On Sunday June 2nd as Pastor David Platt was near the end of the 1:00PM worship service at the McLean Bible Church in Virginia something very unusual took place. He received word that the president of the United States was on his way to the church. With the tragic events of the previous week in Virginia Beach the White House announced that Trump desired to come by the church to pray for the victims of the mass shooting. David Platt found out about the president’s intentions only minutes before his motorcade drove up. As we would all expect Platt to do he greeted the president warmly, prayed over him and, according to Platt, shared the Gospel with him after the service had ended. The sudden appearance of a polarizing politician and the warm welcome by the church staff apparently did not set well with some of the congregants of the McLean Bible Church. The church is a multi-ethnic and racially mixed congregation where there are likely vast political views within the church membership. The next day Platt released a statement to his church explaining the reasons for his actions toward the president. Early this morning the Washington Examiner published an article entitled, “Evangelical Pastor Apologizes for Hurt Caused by Praying for Trump during Unscheduled Visit.” The title of the article threw many evangelicals into a tailspin and even birthed vitriol tweets and posts on social media toward Platt.
However in David Platt’s statement to his church we do not see an apology but rather we find a pastor giving an explanation and scriptural basis for his decision to pray over the president.
The title of the article shows a lack of journalistic integrity by the editors of the Washington Examiner and was likely chosen because of the clicks and views it would receive. The editors chose a headline that attracted readers instead of actually reflecting the reality of David Platt’s statement. As a result, some chose to make a judgement against Platt based solely on the headline rather than actually reading his statement and giving a brother in Christ the benefit of the doubt. One conservative college president even went so far as to question Platt’s manhood on twitter! Political posturing aside, did Pastor David Platt make the right decision to pray over the president and follow up with a letter of explanation to his congregation? I believe he was completely scriptural in both actions. I have watched his prayer several times and have carefully read his statement to the people of McLean Bible Church. I hope you will do the same and not join the voices of criticism toward a man who when faced with a tricky situation chose to take the high road. There are some wonderful lessons to be learned in how Pastor Platt handled this situation.
- Prayer knows no political affiliation. Citing 1 Timothy 2: 1-6 Platt says to his congregation, “I know that it is good and pleasing in the sight of God to pray for the president.” While I struggle to completely understand the “hurt” that this caused some in the congregation I do understand the political complexities present in our country. In America 2019 red is very red and blue is very blue. Trump is a polarizing political figure unlike many Americans have ever seen. Donald Trump has never met a microphone he didn’t like nor has he ever stood in front of a crowd in which he didn’t give a stirring speech. Yet on Sunday he simply stood there, mouth closed, head bowed and perhaps even showed (wait for it) a bit of humility. David Platt’s actions were scriptural as he laid his hand on the president’s back and with the other hand raised his Bible verbalizing a beautiful grace-filled prayer over the leader of the free world. His prayer was not partisan, it offered no political tones and was completely in line with Paul’s command to Timothy. I believe that Platt would have done the same exact thing with Obama, Clinton or any other president. Elephants and donkeys both need prayer especially when they sit in the oval office.
- Everyone needs the Gospel, even Donald Trump. In his statement to his church Platt writes, “I had prayed specifically for an opportunity to speak the Gospel to him and for faithfulness to pray the Gospel over him.” He goes on to explain how he and another staff member presented the Gospel to the president. Wow. I am reminded of Acts 13 in which Paul and Barnabas first went to Cyprus and shared the Gospel with the Governor leading him to faith in Christ. It is highly appropriate to share the Gospel with everyone, yes even the president of the United States. In Paul’s first conversation with Christ on the Damascus road his commission was clear, “take my message to the Gentiles and to Kings, as well as to the people of Israel.” (Acts 9:15). Paul indeed followed through with this commission sharing the gospel not only with the governor of Cyprus but also Festus, Agrippa and Felix. Paul believed that the Gospel was meant for the lowest prisoner and for the highest ruler. Trump is no king and no ruler, but he is a man sitting in an important chair. I don’t know if Donald Trump is saved or not, but I do know that on June 2, 2019 he heard the Gospel. Many of the evangelicals who took to Twitter today to criticize Platt will not bother to share the Gospel with a co-worker, yet the one they criticized looked the most powerful man in the world directly in the eye and told him of Christ’s love.
- There are times a Shepherd must be a Shepherd. When I read Platt’s words to his church I completely understood why he chose to write the statement. I also don’t expect people who have never served as a pastor to fully understand why such a letter needed to be written. There are some situations in which a shepherd needs to gently lead his flock through a confusing and unusual experience. This is what a pastor is supposed to do. A pastor is called by God to love and lead his people intimately, passionately, protectively, carefully, and skillfully but most of all with wisdom and love. David Platt did not apologize to his church for his actions toward the president, he simply gave them a biblical reason why it needed to be done while showing empathy toward varied opinions. This is a great lesson for church leaders. Love your people enough to give them the whole story and the reasoning behind why certain decisions are made. Make your statements with gentleness and wisdom yet with a firm confidence in the scriptural mandates that led to your decisions. Pastors should show the church what grace looks like and one day they will reciprocate the action.
I have a conviction that Donald Trump didn’t stop by McLean Bible Church according to his own whims or desires. It is all too random to have been merely the desire of a president to stop by a church. An unseen hand led Donald Trump to David Platt on Sunday in order for him to hear of God’s love and redemption’s story. As Platt says, “sometimes we are faced with decisions that we didn’t see coming.” David Platt certainly could have not foreseen that morning as he was putting on his socks that in a few hours he would be standing next to the president. However I am convinced that while Platt didn’t see this coming, God certainly did and was in fact orchestrating the entire event. Instead of criticizing our brother in Christ may we all strive to be as bold as him. We should pray for our president and national leaders, see all people as worthy recipients of the Gospel and use the wisdom of God in loving people toward a unity of spirit that brings God much glory