summons to lose your life: An interview with
David Platt, 34, is the pastor of
The Church at Brook Hills in
Birmingham, Alabama. He is the author of the New York Times
Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the
whose message are often controversial but
never without power. David
is deeply devoted to Christ and His Word. His first love in
ministry is disciple-making – the simple, biblical model of
teaching God's Word, mentoring others and sharing faith.
He has traveled extensively to teach the Bible alongside church leaders
throughout the United States and around the world. Atlanta
natives, he and his wife Heather, made their home in New
Orleans, until they were displaced by flooding following
Hurricane Katrina, in 2005.
A life-long learner, David has earned two undergraduate and three
advanced degrees including a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) from
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
His new book, Follow
Me: A Call to Live, A Call to Die,
has also caused some believers
to grow restless. In it, David shows people that the call to
follow Christ is more than an invitation to pray a prayer, but a
summons to lose your life. In this interview, the radical
preacher talks about his radical message and why it’s ruffled so
many Christians’ feathers.
It debuted this month at #3 in the Christian Bookseller's Top 50 list.
JM: What kind of
response did you
the whole, a lot of people read
which led to various responses, but overall I sensed that the
message in that book was resonating with what many people were
(and are) already thinking. Many Christians look at the Bible
and then look at the picture of American Christianity around
them and think, “This doesn’t add up. Something is wrong here.”
And so I think I simply put into words what many people were
Along the way, there were also various criticisms of the book. Some
believed the book was too theologically conservative and others
thought it was too socially liberal, if I could use those terms.
But I’m convinced that a firm grasp of the gospel leads to
sacrificial living for God’s glory in a world of poverty and
suffering, especially when it comes to spiritual poverty and
JM: Were you
surprised by the fact that
such a hard-to-swallow message
was so widely accepted?
and no. On one hand, I had pretty low expectations, and so I was
surprised that many people read the book at all! On the other
hand, I believe many Christians are longing for more. They know
that there is more to following Jesus than the routine religion
we are tempted to settle for at every turn. And I’m convinced
that every follower of Christ who truly has the Spirit of Christ
in them wants to be a part of living radically for His name’s
sake in the world. I hope this book helps them consider what
that might look like in practice.
JM: Do you see
positive changes in the Church away from the me-centered
American dream kind of faith?
Again, yes and no. In some ways, I see self-centeredness often
driving even radical living and giving. Some people think that
if they will do certain things, they will somehow earn the favor
of God, but this misses the whole point of Christianity and
ironically devolves into a me-centered approach that subtly
disregards the grace of God in the gospel. Similarly, some are
driven to social actions sometimes simply because it’s a trendy
thing to do. That, of course, is me-centered, as well. So there
are dangers that come in potentially implementing a “radical”
message in me-centered ways.
But with that said, I am deeply encouraged with the ways I see many
people in the church realizing, “Okay, if God’s grace is really
this amazing, and if God’s Word is really our authority, then we
can’t help but to give our lives making this gospel and God’s
glory known where we live and to the ends of the earth, no
matter what it costs us in our lives, our families, our
possessions, our dreams, and our ambitions.” This kind of
grace-driven, gospel-saturated living is extremely encouraging
to see in many Christians and churches.
JM: In what ways does
your message from
which still holds at #26 on the Christian Bookseller's Top 50
In what ways does it differ?
I sought to expose values and ideas that
are common in our culture and in the church, but that are
antithetical to the gospel. My aim was to consider what in this
world that we need to let go of in order to follow Jesus. The
is to take the next step. I want to move from what we let
go of to whom we hold on to. I want to explore not just
the gravity of what we forsake in this world, but also the
greatness of the one we follow in this world. I’m convinced that
scores of people here and around the world culturally identify
themselves as Christians who biblically are not followers of
Christ. As a result, my goal is to expose what it means to die
to ourselves and to live in Christ.
JM: For the average
American evangelical who believes they are saved because they’ve
said the Sinner’s Prayer, what does it take to become a true
I try to show that the call to follow Christ is not merely an
invitation to pray a prayer, but a summons to lose your life.
Now this certainly doesn’t mean that praying a prayer for Christ
to save you from your sin is bad. It’s biblical (Romans
But the problem comes when we equate conversion with simply saying
certain words or even assenting to certain truths, things that
can happen completely apart from heart change and without
considering the cost of following Jesus.
Becoming a follower of Jesus is not a formulaic ritual as much as
it is a life transformation. In the end, I want to define
biblically what it means to become a true disciple, which means
we repent–turn from our sin and die to ourselves–and we
believe–trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord.
JM: How do you hope
will impact readers?
prayer is that people who read the book will have a better
understanding of what it means to follow Jesus. My prayer is
that people will see that following Jesus costs you everything
you are and everything you have. And my prayer is that people
will see that Jesus is worth it. In the process, I hope that
Christians who read this book will find themselves compelled to
eagerly, willingly, and gladly give – even lose – their lives to
proclaim Christ in the world, because that’s simply what it
means to follow Him in the first place.
From Religion News
Platt Warns Unconverted Believers:
Have you ever met an unconverted believer? Or watched blood
transform into Kool-Aid at church?
David Platt has.
Almost three years since the release of his New York Times
Platt has written a sequel about the painful glory of Christian
Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live
(Tyndale, 2013) explores the
gravity of our Lord's call as well as the joy and satisfaction found
when we leverage our lives for him.
I corresponded with Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in
Birmingham, Alabama, about unconverted believers, whether the
gospel's a call to life or to death, creating a culture of
discipleship in our churches, and more.
Q: There are many new books related to following Jesus (e.g.,
a Fan, Chan's Crazy
Love and Multiply,
Asking Jesus Into Your Heart,
What is the problem in evangelical churches demanding this
A: Scores of people, here and around the world, culturally
identify themselves as Christians who biblically are not followers
of Christ. This creates a real sense of confusion about the nature
of authentic faith in Jesus. On one hand, we can so dilute Christian
faith to the point where we don't actually have it.
On the other hand, we can so complicate Christian faith to the
point where no one can really know if they have it. As a result, I
think there's a great need to come back to Scripture in the church
and ask the question, What's the kind of faith in Christ that
saves? And what does it mean to follow him? I think books like
the ones you mention represent various attempts to answer these
Q: Is it
possible to be an unconverted believer?
A: Certainly, in the sense that demons believe Jesus is who he
said he was and did what Scripture says he did
2:19). Though such belief doesn't
save, it's common across the world today. Just about every
intoxicated person I meet on the street says he believes in Jesus.
Scores of people I meet around the world—including some Hindus,
animists, and Muslims—profess some level of faith in Christ. All
kinds of halfhearted, world-loving church attenders confess belief
in Jesus. Further, Jesus seems to make clear we can all profess
publicly a faith we don't possess personally (e.g., hear the cry of
the damned in
So biblically and practically, it's very possible for one to
assent to certain intellectual truths about Jesus and even
participate in various church practices—completely apart from
supernatural regeneration of the heart.
believers, you observe, have "replaced challenging words from Christ
with trite phrases in the church. We've practically taken the
lifeblood out of Christianity and put Kool-Aid in its place so that
it tastes better to the crowds."
How do you see this temptation particularly evident in "young,
and Reformed" circles today?
A: Instead of thinking about the YRR in general, I think it's
helpful for each of us to individually examine the subtle tendency
and temptation we face to (almost unknowingly) redefine Christianity
according to our own tastes, preferences, church traditions, and
cultural norms. We can so easily begin picking and choosing what we
particularly like (or don't like) from Jesus' teachings,
emphasizing the truths in his Word that most square with our
lives and ministries while minimizing those that most
In the process, we all (including myself) begin diluting what he says
about the cost of following him.
Particularly in our culture, for example, we're prone to practically
ignore what he says about materialism or to functionally miss what
he says about mission. In the process, we transform Jesus into our
image (whether that's a "YRR" Jesus, a "nice, non-offensive,
politically correct, middle-class American" Jesus, or any other
version) instead of trusting him to transform us into his.
So we all need to guard against the temptation to customize
Jesus—especially when what he says confronts (and often contradicts)
the assumptions, beliefs, and convictions that we hold dear in our
lives, our churches, and our culture.
contend, "The Christian life does not ultimately begin with inviting
Jesus to come into your heart. That invitation comes from him." What
happens when we get this distinction wrong?
A: The importance of this distinction lies in realizing God's
grace is the foundation of everything we understand about the
Christian life—from start to finish. If the invitation to become a
Christian ultimately depends on us as sinful men and women, we will
never choose him. Yet because of his grace, God takes the initiative
to call—and enable—us to follow Jesus, which then transforms
everything about how we understand the Christian life.
now realize that to be a Christian is to be loved, pursued, and
found by God. We realize that in our sin we were separated from his
presence, deserving nothing but his wrath. Yet despite our darkness
and deadness, his light shone on us and his voice spoke to us,
summoning us to follow him. His majesty captivated our soul and his
mercy covered our sin, and by his death he brought us to life.
We ultimately became his children not because of any good we did—any
prayers we prayed, steps we took, or boxes we checked—but solely
because of his lavish grace.
We realize every single moment of the Christian life—from normal
spiritual discipline to radical biblical devotion—is fueled by the
God who not only pursued us by grace in the past but also empowers
us by grace in the present and emboldens us with an unshakeable
guarantee of grace in the future.
You write, "In the gospel, God is calling [you] to die." We're used
to thinking of the gospel as a call to life, but in what sense is it
also—even first—a call to death?
A: The initial call to Christ is an inevitable call to die, and
it's been so since the beginning. Jesus came into a world where
everything revolves around self—protect yourself, promote yourself,
preserve yourself, entertain yourself, comfort yourself, take care
of yourself—and his message was clear: "Slay yourself."
The moment of salvation involves not only confession of sin but death to
self—death to our every self-indulgent attempt to find life apart
from God and every self-righteous attempt to find life by earning
his favor. We die to ourselves and trust in Christ, identifying with
the One who lived the life we couldn't live, died the death we
deserve to die, and conquered the enemy (death itself) we couldn't
When this happens, we identify with Paul: "I have been crucified with
Christ, and I no longer live" (Gal.
2:20). In other words, "I've
course, the beauty comes in what the apostle says next: "Christ now
lives in me, and the life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the
Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Just as Jesus
promised, in losing our lives we gain them. This is the beauty of
what we see in the first disciples in the first century, and it's my
desire for every disciple in the church today: that we'd all, in
greater and deeper ways, realize that following Christ costs us
everything we have (a daily death to self), but that he's worth
For in him, there is satisfaction that supersedes circumstance, love that
surpasses comprehension, and an overarching purpose for living that
transcends every other pursuit in this world. If we don't emphasize
the weight of this call to death in the gospel, we'll never realize
the wonder of the call to life in the gospel.
observe, "Masses of men, women, and children around the world are
sitting comfortably under the banner of Christianity but have never
counted the cost of following Christ." Besides robust expository
preaching, how can a local church create a culture in which
discipleship is perceived and practiced properly?
A: I certainly want to accent "robust expository preaching"
because it's truly the week-by-week teaching of every part of
Scripture for what it says (not what we wish it did) that keeps us
from the dangers of cultural, casual, customizable Christianity.
Beyond this, I can think of several other practical ways to create a
culture of Christ-exalting, risk-taking discipleship in the church.
Here are just three:
(1) Prayerful dependence on and desperation for God's Spirit in the
church. We'll never grow as disciples or give our lives to making
disciples so long as we're doing so in our own power, ingenuity,
innovation, and wisdom.
(2) Healthy biblical community involving grace-driven, gospel-saturated
accountability for growing as disciples and giving ourselves to
making them. I'm zealous to war against the spectator mentality that
sees the Great Commission as a cozy call to come, get baptized, and
sit in one location instead of going, baptizing, and teaching in all
nations. I'm convinced biblical disciple-making demands the
intersection of biblical community and biblical mission. Our
churches, then, must have an outlet for such disciple-making in a
way that both nurtures community and promotes mission.
(3) Healthy understanding of both local and global disciple-making. Since
wherever we live is the chief place we're going to make disciples,
we must encourage one another to lead others to follow Christ in our
homes, neighborhoods, communities, and cities. At the same time, we
must understand there are homes, neighborhoods, communities, and
cities around the globe with little to no gospel access. Not only
haven't they heard, the chances of them ever hearing are slim
unless something changes. And something has to change!
change the ways we're praying, giving, and going so that all the
peoples of the world might hear Christ's gospel and exalt Christ's
glory. This won't happen by simply creating a missions committee,
taking a missions offering, or tacking a "missions week" onto our
annual church calendar. This will happen when we infuse God's zeal
for his global glory—both in our neighborhoods and among all
nations—into the very fabric of our churches on a weekly basis,
calling persons to pray, give, and go with a special view to those
who've never heard. Local ministry is totally necessary, no
question. But global missions is tragically neglected. So we must
give ourselves to both—and call all followers of Christ to give
themselves to both. This is the only obedient response to a King
who's commanded us to make disciples of all nations.
From The Gospel Coalition