Editor’s Note: David Platt was elected as president of the International Mission Board on Aug. 27. The Baptist and Reflector posted a story on the Tennessee Baptist Convention website that day. This article is a shortened version with added comments from Tennessee Baptists who are serving as IMB trustees.
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
ROCKVILLE, Va. — Alabama Baptist pastor and noted author David Platt has been elected president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.
Platt’s election took place Aug. 27 during a trustee meeting held at the IMB’s International Learning Center in Rockville, Va.
Platt, 36, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., will take office effective immediately as president of the 169-year-old Southern Baptist missions entity, the largest denominational missionary-sending body among American evangelicals. More than 4,800 Southern Baptist international missionaries serve world-wide.
The Alabama pastor succeeds Tom Elliff, 70, who has served as IMB president since March 2011. Elliff asked the agency’s trustees earlier this year to begin an active search for his successor.
Platt said he felt a clear calling from God to leave the pastorate to accept the IMB leadership position. “We talk all the time at Brook Hills about laying down a blank check with our lives before God, with no strings attached, willing to go wherever He leads, give whatever He asks and do whatever He commands in order to make His glory known among the nations,” Platt said in a letter to his church, released Aug. 27.
Though the vote total was not released, David Uth, search committee chairman, acknowledged there was some opposition to Platt’s election but “it was not formidable.”
The author of bestselling books Radical and Follow Me, among others, Platt has been pastor at The Church at Brook Hills, which counts about 4,500 members, since 2006.
According to information supplied by the IMB, in 2013 The Church at Brook Hills gave $100,000 to the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, $25,000 through the Cooperative Program; $12,500 to the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home; $300,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions; and $325,000 to the IMB in special designated gifts, for a total of $777,500 or 8.9 percent of the church’s total giving for the year, to Southern Baptist causes. The projection for 2014 is $1,301,000 or 13.8 percent in total projected church giving, with the Cooperative Program amount remaining at $25,000.
Several of the Tennessee trustees said they were concerned by The Church at Brook Hill’s lack of support for the Cooperative Program, but were reassured by comments that Platt made to the trustees.
Dean Haun, pastor of First Baptist Church, Morristown, acknowledged that he was “skeptical about calling David Platt as our new IMB president due to his Cooperative Program giving and some things I heard he believed until (among other reasons) I heard from David himself and listened to his explanations about his giving, what he believed, and the incredible passion he has to reach the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Noting the need to “get younger pastors on board with the IMB and the overwhelming response of our missionaries from the field, I feel the call of David Platt as our next IMB president was a great choice,” Haun continued.
Roger Freeman, pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Nashville, noted that Platt’s church gave over $1.3 million dollars this year to Southern Baptist causes.
“The SBC officially commended in convention-approved action this kind of giving as Great Commission giving. Direct Cooperative Program giving is the best kind of Great Commission giving, and David Platt will vigorously and vocally say that in the future,” he said.
“Interestingly,” Freeman added, “we can recall that many of the SBC Presidents in recent years did not have strong CP giving in their churches when elected but were God’s man, just as David Platt is God’s man for this assignment, and these men became even stronger and more vibrant advocates of the Cooperative Program.”
David Miller, director of missions for Indian Creek Baptist Association, noted he was concerned about Platt’s CP record.
Miller noted that Platt was willing to say he was wrong about the Cooperative Program and that he will work to lead others to give to the SBC giving channel. “I believe that what he did is not what he will do. The Lord convinced me to put trust in him.”
Miller also said he was impressed with Platt’s passion for the lost and the support given to Platt by outgoing president Tom Elliff. “That brought me on board to vote for David Platt,” he said.
Phil Mitchell, director of missions for Weakley Baptist Association, was unable to attend due to the illness, and subsequent death of his mother. He told the Baptist and Reflector, however, that “there is no question in my mind of his faithfulness to Scripture and his conservative interpretation. I believe that he is a faithful follower of Christ.” Mitchell also noted that he was “impressed with his heart for missions which is portrayed in the many trips he has taken and the testimonies he gives of how his church has taken on a missions mindset of reaching the nations.”
Scott Harris, missions minister at Brentwood Baptist Church, Brentwood, acknowledged there were concerns about Platt’s link to Calvinism (see Harris’ comments in “Search Committee Member Offers Perspective”). Harris said that Platt supports the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message and that “he has affirmed that he will not lead the IMB to be a Calvinist organization.”
In a press conference with Baptist editors, Platt addressed the CP questions. “The last thing the Southern Baptist Convention needs is a do-it-alone International Mission Board that tries to undercut the Cooperative Program.” He said he would seek to help pastors to be engaged in both the convention and the Cooperative Program.
In a follow up question concerning his church’s perceived lack of support in giving through the Cooperative Program, Platt acknowledged that The Church at Brook Hills “is not a perfect model when it comes to giving” but that “it made strides.”
Platt said he desires to work closely with Baptist state conventions and other SBC entities. “I want to trumpet the Great Commission and disciples made here (North America) and among the nations. That is what we cooperate for,” he said. The Cooperative Program is the “most effective means” to do that, he said.