'The Word Does the Work'
David Platt has preached for seven hours straight. He can recite Romans 1-8 on the spot. He delivered the most powerful sermon in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Conference. People brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that his shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by.
Okay, so the last item was Peter, not Platt. But enthused congregations are raving about the pastor of the Church at Brooks Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. Three years into his pastorate, David Platt is still only 30 years old. He earned his M.Div. and Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he served as assistant professor of expository preaching and apologetics. Christianity Today editor at large Collin Hansen spoke with Platt to learn about the man behind the mythology and ask about how to build biblical understanding in the local church.
How did you develop such a deep understanding and passion for Scripture?
God by his grace provided men in my life who poured the Word into me and taught me the supremacy of his Word, that any power in walking with Christ, even more so leading a church, is dependent on understanding God in his Word.
Coming into this role, I have nothing to bring to the table apart from his Word. This is the first church I've pastored. I don't have a lot of wisdom that life experience would bring. We're going to trust that his Word is sufficient and that any authority I have to lead in the church is dependent on the authority of God's Word and my attachment to it. There's no question that anything good is completely attributed to, dependent on, and accredited to the power of his Word. The Word does the work.
All good evangelicals affirm the centrality of the Word. Still, we have a severe problem of biblical illiteracy. How do we go from knowing the Word is important to knowing what the Word actually says?
We have severely dumbed down the Word, and shown a lack of trust in the sufficiency of the Word in the way we preach. We find it necessary to supplement it with entertaining stories and quips or good practical advice for living the Christian life that are not based in the Word. This deficiency transfers into people content with a little "Word for the Day," in a devotional book at best, as opposed to deep knowledge of Scripture.
We're trying to hit at the problem from a variety of angles at Brook Hills. First of all, in worship we're quoting the Word, singing the Word, and engaging in intensive study. We'll study 55 minutes to an hour. We try to really saturate the community of faith with the Word when we gather together.
I go to other places, such as house churches in Asia, and they study for 11 or 12 hours, knowing they risk their lives. They'll dive in deep. We came back and tried to do something similar here. We call it secret church and do it a couple times a year. We gather together for intensive study with no frills, nothing flashy, no entertainment value. The first time, about 1,000 showed up. We studied Old Testament overview from 6 p.m. to midnight, but usually it goes longer, supplemented by times in prayer for the persecuted church. It's all ages, but the predominant demographic is college students and young singles. It's grown to the point where we need to offer tickets at $5 for reservations and the cost of a study guide. We'll do it again in October with 2,500 folks. It's theological in nature. We've done a night on the Atonement, another on the doctrine of God. This time we're doing spiritual warfare. It's one of my favorite sights as a pastor to look out at 12:30 a.m. and see a room full of 2,500 people, their Bibles open, soaking it in.