PHOENIX (BP)–Pastors are responsible to lead their churches to engage the world’s unreached people groups with the Gospel, David Platt said in the convention sermon at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting June 15.
Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., noted that people groups by the thousands worldwide are unreached for Christ. “This is not a problem for the International Mission Board to address,” Platt said. “This is a problem for every local church in this convention to address.”
Platt emphasized that he was not advocating the neglect of local ministries and missions but added that “at the same time, global mission is tragically neglected.”
He pointed to an example from northern Yemen, which has a population of about 8 million people but only about 20-30 Christians.
“That is a problem,” Platt said. “Masses of people groups. Millions upon millions upon millions of people who do not have access to the Gospel.”
Preaching from Matthew 24:14, Platt said Christians are often confused about their message, their mission and their motive. Christians’ message, Platt said, is that God is King and that He rules over all.
“Our God is sovereign over all nature,” Platt said. “The wind blows at His bidding. The sun radiates with heat from His hands. Every single night, our God brings out the stars one by one and He calls them each by name.”
In addition to being sovereign over nature, Platt said God is sovereign over nations and holds the rulers of the world in His hands. The good news, he continued, is not just that God is King but that the King has come in the person of Jesus Christ — and all who believe in Him and trust in His name will be both children of God and heirs of God’s Kingdom forever.
But the church, Platt said, is guilty of minimizing and maligning that good news.
“We have reduced Jesus the King to a poor, puny savior who is just begging for people to accept him into their heart or invite him into their life, phrases that are never used in the Word of God,” he said. “We have reduced the Gospel of the Kingdom to a shrink-wrapped presentation that if we can get people to say and pray the right things back to us, we will pronounce them fit for heaven and free to live their life on earth however they desire.
“Not true,” he continued. “Our King is not a savior who is begging for anyone’s casual approval. Our King is a sovereign who deserves everyone’s eternal praise.”
Platt took aim at author/pastor Rob Bell and others who have questioned the reality of hell, warning Southern Baptists to “be very cautious when anyone says, ‘Did God really say this? Would God really do that?’
“This is the question that ushered sin into the world in Genesis 3,” Platt said. “Our ways are subject to His judgment, and He has appointed a day when every man and woman will die and face judgment.”
The message of good news, that God offers eternal life to those who trust in Christ regardless of their station in life, works anywhere in the world, Platt said, and Christians’ mission is to proclaim that news throughout the whole world, to all of the 11,627 people groups that the IMB has identified, more than half of which remain classified as “unreached.”
“When we say ‘unreached,’ we’re not just talking about lostness. We’re talking about access,” Platt said. “Unreached means that you don’t even have access to hear the Gospel. There’s no church, no Christian, no Bible available around you.”
If Christians and churches are not intentionally going after those unreached groups with the Gospel, Platt said they are disobeying the Great Commission — because God’s command was not a general one to make disciples among as many people as possible, but to make disciples among every single people group.
The motivation for Christians to pursue such a mission, Platt said, is their desire that God be praised and to complete the task He has given them.
“What drives passion for unreached peoples is not guilt. It’s glory,” Platt said. “Glory for a King, for a King who deserves the praise of every people group on the planet.”
Platt said that pursuing that goal will come with a cost, because Satan is opposed to God’s people reaching the world with the Gospel. Some people will hate Christians for their message, and some may even kill them. But Platt reminded Southern Baptists that the reward is worth the sacrifice and challenged them to be bold and intentional in their efforts.
“Let’s do it all with our eyes fixed on the sky, where one day the Son of Man is going to come in clouds of glory and power, and His angels are going to gather the elect from the four winds, from every tribe, tongue, people and nation,” Platt said. “We will see His face, and we will see our King, and we will reign with Him forever and ever and ever and ever.”
Tim Ellsworth is director of news and media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.