The rise of militant secularism – and increasing efforts to make the practice of biblical faith socially and legally unacceptable – are slowly raising the cost of discipleship in America.
“In one sense, I’m thankful for the trends in our culture, and even in the church, that are causing us to ask, ‘OK, do we really believe the Bible?’” said David Platt, who discussed a range of missions-related issues during an interview following his election as president of Southern Baptists’ International Mission Board on Aug. 27.
“Do we really believe this gospel that we claim to believe?” Platt asked. “Because more and more, cultural Christianity is just kind of fading to the background. People are realizing if you actually believe in the gospel then that’s not as accepted as it once was. It’s actually looked down upon as narrow-minded, arrogant, bigoted and offensive. Obviously, we want to be humble in our embracing of the gospel but it’s becoming more costly in our culture in a way that’s good – in the sense that this better prepares us [for] what we’re going to be a part of around the world.”
David Platt, addressing his first missionary appointment service as IMB president, tells 50 new workers, “We’ve been invited by God to be part of making His salvation known among people that He loves, and we know that when we share this gospel, people are going to be saved … somebody from every tribe, nation and people group.”
Platt acknowledged that Christians now face such questions as: Do we believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ enough to lose friends, social status, a scholarship or a job over it? Do we believe it enough to suffer for it?
Despite the higher cost to live and declare the gospel in America, Platt stated: “We’re not going to shrink back in light of the resistance that’s there.” Instead: “We’re going to step up, rise up and say we want to see His glory proclaimed no matter what it costs us, because we believe He is our reward.”
Amid America’s longstanding religious liberty coupled with the prosperity of the richest economy in human history, Platt noted: “We need to realize the clear New Testament teaching that it is costly to follow Christ, that the more your life is identified with Christ, the harder it will get for you in this world.”
He continued: “We need our eyes opened to that reality. I think we’ve been almost seduced by the spirit of cultural Christianity that says, ‘Oh, come to Christ and you can keep your life as you know it.’ No, you come to Christ and you lose your life as you know it. The more you’re active in sharing the gospel, the more unpopular you’ll be in many ways, the more resistance you’ll face. …
“[But] it helps you realize this is what our brothers and sisters around the world are facing in different places. If we’re going to join with them in spreading the gospel, then we need to be ready to embrace that ‘everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,’” Platt said, quoting the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 3:12.
During months of praying about leading Southern Baptists’ global mission enterprise, Platt said God had instilled in him a “deeper, narrowing, Romans 15 kind of ambition, where Paul said, ‘I want to see Christ preached where He has not been named.’” The whole concept of unreached peoples, “of nearly 2 billion people who have never heard the gospel, is just totally intolerable,” he said.
With most unreached people living in places where religions, cultures, governments and extremists oppose – sometimes violently – the transmission of the gospel and the making of disciples, Platt said he realizes: “Making disciples of all nations will not be easy, and the more we give ourselves to reaching unreached peoples with the gospel, the harder it will get for us.
“But the beauty is the more we identify with Christ [in America], the more we’ll be ready to identify with the sufferings of Christ [overseas] as we go. And we’ll realize, whether here or there, the more we give ourselves to this mission, [the more we’ll] believe in the depth of our heart that He is our reward and that the reward of seeing people come to Christ is worth it. This is just basic theology of suffering in mission. How has God chosen to show His love most clearly to the world? Through the suffering of His Son, a suffering Savior.
“So how is God going to show His love most to the world today? Through suffering saints, through brothers and sisters who identify with the suffering Savior.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is IMB global correspondent.)