A New Chapter - Radical

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A New Chapter

Even with the best of intentions, it’s all too easy for the church to put its trust in earthly leaders—political leaders, business leaders, or even church leaders. However, the church doesn’t belong to any man but to God. He alone is worthy of all our trust and obedience, and it is His design for the church that we must embrace if we are to be faithful to the purposes and to the mission Christ has given to His disciples. In this message from Psalm 146, David Platt casts a vision for “A New Chapter” in the life of McLean Bible Church. Along with acknowledging the Lord alone as its leader, the church is also encouraged to reflect God’s love—love for His people within the church and love for all people out in the world.

If you have a Bible—and I hope you do or that you can pull one up online—let me invite you to open it with me to Psalm 146. Let me mention a couple things as you’re turning there. First, I’m actually joined in the room today by a few more people than normal, as we begin trying out protocols for what socially-distanced, in-person worship gatherings might look like. So there are fewer than 50 people with masks on all looking at me. It’s a little awkward, a little new, but it actually is really refreshing. I feel like there’s a crowd of people in front of me right now. We’re continuing to pray through and think through how, in the best and safest way possible, we will assemble together in the days ahead. We’ll continue putting updates on our website along those lines.

Second, I’m wearing this Care Team shirt to remind you of all that’s happening across this city through our church during these days and to encourage you to be a part of it. We’ve now given away over one million pounds of food over the last few months. With summer starting and things beginning to open up, we have a need for more volunteers to step up. So if you have free time, I want to encourage you to be involved. Just go to the website to the COVID page that has links to local outreaches. I want to encourage more of you to be involved as we step into the summer and as you are able.

Then, speaking of our city, there has obviously been a lot of news in the news, around the news, about Washington, D.C. this last week, particularly with protests in the District. I’ve wrestled with how best to shepherd amidst the issues swirling around us. We’ve been planning for months to share our vision for the future of McLean Bible Church on this Sunday. But this week, even this morning, part of me has been tempted to put that aside and just open the Bible so we can think together about issues of race and justice that are swirling around us. We saw as part of the sermon on Psalm 133 a few weeks ago that we come from different perspectives with different experiences. We need to ask how we should work these things through together as a church, with God’s Word as our guide and with God’s love in our hearts for His glory in the world around us among all people.

I think we all have a ways to go. But the more I wrestled with what to do today, the more convinced I became that what I’m about to share regarding the future of MBC may be exactly what we need as a church in light of all the things swirling around us. So I want to cast vision, based on long hours and many months of prayer and discussion, particularly among our elders.

Let me start by giving you a preview of the plan for this summer. If I could summarize one of the themes in the last few months that we’ve walked through, it would be “a barrage of bad news.” We’ve had a global pandemic unlike anything any of us have seen in our lives with all that entails, from sickness and death, to the economic downtown, to political tensions. Then add on top of that, over these last few weeks, horrifying videos and deaths leading to protests and riots. We find ourselves scrolling through our news apps and there’s hardly any good news.

The good news of the gospel

So we’re going to walk through a series over this summer entitled, “We Could Use Some Good News.” Here’s what it’s going to look like. Starting tomorrow, I want to invite you into a Bible Reading Plan that will last through the summer, so basically from now to the end of August. During this time, we’re going to read through all four of the Gospels in the Bible.

The word “gospel” means good news. So instead of inundating our minds daily with just bad news, we’re going to immerse ourselves in the good news of Jesus. You can actually go to mcleanbible.org/biblereadingplan to download this plan, a chapter a day through the summer, walking through the four Gospel—the good news in Scripture.

Then on Sundays when we come together, we’re going to walk together slowly through Philippians 4 in the Bible where God calls us to rejoice always. So how is it possible to rejoice always, even when we’re surrounded by bad news? Maybe it’s because even in the worst of times, there is still good news to celebrate. And maybe difficult days can actually lead us to greater joy because they help us reposition our joy on more solid foundations.

So we’re going to read together through the good news, then meditate each Sunday together on good news. Along the lines of meditation, I want to invite those of you who would be up for it to memorize Philippians 4 this summer—the entire chapter, much like we did with 1 John 1 a while back. Some of you may never have done this—it’s so worth it and you can do this.

I was actually talking through a face mask in a store a couple weeks ago with a teenager. He told me he and his dad had started memorizing 1 John together and after they did that, they said, “Why stop here?” They just memorized an entire book of the Bible together.

Start with one chapter, like Philippians 4. When you go to this new Bible Reading Plan, you’ll see the weeks split up so each week you’ll just be memorizing a verse or two that build on each other. That way, Lord willing, by the end of August we will have memorized that chapter together.

One other thing we’re going to do on Sundays when we come together is highlight a story of good news—in the church or in the world around us. This is where you come in. I want to ask you to submit stories of good news for us to share. You can go to mcleanbible.org/goodnews. You can do this if you’re a member of our church family, or even if you’re not. Even if you’re anywhere else in the world, as many others are joining with us remotely during these times. Go to the website and share a story of good news that either you’ve experienced in your life or you’ve observed in someone else’s life. Give us as much detail as possible. You can even upload pictures or a video. We’ll take one of those stories each week and encourage one another with it.

That’s our plan for the summer. We could use some good news. We also have the best news, which we’re going to read every day and celebrate every Sunday, experiencing God’s call to joy in this world of bad news. I want to invite you to invite people who are not followers of Jesus to be a part of this journey over the summer—whether it’s on line or, when appropriate, coming to your house to worship with you, or Lord willing, gathering with us when we’re able to gather in person.

Now, Psalm 146 is where I want us to dive into and I want us to think together about how God is leading us as a church in the days, months and, Lord willing, years ahead.

Almost exactly a year ago, I shared with our church family some statistics about how most people at MBC do not feel like people know them. Amidst this sea of 10,000-plus people who call MBC their church home, most said they don’t feel known by others in the church. I also shared how nearly half of the people who call MBC their church home would say they are not growing in their relationship with God. Also, most people are not making disciples of Jesus, not sharing the gospel with others. All of these things were by our own admission. So we talked together about how we must change that. Over the last year, our elders and other leaders have spent long hours asking, “How are we going to change these realities at McLean Bible Church?” Today I want to share with you the answer to that question. There’s so much detail I could share, so at the end of our time together, I’m going to point you to a Vision Booklet online that will be more in depth. Then a few weeks from now, we will have a remote gathering on a weeknight when we will dive into the questions you may have and give you more details about what all of this looks like.

Psalm 146 teaches us three characteristics that should mark our church

Today, I want to give you three characteristics that I and the other leaders of our church are committed to seeing mark McLean Bible Church in the future. All three flow from Psalm 146. I don’t think it’s a coincidence, as we come to this point in our church, that this Psalm was in our Bible Reading this week.

I want us to read this Psalm out loud together. Obviously, that’s kind of unique since we’re not together, but please read this out loud with me. The first phrase says, “Praise the Lord!” In the original language of the Old Testament, that exhortation is actually plural. If this was written in the South, it would be, “Praise the Lord, y’all!” It’s an encouragement to one another to praise the Lord. So even though we’re apart, I want us to read out loud together, so we can have the sense in the text—even if you’re the only person in a room—that you are not alone. Let’s share together in our exhortation to praise the Lord. Ready? Let’s read it out loud—Psalm 146:

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Put not your trust in princes,  in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.  When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;

on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,  whose hope is in the LORD his God,  who made heaven and earth,  the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed,  who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;  the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the sojourners;  he upholds the widow and the fatherless,  but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. The LORD will reign forever,  your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!

What a great Psalm. The Gospels are going to be great, but I’m so going to miss reading through the Psalms. So, let’s look at three characteristics that I and the other leaders of our church are committed to marking McLean Bible Church with in the days to come.

Psalm 146  call MBC to be a church that exalts the Lord alone as our Leader.

Psalm 146:3 states, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.” Apparently, we are prone to put our trust in people. Now, “princes” here may seem odd to you, because in the United States, you’ve never been tempted to put your trust in a literal prince. But the picture is one of people who have influence, notoriety, success or power—including people who use all these things for good. God says in His Word, “Do not put your trust in them, man or woman.” Why? Because that person, no matter how great they are, cannot save you.

There’s no salvation in them. And that person will not last. In verse four, God says, “When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.” That’s quite a verse to read on a week when you’re preparing to share plans for the future of the church. Your plans are going to perish when you die, which could be any day for any one of us. This is why you don’t put your ultimate trust in people; they can’t save you and their time is short, regardless of all their plans. This is a good word for all of life—don’t put your trust ultimately in a prince or president. Don’t put your trust in an employer. Don’t put your ultimate trust in any person. Why? Because they cannot save you and they cannot fulfill you forever—even the best of people. It’s a good word in life and it’s a good word in the church.

So what does this have to do with the future of MBC? I am concerned that with the creation of what’s known as a megachurch in our culture, far too much can begin to revolve around one leader—or maybe I should say, the wrong leader. Here’s what I mean by that. Far too much begins to revolve around a leader who’s the face of the church.

For those of you who may be familiar with large churches in our country, many of you might immediately say, “Oh yeah, that’s that person’s church. That’s this person’s church.” I don’t believe that is healthy, because that can lead to unhealthy dependence upon that person, unhealthy attention for that person, unhealthy influence from that person. That leader inevitably, even if unintentionally, will shape a church according to their personality or preferences.

There is only one Leader Whose personality and preferences should shape a church. There’s only one Leader upon Whom a church should depend, to Whom a church should give attention, by Whom a church should be influenced. That Leader is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He’s the only right Leader around Whom any church should revolve.

To be clear, MBC is definitely not David Platt’s church or anyone else’s church. MBC is Christ’s church. This is one of the reasons why, when you look through the New Testament at the very foundations of the church, you always see a plurality of elders or pastors leading the church. It’s not just about one person, but about a plurality. The primary qualification for elders or pastors—in addition to Christlike character—is the ability to teach God’s Word. God has designed His church to be led by a plurality of pastors whose lives point to Jesus and whose words are the words of Jesus. In the life and words of Jesus, there is salvation and there are plans that will never, ever perish.

So how do we practically keep MBC from ever becoming David Platt’s church or somebody else’s church if I died tomorrow? We cultivate a plurality of biblically qualified pastors and spiritually gifted people at every level of the church, so that it’s clear to all that Jesus is the Leader here. That’s why I want to introduce you to two new lead pastors in our church. They will serve alongside other elders and pastors, as well as a host of other leaders—men and women in significant roles—in such a way that our church is not dependent on the Spirit of Jesus in one person, but on the Spirit of Jesus in all of His people, exalting Jesus alone as our Leader.

We want to cultivate that plurality picture we see in the New Testament in clear ways that point to Jesus. So the other two lead pastors are Mike Kelsey and Wade Burnett. Most of you know Mike because he’s been pastoring our Montgomery County location. I should add that he will continue to be part of our Montgomery County location, helping shepherd our brothers and sisters there in the days ahead. He will also be preaching more on various Sundays and providing leadership to MBC as a whole.

I do not want MBC to be dependent on my preaching of God’s Word. I want MBC to be dependent on God’s Word, whoever is preaching. Mike not only loves and proclaims God’s Word, but he has gifts, skills and experiences that I and this church need in order to become more like Jesus. Personally, I am more like Jesus as a result of serving with and sitting under Mike Kelsey’s leadership from God’s Word. As Mike steps into this role, I want to ask him to briefly share from his heart as he steps into this role now.

Mike: It’s super humbling to be able to step into this role to serve you as a church. I preached my first sermon in this church. Some of you may regretfully remember that first sermon. I was 24 years old and two years fresh out of undergraduate school at the University of Maryland. I actually read through that transcript this morning. It was a sermon called “The Big Picture.” The whole point of the sermon was how God often leads us in unexpected directions.

That certainly has been true in my life here at McLean Bible Church. Many of you know I grew up right here in the D.C. Metropolitan area and my spiritual life was nurtured in the historic tradition of the black church. In particular, I attended the New Samaritan Baptist Church in northeast D.C. where my parents—Bishop Michael Kelsey and Sheila Kelsey—have faithfully served for the last 27 years. I could not stand here today without thanking them, because who I am today is a result of them modeling the Christian life for me.

To be honest, I had never heard of McLean Bible Church while growing up. God leads in unexpected directions And in His providence, I joined the staff here 13 years ago. My wife Ashley has served in this church for 15 years and it has been a joy to both of us to serve in our church.

I thought about what I wanted to say today in the context of talking about the Lord’s leadership in this church. Honestly, all I want to say today is thank you. I want to take a quick moment to thank some specific folks who have been a part of my life. My wife and I have grown up in ministry right here in this church.

I want to thank Rich Hurst, Todd Atkins and Todd Phillips who brought me to McLean Bible Church. Lon Solomon, who trusted me in this pulpit. Jess Thompson, Sue Langley and Jane Daniel, women in our church who modeled for me what godly and effective leadership looks like. Richard Park, who let me shadow him in doing funerals and pastoral ministry. Dale Sutherland, who has never let me forget that my public ministry has to be the overflow of my private devotion to Jesus.

I’m thankful to my MBC Montgomery County family. Actually, this month we celebrate five years there in Montgomery County. You have become my family. I want to thank the elders of our church and David for investing in me and giving me the opportunity to serve the church.

We actually wondered whether it would be wise to roll out this vision and announce some of these changes in the midst of a pandemic. Listen, God often leads in unexpected directions. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we stand today announcing some of these changes and this vision in the midst of rising protests in our city and all over the world.

Here’s the fact of the matter. We are in a very tense society and many of your children and grandchildren are growing up in a hostile and very complex culture, not just regarding race and justice, but also sexuality, gender, politics and a host of other issues. I believe we have a fresh opportunity together, building on what God has done in the past and moving forward in what God has for us in the future, to be a fresh voice for this generation. Like David just talked about, and like King David talked about, I think we have an opportunity to serve God’s purposes for us in this generation, then we’ll be gone, leaving this church to the next generation.

I’m super excited about what the Lord has for us and am so humbled to be part of it and serve alongside David and serve alongside a guy who’s been a friend and mentor whom you’re getting ready to meet—Wade Burnett. God bless you guys. Thanks so much.

David: I want to erupt and say, “Yes! Praise God. May it be so, all that he just said.” May we reach the next generation. May we reach those marginalized from the church. I praise God for His grace in Mike and pray He will continue to do so as Mike steps into this role.

Mike will be serving alongside Wade Burnett as well. I mentioned Wade’s name to you right at the start of this pandemic when he came on staff, but I haven’t had the opportunity to properly introduce him to you. Wade is a former attorney who accidentally started a church in his law office as he and his wife Amy were making disciples in a way that then led him to leave his law practice to pastor that growing church.

Then God took Wade on a journey where he began working alongside many of the largest churches in our country, particularly large churches with multiple locations like MBC. Years ago, before I even came to MBC, Wade began helping MBC navigate various organizational challenges. That’s why Mike mentioned that he’s known Wade longer than I have. Wade got to know Lon, the elders and other leaders and pastors here.

He helped in innumerable and valuable ways, so over the last year I approached him and said, “Instead of just serving MBC from a distance, would you be willing to pray about serving MBC as part of this church family?” He prayed through that, along with his family, and said, “Yes.” That led to great enthusiasm among our elders, Mike and myself. Wade has gifts, skills and experiences that neither Mike nor I have, particularly when it comes to organizational leadership based on God’s Word.

So I want to introduce you to Wade. He and his family just moved up here less than 48 hours ago? So they are in the middle of boxes. Wade, let me invite you to share a little of your heart with folks as you meet our church family in this way.

Wade: Yeah, boxes are still everywhere. I have to admit, it’s strange to step into a new role in a new church in a largely empty room. But even in the midst of that strangeness, I still feel the significance of this moment. As David and Mike have mentioned, there has been so much work that has gone into getting us to this place by a number of people who haven’t been named yet. Elders, response team leaders, staff and volunteer leaders, more than 500 of whom joined together with us on a call to walk through these things and point us toward some of the meetings that will be happening over the rest of the summer.

In the significance of this moment, I feel pulled back to all these incredible places where the Lord has marked forever His faithfulness to me and my family. I could look back at early days of coming to know Christ as a brand new believer in college and being grounded in the faith in a Bible church that said, “We are going to ground everything we do and everything we believe in God’s Word.” One of my most significant decisions and one of my longest-lasting prayers for my children is that they would make a decision for the rest of their lives that God’s Word is not only true, but that it’s worth basing their very lives on.

It’s humbling to step into a church like that and see the continuous thread of God’s faithfulness from those moments until now, to be able to see a picture that hangs on our wall of David, Lon and me together, marking one of those moments of God’s faithfulness, and to now be called back here. It’s an incredibly significant moment for me personally in my walk with the Lord.

I do have to say, I’m not here because of what God has done in the past, nor here for just that reason. We are here as a family, because of the Lord’s call on our lives. We have prayed through, fasted through, talked through what it is that the Lord is doing in our lives. We believe, in spite of all the challenges in our world and this area uniquely, that we are called here.

This is not just a sacrificial calling. We are genuinely excited about the future here. I can’t think of a church with more potential to reach and expand the Kingdom of God through the gospel in the days ahead, not just here, but around the world, because of the uniqueness of the people who live here. So we are looking forward with excitement to the days ahead, to the days when we can be back together and when we can finally meet many of you and get to serve alongside of you.

So David and Mike, I’m incredibly excited about what we’re praying, hoping and pleading that the Lord would do here in the days ahead.

David: As I introduce you to Wade and Mike—whom many of you already know but not in this role, and Wade—there are two things I want to make clear. This change is not saying, “Okay, now the church is about three people.” No, the whole point is the church is always about a multiplicity of people, including elders, pastors, men and women leading in significant ways across the church full of thousands of people, all filled with the Holy Spirit of God and following one Leader. That’s the picture. McLean Bible Church will be a church that exalts the Lord alone as our Leader.

The other thing I trust is obvious to you and something you’ve learned by now, but I also want to say over and over again on a personal level that I am not a perfect pastor. I have weaknesses, I hope some strengths, but not every word I say is perfect, not every decision I make is perfect. Now to be clear, I want every word I say, particularly in preaching, to reflect God’s Word. I spend time alone with God every single morning, literally pleading with Him for wisdom in my life and marriage, because I’m not a perfect husband. I know I’m not a perfect dad. And in the church, I know I’m not a perfect pastor. I’m flawed, which is why this point is so significant as we talk about the future of our church,

We are committed to exalting the Lord alone as our Leader because He is perfect. He alone can save and He alone is worthy of all our trust. His plans for MBC will never, ever perish. We just want to point to Him in everything we do.

That leads to the second characteristic that we are committed to marking McLean Bible Church with and it flows from the first. So if the plans of the Lord will never perish, if we’re wise in the church, then instead of making up our own plans we will align ourselves with His plans. What are God’s plans? The answer to that question leads to these other two characteristics that must mark MBC.

Psalm 146 calls MBC to be a church that reflects God’s love for His people.

Let’s go back to Psalm 146: 5. “Blessed…” That’s the first word. Remember, that’s actually the very first word in the book of Psalms. Do you remember what it means? We talked about this in the first sermon of this year. It means full, lasting happiness. “Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.” What language!

Happiness is found in two things. One, receiving help from God and two, in finding hope in God. That’s happiness. Who doesn’t want happiness? Well, if you want happiness, then it’s found in receiving help from God and finding hope in God. Just let that soak in. God loves you so much that He has set Himself up as your Helper. Do you hear that? This is the God of the universe saying, “I will be your Helper.”

If I can just pause at this point and acknowledge that the major problem with every single one of our hearts is that we are all prone to say to this Creator of all, “I don’t need Your help. I can do this on my own.” That’s the essence of sin. It’s the posture of a heart that says, “I don’t need God.” Some of you who are listening are living that way right now. It’s like you’ve gotten all this on your own and you don’t need God’s help.

If that’s the case, I just want to say to you, straight from God’s Word, you’re at a very dangerous point in your life. You have convinced yourself that all you need for life you can have apart from God— and you are dead wrong. You need the help of God. One, you need Him to save you from your sin against Him. If you have never trusted in what Jesus did on the cross to pay the price for your sin, then I want to urge today, in light of the fact that your breath will be gone before you know it, to confess your need for God’s help, for God’s grace, to save you from your sins, to give you eternal life in Him. You can’t earn that. You can’t do that on your own. You need God’s help.

Once you realize that, then you won’t live anymore without looking to God for help. The posture of the Christian life is a posture that says, “I look to God for help in everything.” So as I say, I wake up every morning just going before God. “God, I need You in all of these different ways.” When you say that, here’s the result: “Happy are those whose help is in God.”

The Christian life is not just pleading for help; it’s a daily experience of help from God Himself. God loves you and me so much. Think about all the different things you are going through right now. God says, “I’m your Helper. I stand ready every day from the moment you wake up, even when you wake up. I’m giving you mercy for every breath. As soon as your consciousness resumes and you open your eyes, I am here to help you as your hope.”

This is the hope we celebrated throughout this pandemic because hope in God transcends the limits of medicine. Hope in God transcends the rises and falls in economy. Hope in God transcends evil and injustice in this world. Happy is he whose hope is in the Lord his God.

You say, “What does all this have to do with the future of MBC?” It has everything to do with the future of MBC. We must be a church that reflects God’s love for every single person whose help and hope is in God. That means we will not be content with so many of God’s people not feeling known in this church. We will not be content with so many of God’s people not growing in their relationship with Him. We will not be content with so many of God’s people missing out on His epic call to make disciples.

Psalm 146 calls us to join small groups

So we’re going to begin a process that will take some time in which we want to make sure that every single member of MBC, every single one of God’s people who has identified with this church, is part of a group of brothers and sisters in Christ who are caring for you and being cared for by you. A process of helping you grow in your relationship with God and you helping others grow, then together you’re making disciples on mission in the world.

Then, we want to supplement and surround these groups with special ministries intended to help one another is specific ways. One might help God’s people who are preparing for marriage. Another might help God’s people who are struggling in marriage. Others will help God’s people who are struggling with anxiety, depression, addiction, pornography, fear, grief, abuse, eating disorders, body image, anger, obsessive thoughts—any struggle, anything that has you stuck. We want to reflect God’s help for you.

So picture a church where every member is experiencing help and hope on a weekly basis in loving community with God’s people, then add in extra help and extra hope when they’re walking through unique days. That’s what we want to be. We don’t want to settle for anything less than every single member of God’s church experiencing God’s love like this. We’ll be talking more in the days to come about what this means practically. We want to reflect God’s love, God’s help and God’s hope for every single one of His people in this church, so this is the reality in our lives.

We want to reflect the love of God “who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them…” (verse six). Psalm 146 just starts listing all the ways God loves.

He “keeps faith forever,” meaning God is always faithful.

He “executes justice for the oppressed…” So apparently justice is not a liberal cause; justice is a biblical cause. God cares about and is concerned about justice. He works for and “executes justice for the oppressed.” This is not even a new cause for the millennial generation. This has been the cause of God since the fall of mankind (see Genesis 9). Apparently there is a type of justice that is grounded in the very character of God. It’s not opposed to the gospel of God, to the Word of God, but it actually flows from it. It’s a type of justice that God requires of His people in a world of injustice.

That’s why in this vision booklet you’ll see where it says, “God, make us a church of justice and generosity. We want to spend our lives and resources generously to do justice for the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized and the unreached.” Why would we say that? Because God says that. This is not David Platt’s agenda, Mike Kelsey’s agenda or anybody else’s agenda. This is God’s agenda that we must think through. So what does this look like practically in our lives? Knowing it is God’s plan to execute justice for the oppressed, itis also our plan to execute justice for the oppressed.

Keep going with ways God loves. He “gives food to the hungry” (verse seven). This is what God does, so this is what the church does. This is why we’re doing what we’re doing in local outreach right now; why we’re giving away a million pounds of food in our city. Why are we doing this among the ultra poor around the world? Because the plan of our God is to give food to the hungry.

“The Lord sets the prisoner free…” This is why we talk about, pray for and advocate on behalf of our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.

“The Lord opens the eyes of the blind” (verse eight). This is why we organize ministry to all kinds of people and families with special needs. We will continue to do that all the more in the days ahead, not because this was the plan of Lon or because this is the plan of this or that leader. No, this is the plan of God.

“The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down…” This is why we spend late nights bowed down before God in prayer. It’s why I can’t wait to get back together and do that again. “The Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners…” (the end of verse eight and beginning of verse nine). This is why we care about immigrants in our midst, the displaced people around the world. It’s because our God cares about them.

“He upholds the widow and the fatherless…” This is why we care about the widows in our midst. It’s why we organize foster care and adoption ministries for children without a home. It’s because our God cares about them.

“But the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.” This is why we live to spread the gospel to people in our city and among people groups in the world who have never heard it. Is that David Platt’s agenda? No. This is God’s agenda, to bring salvation to people who are on a road that leads to ruin.

MBC will be a church that reflects God’s love for all people.

So let’s put all this together and this is what, by God’s grace, we will be. MBC will be a church that reflects God’s love for all people. MBC will be a church that reflects God’s love, not just for His people in the church, but for people far from the church, for people who are marginalized—not just in our culture, but also marginalized from the church.

Just look at the list based on God’s Word in Psalm 146. We’re to reflect God’s love for the oppressed, the hungry, the imprisoned, the blind, the sojourner, the widow, the fatherless and all those who are on a road that leads to ruin. We want all of these to know the love of God through McLean Bible Church.

This vision booklet points out that there are over six million people in metropolitan Washington D.C. The latest research we have is that about 12.5% of those people are in churches. That obviously does not mean that all of those people are followers of Jesus. But even if we assume they are, that still leaves nearly 5.4 million people without Christ in our city alone, people who are on a road that leads to eternal ruin. By God’s grace, we want to spread the gospel across our city. We are in five locations right now and we want to start new locations in the days ahead all around our city. We don’t know the exact places, but what we’re saying as a church is we want to start new locations and plant new churches. This picture shows some potential places this could happen in blue. All these red dots are churches we’ve had the opportunity to plant over recent years. Why do we want to do this? Because we want to spread God’s love all across our city.

I should point out and make clear that what’s not represented on this map are all the other gospel-preaching churches in our city. And by the way, our goal is never to bring Christians here from other churches as a way to grow. No! We’re not in competition with any other church that’s proclaiming the gospel. We want to see every gospel-preaching, Bible teaching church in Metro Washington, D.C., flourish. This means we work together with other churches across this area, because there are five million people who don’t have a gospel presence in their home, many of them even in their neighborhood.

Then this is a map we’ve looked at before showing in red the places where the gospel has never gone.

In the beginning of this vision booklet for the new chapter of MBC, I try to summarize what I see when I look across our church. I see a unique family, from over a hundred countries, from diverse personal backgrounds, socio economic situations and political opinions, in a divided world where there are threats to our unity all around. Yet we are united by the love of Jesus and the Word of Jesus. He has put us together in one of the most significant cities in the world. We’re surrounded by 5.4 million people who are apart from Christ and billions of people who have never even heard the gospel. So here we sit, as a unique family surrounded by urgent need in one of the most significant cities in the world. I would say that means we have unprecedented opportunity.

By God’s grace, we are thousands of people, gifted and filled with the Holy Spirit of God, with resources unlike anything in history. God has given us money. He’s given us technology. He’s given us unprecedented opportunity to spread His love for all people. So let’s do it. Let’s step together into a future where we shout with zeal across the city and across the world, “The Lord reigns forever, to all generations in all nations” (Psalm 146:10).

This passage calls us to be a welcoming church

In light of this, there’s a whole other picture here. We want to be a church that welcomes and mobilizes all generations and intentionally reaches the next generation for the sake of our kids and their kids and their kids who will come behind us. Do you see it? The Lord will reign forever, so we want the praise of the Lord to resound from our lives far after we are gone.

The first page in the vision book that I’m going to point you to starts with looking back at God’s faithfulness over the years. See this picture of Lon, my predecessor who faithfully pastored this church for almost four decades, proclaiming the gospel and leading many people to Christ. In so many ways, this church is the fruit of

God’s grace in him. But not just Lon. It goes back to five families who founded this church for the spread of God’s love across the city and around the world. Out of those five families alone, they sent 16 missionaries to unreached people with the gospel.

I want to show you a video clip from Don Hutchinson who grew up in this church and is the son of one of the founding members—he was a teenager when this church began. Then he was sent out to work among the Sirsarunga people, a remote people group that did not even have a written language. Don and his wife helped them create a written language so that the Bible could be accessible to them in their language. Watch this with me to see the fruit of that work, sent out and supported by this church.

Video: “They’ve been speaking this language for a long time, so the language isn’t new; what’s new is the ability to capture it rapidly.”

“It would touch their hearts and they would understand everything in our own language.” “God—and we believe this very strongly—God, through Christianity, works everywhere, but it doesn’t work the same way everywhere.”

“If I show you this and ask you what it is, what is this? Now what is it? Now what is it? It’s still a watch. But the lower-case letter b? Depending on how you turn it, it could be a p or a d or a q.” “I feel that most of the people in Sirsarunga don’t understand what the Bible is or what it’s talking about, even when they say that they know God, but actually they don’t understand what God is, because it was in English. Most in Sirsarunga don’t know English.”

“I am so honored and privileged that I have lived for this very stage that came to dedicate the Bible and I’m still alive.”

“There are some people here who want us to stay and do the Old Testament. But we’re feeling more and more strongly that we need to get out of their way. They need to have the Word of God. They need to develop their own theology. They need to talk about God in their way that’s appropriate to their culture, and it’s time for us to go.”

[Beautiful scene of people singing and worshiping in their native language]

“It’s really something to think about. It’s just incredible.”

David: Here’s why I share that video with you. Out of these five founding couples, all of them have now gone to be with the Lord. Betty Wright, the last member from that group, went to be with the Lord just a few weeks ago. They’re no longer here, but do you know what is here? A church with 10,000- plus people, worshiping God, proclaiming the Word of God in this city. And not just in this city. There are people singing to God in a language where His song had never been sung before.

This is what we get to be a part of when we live to proclaim the Lord and His greatness: we get to praise His name forever to all generations among the nations. So let’s give our lives to this in such a way that, Lord willing, far after we are gone—as long as He has not returned—His praise is still resounding in

greater and greater ways. Today we are saying we believe this will happen maximally. When? It will happen when MBC is a church that exalts the Lord alone as our Leader. It will happen when MBC is a church that reflects God’s love for every single one of His people, without exception. And it will happen when MBC is a church that passionately reflects God’s love for all people.

God, may that be so!

I would be remiss if I didn’t—first and foremost, like we do every week—ask you, right where you’re sitting, “Have you trusted in Jesus as the Lord of your life?” I’m not asking if you’ve gone through some religious motion in the past. But have you trusted in Jesus as the Lord of your life, such that it’s clear that He is your Lord, your Savior, your Help, your Hope? If not, I want to urge you to do that right now. This could be the very day when your breath departs and your plans perish. So I invite you to call out to God saying, “God, I need Your help. I have sinned against You. I need You to save me from my sin. Today I put my trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord of my life. I call out to You for help and place my hope in You.”

O God, I pray that this would be the cry of hearts right now. All around the world people are listening. God, please, particularly here in our city, we pray that the fruit of this church every single week will be people trusting in You as Lord of their lives. God, we also pray that in the world You’ve put us in and in the time and place You’ve put us in, You would help us be faithful to Your Word, align with Your plans and live for Your praise right where You put us.

God, we pray for the spread of Your grace through McLean Bible Church and other gospel preaching, Bible-teaching churches all across Metro Washington, D.C. We pray for the spread of Your praise among the nations, among peoples who are not yet singing Your praises. May the fruit of our life together be more and more peoples exalting You as the Lord Who reigns forever. I pray this together, as your church, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

How can we apply this passage to our lives?

Question 1

What are some specific ways we are prone to put our trust in people?

Question 2

Why is it essential for church members to understand to whom the church belongs?

Question 3

According to the sermon, in what two things is happiness found?

Question 4

What role does the church have in light of Psalm 146?

Question 5

Why is the Christian life incompatible with pride?

Pslam 146, ESV

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!

MBC will be a church that exalts the Lord alone as our leader.

MBC will be a church that reflects God’s love for His people.

MBC will be a church that reflects God’s love for all people.

David Platt

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Radical.

David received his Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Don’t Hold Back, Radical, Follow MeCounter CultureSomething Needs to ChangeBefore You Vote, as well as the multiple volumes of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series.

Along with his wife and children, he lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.


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