WASHINGTON — Influential megachurch pastor and best-selling author David Platt voiced concerns about a trend within church culture that he suspects might be the “greatest hindrance to the advancement of the Gospel” today.
As Americans celebrate The National Day of Prayer Thursday, Platt spoke before a group of church leaders gathered for the Men’s and Women’s Prayer Breakfast Wednesday morning at The Willard Hotel located about a block from the White House in Washington, D.C.
The Radical author and former leader of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board explained that church and ministry leaders are too frequently “tempted” to accomplish their ministry goals through human abilities and ingenuity without the “presence of God.”
“I believe you and I are tempted in a strangely similar way all across our church culture,” said Platt, the teaching pastor at McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Virginia. “Think about it. You and I are tempted every day in our lives and in our churches to do the work of God apart from the power and the presence of God.”
“Let’s be honest with each other. We have created a whole host of means and methods to our ministry today that require little if no help at all from the Holy Spirit of God,” he continued. “We don’t have to fast and pray for the Church to go. We have marketing for that today.”
It's “dangerously possible” for leaders to “carry on the machinery and activity of churches and ministries," the 39-year-old pastor said. "All of it to be successful in the eyes of the world and we can never notice that the Holy Spirit is totally absent from it,” Platt worried.
“If we are not careful, we can deceive ourselves by mistaking the presence of physical bodies in a building for the existence of spiritual life in a church. I wonder if the greatest hindrance to the advancement of the Gospel in our day may be the attempt of the people to do the work of God apart from the power of the Spirit of God.”
He suggests that the greatest barrier to spreading the Gospel might not be the “self-indulgent immorality of our culture” but rather the “self-sufficient mentality in the Church evident in our prayerlessness.”
Earlier in his keynote message, Platt explained that he recently returned from a preaching trip in South Korea. He said it was a trip in which the Lord convicted him in a “fresh and deep way” after seeing how hours of intentional prayer, repentance and fasting played a major role in the spiritual awakening in the country.
Platt noted that around 1900, less than 1 percent of the Korean Peninsula was Christian. But in 2000, there were as many as 10 million Christians in South Korea. Today, the country is only second to the United States in the number of missionaries sent around the world.
“At the church I was preaching at recently, they still gather every morning. They have a prayer gathering every Friday night, all night to pray. There's not a formal event for them once a year. Prayer is a way of life every single day in the church. And I walked away convicted because I have not led the church well in this way, in a country where I am part of the church culture where I preach at conferences and events filled with hours of talks and sermons and relative minutes of prayer and confession.”
Platt warned that leaders in the American Church culture are known for “preaching and teaching, writing and blogging, organizing and strategizing, planning and planting.”
“But we are not known for our praying and fasting,” He added. “And in this, we're in profound danger of missing the whole point. When was the last time we got together with the church just for worship on Sunday and crowds of people fell on our faces weeping for hidden sin in our midst, crying out for God's mercy upon us? We have no room because we need to get on to the next song we have planned, the next program that is waiting.”
“What kind of church culture have we created where we pastors, members of churches like ours, are content to go week after week after week in church, watch what happens on stage and then move on with our lives?” Platt asked.
Platt pointed to Exodus 33, a story in which Moses and the Israelites were faced with the possibility of having to journey to the promised land flowing with milk and honey without the presence of God.
“So what does Moses do when faced with the prospect of doing God’s work apart from God’s presence? He prays. He goes in the ‘tent of meeting,’” Platt explained. “You should see this scene.”
Platt detailed the scene in which Moses goes far outside of the camp to set up a tent in which he meets “face-to-face” with God just as a man “speaks to a friend.” A crowd of thousands gathered to watch Moses as he entered the tent and were struck with awe when the “pillar of cloud” came down to speak with Moses.
“This is one of those places where you can’t believe this is in the Old Testament, right?” Platt commented. “We didn’t gather here today to watch Ronnie [Floyd] go into a tent or anybody go into a tent. Every single one of us can go into the tent. We don’t have to go anywhere. You are the tent.”
Platt added that Christians today have the privilege to speak with God face-to-face before they even get out of bed in the morning, a “privilege that we have that Old Testament saints could only long for.”
“We have the privilege of knowing God face-to-face through Jesus what He has done on the cross for us,” Platt said. “What a privilege we have. Let’s not forsake this privilege. Moses goes in and he says, ‘I can’t do this without you.’ He pleads for God’s presence to go with him. And God answers.”
“Let’s do this. Let’s get on our faces before God, not just these couple of days but day after day, all night in our churches and say, ‘God we can’t do this without you. We need Your grace. We need Your mercy. We need Your presence among us.’”
Platt called for ministries in the U.S. to throw aside their “damning dependence on natural ability and human ingenuity” and plead “for God to do in our churches, across our countries and among the nations what only God can do.”
“Keep on pleading until the day when Scripture promises we will see His face and all His unchanging perfections,” Platt concluded. “Purposes and promises will come to pass in His ever-unfolding plan in which you and I get to play a part. Let’s play our part.”