By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
Platt announced Feb. 12 that he is stepping down from the position he has held for only four years to return to pastoral ministry. No one can fault any man who believes he is called by God to preach the gospel. I wish him well. He is a gifted preacher and pastor.
When he was announced to succeed Tom Elliff as president of the IMB four years ago I had my doubts as to whether he was the best choice.
Yes, he was a gifted minister and author, but did that alone qualify him to lead the Southern Baptist Convention’s largest entity and, arguably, its most important agency?
My two primary concerns about his election were that he had not been a Southern Baptist missionary who had experience on the field and his record of support for the Cooperative Program was almost non-existent.
I will acknowledge that Platt inherited a financial disaster at the IMB and he took steps (unpopular with many Southern Baptists) to put the IMB back on firm financial footing. The IMB now appears to be in a stable financial situation.
Platt also brought a vision to involve more people in missions in non-traditional ways. That is still a work in progress. More people are needed to spread the gospel to the nations, but on-the-field missionaries have been the backbone of Southern Baptist missions efforts overseas for decades and that must continue to be the IMB’s primary focus. Yet, since the downsizing, the number of new career missionaries has not significantly increased.
So, with Platt’s departure, what lies ahead for the International Mission Board?
In one sense, the future is bright. There is no shortage of lost people in the world so the IMB will be needed until Jesus returns.
The current trustees hold the key to the future of the International Mission Board. They will be charged to find the next leader of the IMB. It is a task they cannot take lightly. It is a task that will require countless hours of prayer and seeking God’s will.
They will be inundated with opinions from Southern Baptists across the spectrum. Some will want a “clone” of David Platt. Others will want a “rebirth” of men like Baker James Cauthen, Keith Parks, or Jerry Rankin. What we need is someone who represents the best qualities of all the above.
First and foremost, the new IMB leader must be a man firmly entrenched in God’s Word, one who believes the Bible is the inspired, infallible Word of God.
Ideally, he would be a current or former missionary. While that doesn’t need to be a prerequisite, it makes sense to have someone who understands completely what missionaries go through to get to the field and what they face once they are on it. They need an unmatched zeal and love for people who need to hear the gospel.
The new president needs to be a true-blue Southern Baptist who is well versed in the importance of missions education. He also needs to have a record of strong support of the Cooperative Program. Lip service is not enough. The new IMB leader should come from a church with a strong history of Cooperative Program support.
Why is that important? The IMB receives 50.41 percent of money channeled through the SBC portion of the Cooperative Program. It only makes sense that the person who leads our international missions agency is totally committed to the Cooperative Program.
Begin to pray now for the men and women who eventually will be selected for the task of finding the new president of the International Mission Board. Pray that agendas will be set aside and that the search committee will sincerely seek God’s heart and will in this matter.
The last two presidents of the IMB have served about four years each. We need a strong leader who will provide continuity for at least the next decade. God has the perfect person for this position picked out. Pray the search committee will find him. A lost world depends on it