The Sinner’s Prayer, David Platt and the SBC

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Most folks who know me know of my close friendship with David Platt. I am grateful for how God has raised David up for this time and this generation. Our friendship is not surprising given our mutual passion to see the name of Jesus made famous among the nations. And, when you consider my son Paul serves as a missions pastor and elder at The Church at Brook Hills, David preaches at SEBTS annually, we are editing together with Tony Merida a 40 volume preaching commentary, and SEBTS is partnering with CBH in EQUIP, where our seminary works with local churches in doing theological education (we are now partnering with more than 100!), this friendship has been a natural and wonderful working out of God’s providence. The fact that we agree so much about preaching and theology hasn’t hurt either! I love this brother and thank God for him.

Recently David caused quite a stir with a comment he made concerning the “sinner’s prayer.” His use of the word “superstitious,” no doubt, caused the greatest concern. While I think David could have chosen a better word that would have avoided a visceral reaction on the part of some, I too share his concern about poor gospel presentations, manipulation and false professions of faith that have resulted in our churches being filled with unregenerate members. Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I want it to be known that I shepherded all of my sons in praying a “sinner’s prayer” as an expression of the work of God in their hearts as they repented of their sin and placed their trust in Christ alone for salvation. I have also preached more than a dozen graduation messages and in each and every one I have shared the gospel, invited people to receive Christ, and even helped them as they surrender their lives to Christ by leading them in a “sinner’s prayer.” I have done this many more times when preaching, as well. Handled carefully and wisely, I gladly invite people to repent of sin, trust in Christ, and surrender their lives to Him. David and I, I am quite certain, are in 100% agreement with one another on the issue.

David spoke again to this issue when he preached at the Pastors Conference at the SBC. I gladly commend his message to you, and you can find the manuscript of that sermon here. Also at the SBC, the messengers passed, overwhelmingly, a resolution on a “sinner’s prayer.” Both David and I gladly voted for the resolution, and you can find David’s comments on that resolution and the entire issue here. I again commend and affirm David’s comments, and appreciate both the clarity and charity he brings to the conversation.

In the days ahead I hope and pray Southern Baptists can model genuine Christlikeness as we talk about important issues like this one. Wild exaggerations and misrepresentations must be avoided. To say I am against the “sinner’s prayer” because everyone in my town has prayed it and our churches are filled with lost people is irresponsible and does not help. On the other hand, to say that Calvinists do not want to use the “sinner’s prayer” because they fear leading someone who is non-elect to pray a prayer that is hopeless is equally irresponsible. Let’s all of us be better than this. Let the “Golden Rule” be your guide, and represent others as you, yourself, would want to be represented. This will build us up and not tear us down. And, it will show so many who are watching us closely the difference Jesus makes even when brothers and sisters may see things differently. It is a good thing for fellow believers to talk to one another when we “seek the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). Let’s work hard to ensure this good thing!