Urbana sat down with David Platt as he prepares for Urbana 15 to get to know him a little more beyond what’s listed in his bio. Here’s what he had to say:
When you say ‘missions’ what do you mean by that?
When God saves us, he is also empowering us with his Spirit for a mission. And that mission is making disciples. Matthew is such a great example of this. From the very beginning, Jesus says, “Follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men.” From the very beginning, following was attached to fishing. And in the very end, Jesus says to his disciples, “Now, go and make disciples…” So every disciple is intended to be a disciple maker. In a real sense, we are created, called, saved—every one of us—for mission.
Now, how that plays out is we look at our lives right around us as mission. We have the Spirit of God for the purpose of the spreading of the gospel right around us. I use the word missions or missionary to describe those who cross barriers for the spread of the gospel—particularly (if you take it to its most narrow definition) among those who have never heard, in a Romans 15 kind of way.
Every Christian is created for mission. In different ways, we’re all created to make disciples, wherever we live, and then wherever God leads. And he leads some of us to go to places where Christ has not been named. That would be the frontier missionary, so to speak.
Every Christian is created for mission. In different ways, we’re all created to make disciples, wherever we live, and then wherever God leads. And he leads some of us to go to places where Christ has not been named.
Is there an area of missions that the next generation needs to be called to?
The big picture is there are still well over 2 billion people who have not been reached by the gospel. We’ve been given a clear command to make disciples of all the nations—of all the ethne—and there are people groups who have not been reached with the gospel. The command of Christ compels us to obedience to get the gospel to those who have never heard it.
I’m convinced, in the end, that the greatest injustice in the world is that there are still billions of people who’ve never even heard how much God loves them in Christ. I’m living for the day when the concept of unreached people is no more.
Was there a turning point in your life, or a certain encounter that set you on your missions journey?
For me it was the collision of the Word and the world. It started with Word. I remember as a college student, sitting in a college conference, and the speaker walking from cover to cover through scripture, and showing God’s passion for his glory in all nations—that God is passionate about his own glory among all the peoples of the earth. It was like I was seeing something in scripture I had never seen before. But it’s all over scripture! And I just remember my jaw being on the ground thinking, This changes everything! My life must be all about making God’s glory known among all nations. So the seeds of the Word were planted really strongly at that moment.
And then, I was on a short-term missions trip in Latin America. The Lord did a work in my heart amidst poverty, surrounded by need. And I was reading Jim Elliott’s biography Shadow of the Almighty, and I just remember all those seeds from the Word came to life in my heart. I was living in New Orleans at the time, and I just realized, I’ve got to live my life in New Orleans, making disciples there with a view toward praying, giving, going—however God leads—to make disciples known among all the nations.
So the seeds from the Word collided with needs in the world to create this deep passion to say, I just want to be spent for his namesake among all peoples.
What would you say to Urbana participants today? How should they get ready for Urbana?
I would say, over the coming days, to put themselves in a situation where they’re coming to Urbana with a blank check on the table before God—with no strings attached, no conditions; saying God, I want to hear from you, and I want to do whatever you tell me to do, no strings attached. And just to come with that kind of surrender into this conference. And I am confident that anyone who comes with that kind of surrender into this conference is going to hear from God. And he promises the grace to obey. It’s going to be a powerful few days if we come with that kind of yielded-ness to him.
Come to Urbana with a blank check on the table before God—with no strings attached, no conditions; saying God, I want to hear from you, and I want to do whatever you tell me to do, no strings attached.
My big prayer for Urbana is that God would work during these few days, in this gathering, in a way that has ripple effects—on college campuses, among the nations—for his glory. When I look out at that group of participants at Urbana, I think the potential is awesome. So I pray that God will do a work that will have a ripple effect for decades—generations—among peoples all around the world.
You spoke at Urbana 12. What were you most excited about when you said yes to speaking again at Urbana 15?
The opportunity to be a part of that moment and gather together—and not just to speak into it, but to be a part of it—listening and hearing from the Lord myself during that time. Yeah, it’s a no brainer to gather together with that many people to worship the Lord, hear from the Word, and talk about how to get it to the world. It’s a pretty awesome conference.