By David Dawson
Baptist and Reflector
GALVESTON, Texas — As the search begins for a new International Mission Board president, outgoing president David Platt said he believes the IMB is “financially healthy, physically strong, and practically ready.”
Two days after announcing he was stepping down as IMB president, Platt spoke to a group of editors on Feb. 14 at the annual Association of State Baptist Publications meeting in Galveston. Platt told the ASBP conference attendees that he made the decision to leave the IMB office “because I believe that is what God is leading me to do.”
Last year, Platt began serving as teaching pastor at McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Virginia (located just outside of Washington, DC.)
He has been president of the IMB for four years.
In seeking Platt’s replacement at the IMB, a presidential search committee will be comprised of IMB trustees selected by trustee chairman Rick Dunbar, a member of First Baptist Church, Madison, Miss.
Platt said he does not expect there to be an interruption of any kind in regard to the functionality of the IMB during the search process.
“Until that new president is found, I remain committed to leading the IMB, just as I have over the past four years,” Platt told the ASBP meeting attendees.
“The IMB leadership has expressed full support of me. They don’t want (to see) a pause in our work; nobody wants to put a pause on our work. The message that I hope and pray — and really, I mean, pray — that we will communicate to Southern Baptists is that, by God’s grace, the IMB is open for business. We are financially healthy, physically strong, and we are practically ready.”
Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, praised Platt for the progress he made in helping the IMB become economically stronger.
“Dr. Platt has done the hard work of financially stabilizing the IMB,” Davis said. “I believe that will be the legacy he leaves after his relatively brief tenure as president.”
Looking ahead, Davis said he believes the IMB presidency needs longevity.
“My prayer is that the search team will find someone to lead the IMB who will be able to give a longer tenure to this flagship work of Southern Baptists,” Davis said. “We have known three presidents in the last eight years. In the 173-year history of the Southern Baptist Convention, the average tenure has been more than 13 years. While we have had a season of financial stability at the IMB, we now need vision stability.”
Platt addressed a wide variety of topics during his session with the editors at the ASBP gathering. The session lasted about an hour and included a Q-and-A segment. He spoke briefly about the possibility of future involvement with the IMB, albeit in a different role.
“Trustee leaders have simply expressed a desire for me to continue to be part of the IMB family in the future,” he said.
“But obviously, there are a lot of factors that would go into determining if, or what, that would look like. The main thing that I want to communicate is that I want to do whatever I can in the days to come to continue to see missions succeed in and across and beyond the IMB and the SBC. The specifics of what that looks like — we’ll leave that in the Lord’s hands at this point.”
IMB trustee David Miller, director of missions for Indian Creek Baptist Association, Waynesboro, said the task of finding Platt’s replacement will be done with God’s direction.
“The IMB board of trustees under chairman Rick Dunbar is ready to prayerfully face the future with the belief that God knows what our needs are in a president,” Miller said. “He will guide our search team to the man who will lead us to a greater time of reaching people out of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.
“Our missionaries are committed to one thing and that is carrying out God’s call upon their life,” he said. “And we, as trustees, will do everything we can to support them in that endeavor. I would ask that anyone concerned about the IMB would pray for God’s watch care on those who are working every day to reach the world for Christ that they remain encouraged and focused on the task before them.”
IMB trustee Phil Mitchell, director of missions for Weakley County Baptist Association, Dresden, likewise believes the process of finding a new president will be done through prayer.
The trustee board “is made up of wise and godly men and women who love Christ and desire to reach the nations with the gospel,” said Mitchell. “I have full confidence that the search for and election of a new president will be done well.”
Mitchell said Platt was “a good and faithful president for the IMB” and said he knows Platt’s desire to reach lost people will continue to burn intensely.
“I am saddened that he is stepping away from his present position with the IMB, but grateful that he will remain faithful to reaching the nations with the gospel through the local church,” Mitchell said. “He is a good and faithful preacher.”
Platt said he doesn’t believe that stepping down as president lessens his potential impact in terms of reaching the lost.
“I really don’t believe there is a hierarchy of positions in the kingdom to where X is more strategic than Y,” Platt said while addressing the ASBP group. “We all have different parts to play. … In processing this decision, I believe God has said (to me), I am leading you to be in a different position. It’s about being obedient to God.”
As with most any life-altering choice, Platt said his decision to step down as president was difficult.
“I appreciate your prayers for my family in this transition,” he said. “Our families love the families that we serve and spend time with around the world, so I think that’s heavy for all of us. Heavy would be a good way to describe the last couple of days.”
Platt joked that one member of his family doesn’t seem to be struggling with the decision.
“The other night we had a family meeting and our five-year old fell asleep during the meeting,” he said. “So, he is apparently ok with this; he’s at peace with what’s going on.”
Platt said he told the IMB members that he will always be in their corner.
“This is one of the things that I shared with our personnel, IMB-wise: Regardless of any role, in any official capacity, that I may or may not have in the future, I love our IMB family,” he said. “I want to be a part of this IMB family, encouraging our missionaries … and serving alongside them in any way that I can help.”