February 12, 2018
International Mission Board President David Platt has asked the mission agency’s trustees to begin searching for his successor. Platt announced his decision to IMB field personnel and staff on Monday, Feb. 12, in person and via email to those not in Richmond.
Platt will continue as president at IMB until a new president is elected.
Platt told trustees, missionaries and staff that during his nearly four-year tenure at the IMB, he has been “burdened to continue preaching and leading in the local church,” which led to assuming a teaching pastor role at McLean Bible Church in Northern Virginia, alongside his leadership of the IMB.
“I am more passionate today than I have ever been about getting the gospel to the nations, and I want to spend what little time I have left on this earth with urgency toward that end,” he said. “This passion is what drove me to become IMB president, and I have sought to honor Him and you in this role over the last four years.”
IMB trustee Max Croft, associate pastor of Agape Baptist Church, Scottsboro, in Tennessee River Baptist Association, said he and others heard the news in a webinar early on Feb. 12.
“It came to me as new information but not so surprising,” Croft said. “I join many who thought he could not do two jobs, and he essentially said after receiving advice from friends and colleagues and through prayer and consideration, he decided he could not do both.”
Croft said he honors the decision because Platt “has said he believes his God-given gifts are in teaching.”
“He’s truly a man of God, and I believe he’s doing what he thinks is God’s will,” Croft said.
Richard Richie, an IMB trustee and pastor of Blue Springs Baptist Church, Somerville, in Morgan Baptist Association, also was not surprised by Platt’s decision.
“We’ve felt there was a steady tension going on between David’s strong desire to preach and teach at the local church level while also continuing to serve on the world platform that the IMB presidency has afforded him,” Richie said. “Initially the idea of him going and preaching was supposed to be done on a trial basis, and we gave him permission to do that. But I feel that David was torn between wanting to help McLean Bible Church more while continuing his leadership at the IMB.”
In a press release provided by the IMB, Platt said he had come to the realization that serving as president of the IMB and as a teaching pastor in a church was “not viable long-term.”
“This realization has been sobering, for I don’t believe I can choose between preaching and leading in the local church, and mobilizing and shepherding people in global missions,” he said. “Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that if I am going to serve in this way in the local church, then I need to serve in different ways for the cause of global missions.”
Richie said he does not fault Platt for wanting to “utilize whatever means and place of service God presents as a platform to reach the nations for Christ. That is just the way that David is built.”
Croft said Platt has done an “outstanding job as president of IMB” and was encouraged by Platt’s expressed intent to continue in some role at IMB going forward.
“He indicated he will keep an attachment with IMB, and I look forward to that because he does have a heart for the nations. He has a great way to motivate people, to encourage them and to ignite their spirit for missions. I hope we can keep him in some capacity with IMB,” Croft said.
Richie said Platt had done “an excellent job in his leadership at the IMB,” especially in terms of his bringing in new, visionary leadership and making difficult choices to help move the IMB onto a better financial footing.
“This was extremely difficult for all of us within the IMB family when we had to make some tough decisions that affected our missionary presence on the field,” Richie said. “Through David’s leadership, we are certainly stronger today than we were before. We owe him a debt of gratitude for his service to our Lord and our denomination.”
Richie finally noted, “He will be missed, but I give him my full support and know God will continue to use him in a mighty, mighty way.”
Senior IMB leaders, including Platt, have stated their commitment to the continuity of IMB’s work during the search. Platt said they will continue to implement the initiatives that leaders in Richmond and around the world have put in place aimed toward fulfilling the agency’s mission as the IMB. During Platt’s tenure, IMB has achieved a stable, healthy financial position; clarified its mission; and recalibrated internal systems and structures around that mission.
“We have set the stage for a limitless mission force that is focused on the missionary task with urgent motivation and strong biblical, theological, ecclesiological, and missiological foundations,” Platt said. “We have sought to create collaborative processes in the IMB such that what we do doesn’t revolve around one leader, but around all of us working together. Consequently, our vision for the future remains the same: we will continue partnering with churches to empower limitless missionary teams who are evangelizing, discipling, planting and multiplying healthy churches, and training leaders among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God.”
Specifically, Platt encouraged Southern Baptists’ 3,500-plus missionaries around the world to remain steadfast in their devotion to the missionary task in the place and the role where God has placed each of them, noting they “know better than anyone else: the nations need the gospel.”
He implored the missionaries to not let this news distract them from getting the gospel to those who have never heard it.
Platt was named IMB president in August 2014, succeeding longtime Oklahoma pastor Tom Elliff, who served as president for three years. Prior to becoming IMB president, Platt served as the pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham.
A presidential search committee comprised of IMB trustees selected by trustee chairman Dr. Rick Dunbar, a member of First Baptist Church Madison, Mississippi, will begin their search for the 13th president of the 173-year-old entity following their next board of trustees meeting.
“We are sad, but also feel confident in the future as we move forward,” Dunbar said. “We trust that David’s gifts of preaching, teaching and writing will continue to bless the work of the IMB for many years to come, and we look forward to a long-term relationship.”
The next IMB board of trustees meeting is Feb. 28-March 1 near Richmond, Va. The meeting will include a Sending Celebration recognizing the appointment of new Southern Baptist missionaries. (IMB, TAB)