David Platt addresses Trump prayer controversy at SBC pastors' conference, stressing 'meekness'

David Platt, pastor of McLean Bible Church near Washington, D.C., and founder of Radical, a resource ministry that serves churches, preaches during the second session of the two-day 2019 Pastors' Conference held June 9-10 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. | Baptist Press/Adam Covington

Pastor David Platt addressed the controversy that enveloped McLean Bible Church last week in light of the fallout over his decision to pray for President Donald Trump publicly from the stage during a June 2 Sunday service.

Speaking on the Beatitudes at the pastor's conference in the lead-up to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Birmingham, Alabama, the former head of the International Mission Board, now the teaching pastor at McLean Bible Church just outside Washington, D.C., noted he had a "sanctifying week."

He explained to thousands gathered that on that Sunday he was called backstage just prior to serving Communion and was told that President Trump was on his way to the church. A flood of thoughts consumed him at that moment, most prominent among them was 1 Timothy 2:2, where the apostle Paul's speaks of the necessity of praying for kings and all who are in authority.

He told his church that what unites them is the Gospel, and that they had the unique opportunity to pray for the president, which he did on stage.

"I immediately knew that some members of our church would be delighted that this happened ... and I also knew that others would be disheartened this happened," Platt said.

"Both of those responses were confirmed," he said, receiving laughs from the crowd.

He spent most of Sunday night writing a letter to his church so they could understand what had happened and how he approaches ministry, with God's Word at the forefront, and prioritizing the Gospel amid political differences.

"Little did I know that as a result of that prayer on Sunday afternoon, that letter on Sunday night, I would find myself in the middle of a social media firestorm, I would turn down numerous requests to be on national TV and I would find myself working this week amidst increased security risk."

"To be clear, I am no expert in meekness," he said, as he spoke on Matthew 5:5.

The verse, which is part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, reads: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."

"Meekness is a hard word for us to understand," he said. "We don't use it a lot. And for good reason. People didn't use it a lot in the first century either. Meekness connotes weakness in our minds. And that's actually accurate in a sense."

Meekness was not a quality that was valued neither in the 1st century nor 21st century, he continued, "but it's quality valued by the One who transcends centuries."

When Jesus is speaking about meekness in Matthew 5, he is referring to Psalm 37:11, he explained.

"Meekness calmly and joyfully trusts in the justice of God," he said, summarizing the passage leading up to that particular Old Testament verse.

Such calmness and joy cannot come when one looks at a world in turmoil, he said, inviting those in attendance to consider the ways in church turmoil plagues churches such as division among deacons and elders, betrayal by a trusted friend, a series of seemingly inescapable trials, and a false accusation that comes out of nowhere.

"Sunday, a week ago, I made a lot of people glad with the decision I made, and I made some other people mad. So you know what I did? I turned around Monday and I took the people who were glad and made them mad. Albeit unintentionally I successfully ensured that no one would be happy with me," he said.

"I somehow managed to be labeled, in Washington, both a far-right-wing conservative and a far-left-wing liberal in less than 24 hours. That is not easy to do."

Yet, only Jesus is his judge, the pastor went on to say.

"And He's not just our judge, He is our defender," he added.

"The meek are free from defending themselves and free from fretting amidst the turmoil of this world."

Meekness is not found only in how Christians relate to God but to others, the McLean Bible Church pastor continued, referencing James 1:19-21.

Meekness humbly listens and selflessly lives for the good, he stressed, emphasizing that it not only listens to God's Word but is aware of the danger of a tongue that is too quick to speak.

The Bible says Christians must pray for their political leaders, Platt said, circling back to the recent controversy swirling around him last week, noting that the question became whether or not it was appropriate for him to bring President Trump on stage and pray for him in front of several cameras.

Unlike the biblical admonition to pray for leaders in 1 Timothy 2:2, no specific scripture adequately addresses the dynamics of this particular situation, he observed.

The church he pastors has over 100 different nations represented, which hold a variety of perspectives regarding politics.

Some Bible-believing Christians supported idea of praying for the president during a public worship gathering because of the opportunity to model how to pray for leaders while others see it as the chance for a manipulative political photo-op, turning a holy moment into a public spectacle. Both camps have their views rooted in their sincere, biblical convictions, he said.

"It's possible for followers of Jesus who love the Gospel and God's Word to have different convictions here," he said.

"Yet in the middle of it all, I constantly heard last week words like 'Don't listen to those people in the church who think this or that.' And meanwhile, the Bible says 'those people' are your brothers and sisters."

"We live in a culture that entices us at every moment to speak our thoughts from behind a screen instead of looking into the eyes of our brother and sister in love and listening to them. Let us not get caught up in this, where we jump to erroneous conclusions and ignore honest convictions of brothers and sisters in Christ who may have different views from us."

He emphasized: "If you don't ever have conversations with Bible-believing Christians who have different views on politics and on positions that you hold, including people who might not think it wise to bring the president on stage in a church gathering, meekness may mean humbly expanding your listening to people who aren't just like you."

The pastors conference is the prelude to the denomination's annual meeting, which formally begins Tuesday and will conclude Wednesday. The theme of this year's gathering is "Gospel Above All."

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