and sinful. I also understand that as certain circumstances arise, as people get offended, hurt, or angry, there is often sin involved, wrong thinking, or misunderstanding. When this happens, correction becomes a necessary response from leadership. I wish I could honestly say that “It’s clear in our church that the only reason we’re together is because we have the same King we adore, worship, fear, and follow with supreme love and absolute loyalty, and His name is Jesus.” That has never been “Clear” in any church I have ever served or attended. What’s clear here, is that Platt overstates his true confidence in the church’s loyalty to Jesus. Were this not so, he would not have had any cause for this apologetic appeasement of a letter to his church and us. If he truly believed this about his church, he would have rebuked them for their sin, and if it were actually true of them, they would have repented of their sin, and would not have known there was ever a controversy.]
That’s why, as soon as I heard this request backstage, the passage from God’s Word that came to my mind was 1 Timothy 2:1-6:
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”
Based on this text, I know that it is good, and pleasing in the sight of God, to pray for the president. So in that moment, I decided to take this unique opportunity for us as a church to pray over him together. My aim was in no way to endorse the president, his policies, or his party, but to obey God’s command to pray for our president and other leaders to govern in the way this passage portrays.
[When faced with a quick decision on whether or not to publicly pray for the president, two things immediately came to him. One was his longing to guard the integrity of the gospelin his church, and the other was Paul’s command to the Church to pray for all people, including our leaders, 1 Timothy 2:1-6. So, with no time to deliberate these things with others, he came to a decision, writing, “I know that it is good, and pleasing in the sight of God, to pray for the president. So in that moment, I decided to take this unique opportunity for us as a church to pray over him together.” This was the right decision, and he said that he knew it was the right decision, saying “It is good and pleasing in the sight of God….” So, why would he insinuate that if he had the liberty of deliberationhe would have made a different decision, i.e., not publicly pray for the president.]
I went back out to lead the Lord’s Supper and then walked off stage, where the president was soon to arrive. In that brief moment, I prayed specifically for an opportunity to speak the gospel to him, and for faithfulness to pray the gospel over him.
While I won’t go into the details of our conversation backstage, one of our other pastors and I spoke the gospel in a way that I pray was clear, forthright, and compassionate.
[I praise God for this! The president hearing a clear presentation of the gospel was likely God’s primary purpose for bringing the president to Platt’s church for prayer, not the prayer itself.]
Then I walked back out on stage, read 1 Timothy 2:1-6, and sought to pray the Word of God over the president, other leaders, and our country. (If you would like to see the full context of my comments and prayer, I have included the video below.) After I prayed, the president walked off stage without comment, and we closed our gathering by celebrating heroes among us, a couple who has spent the last 48 years spreading the gospel in remote places where it had never gone before they came. We then recited the Great Commission as we always do, sending one another out into the city for the glory of our King.
[There was the prayer, no comment from the president, and the president left, all of which was appropriate.]
I wanted to share all of this with you in part because I know that some within our church, for a variety of valid reasons, are hurt that I made this decision. This weighs heavy on my heart. I love every member of this church, and I only want to lead us with God’s Word in a way that transcends political party and position, heals the hurts of racial division and injustice, and honors every man and woman made in the image of God. So while I am thankful that we had an opportunity to obey 1 Timothy 2 in a unique waytoday, I don’t want to purposely ever do anything that undermines the unity we have in Christ.
[This is the most distressing part for me. He writes, “I know that some within our church, for a variety of valid reasons, are hurt that I made this decision.” According to his own words, how could he have made any other decision? He said, based on scripture, “I know that it is good, and pleasing in the sight of God, to pray for the president.” Then he goes on to say, “I am thankful that we had an opportunity to obey 1 Timothy 2 in a unique way.” I would be interested to know what are the variety of valid reasonsthat brought so much hurt to the church, simply because the pastor publicly prayed for the president. Was this tremendous hurt caused because Platt prayed for a political figure in the church, causing an appearance of supporting said political figure? Would the same offended brethren be so hurt if Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama, or Nancy Pelosi, were brought up for prayer? The main problem here is not his recognition of the hurt, it’s that he validates their hurt, instead of lovingly correcting them.
He writes,I don’t want to purposely ever do anything that undermines the unity we have in Christ. Absolutely! I pray I never even accidentlyundermine the unity a church has in Christ, and to purposely do that, would be no less than satanic! However, If praying for the president brings disunity to a church, is that unity truly a unity that they “Have in Christ,“ or do they only have unity in Christ as long as they also have unity in their political feelings for the president? Can that rightly be said to be unity in Christ?]
In the end, would you pray with me for gospel seed that was sown today to bear fruit in the president’s heart? Would you also pray with me that God will help us to guard the gospel in every way as we spread the gospel everywhere? And finally, I’m guessing that all of us will face other decisions this week where we don’t have time to deliberate on what to do. I’m praying now for grace and wisdom for all of us to do exactly what we talked about in the Word today: aim for God’s glory, align with God’s purpose, and yield to God’s sovereignty.
I love you, church.
To conclude, I have nothing against David Platt. The fact of the matter is that not all men of God are strong enough to take the arrows of certain pressures, I know men that I believe would more easily take physical persecution for Christ, than emotional. My criticism, in no way is a critique of his commitment to Christ. To reiterate my true point, It is sad to me, to see SBC leadership behave so cowardly. This ungodly cowardice played out in it’s most disgusting form, with the SBC’s treatment of Paige Patterson.
I now end my part in this discussion.