By now most WD readers have heard of Platt - he is a 31-year old graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (after earning a Bachelor's degree in journalism at the University of Georgia, earning two Master's and a PhD from NOBTS), who has written a best-selling book entitled "Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream."
In this CNN article, Platt explains how as a pastor he looked at a world of hurting and starving people and asked: "What are we spending our time and money on that is less important than meeting these needs?", and then led his church to do things like:
- jetisson their plans to spend millions on buildings to expand their "campus ";
- gave away their $500,000 surplus fund to assist churches in India where 41% of the world's poor live;
- trimmed $1.5 million from their church budget to "...build wells, improve education, provide medical care and share the gospel in impoverished places around the world."
- led his church in helping needy, at-risk children in their county by providing adoption or foster care for 160 kids.
In a word, Platt believes that chasing the "American Dream" and following the teachings of Jesus Christ are incompatible. And he doesn't just preach it from the mountain top or from behind a gated community; Platt in fact sold his home in the 'burbs that he bought when he became the youngest megachurch pastor in the SBC several years ago, and instead moved into a two-bedroom house in the inner-city to minister among the more lowly of Birmingham.
Some may disagree with Platt's assertion that most American Christians have morphed the Jesus of the Bible into a "middle class Jesus" who doesn't mind at all our materialism and consumerism. But one thing that you really can't argue with: Platt practices what he preaches and he leads by example. Most wealthy mega church pastors have been trained to justify from scripture their infatuation with more buildings, higher staff salaries and bonuses, newer pews and jet-setting lifestyles and six-figure housing allowances and church marketing consultants.
The typical mega church pastor has helped create this "twisted version of Jesus" that Platt calls it. But while the typical mega church pastor is trying to guilt that extra 1% tithe from their peeps who have little or no margin while they themselves live high on the hog...Platt is actually saying the way to become generous is through true sacrifice of one's American lifestyle, and he dares to LIVE IT. Your average mega church pastor can't preach this, as they would stand the most to lose in lifestyle if they actually called for true sacrifice as Platt does.
It is just so incredibly refreshing to know that one of the premiere SBC megachurch pastors who is making a difference at the end of 2010 is one who is NOT calling for his church members to just give 1% more in 2011 and sign a committment card, nor is he leading his church members to lop off a chunk of their assets to give to his building program, nor is he trying to architecturally lead people to Jesus through a glorious water fountain.
Platt is trying to show American Christians a different way, a different Jesus, a Jesus of the Bible. I hope we all will listen, and take action.
Note: Kudos to Mac Brunson and First Baptist Jacksonville for inviting Platt to be one of the speakers at the 2011 Pastor's Conference. Also, if you want to read some interesting perspectives on Platt , The Wartburg Watch has written some excellent articles on Platt here.