With a Matt Damon smile, short-sleeve button-up shirts — no tie — and an aw-shucks demeanor, Platt seems to put an audience at ease, then stuns them with his apparent near-memorization of the New Testament.
"He has such a command of the Word of God and love for it," Herndon said. "You forget how old he is; he's not speaking from experience, he's speaking from the Word of God. He disarms the audience with his youthful presence and casual manner, sets people at ease, then he starts teaching, and you get engaged. When he speaks, he's confident of what he's saying."
Platt can recite long Scripture passages from memory and moves from one precise biblical reference to another to back up his points, which focus heavily on evangelism and world missions.
"I want my preaching to be saturated with the Word of God," Platt said. "We have to know Christ, know him well and know his word."
In sermons, Platt draws on his travels to Indonesia, where he has led pastors' conferences, taught seminary courses and visited earthquake survivors. He's also visited Sudan, China and India. He and his wife plan to go to Kazakhstan to adopt a child this year.
"The Christian life is not to be lived in seclusion from the rest of the world, it's to be lived in the middle of the world," Platt said. "My mission is to make disciples of all nations and mobilize other people to do the same."
Herndon, 55, said older ministers on the staff have embraced Platt's leadership, which often takes off in unexpected directions.
In concluding a recent sermon, Platt made what seemed to be a spontaneous call for donations to build houses for earthquake victims in Indonesia. He asked those who would give over their usual offerings to step forward at the two morning services in the 2,100-seat sanctuary.
The congregation gave $110,000 to build bamboo huts with tin roofs for Indonesian villagers ravaged by a massive earthquake.
"We did not expect this kind of response," Herndon said. "We can almost build a village now."