RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — In his final address to trustees as International Mission Board president, David Platt urged the IMB’s leaders to “rise above” current challenges in the Southern Baptist Convention in order to reach the world’s “2.8 billion people who have little to no access” to the Gospel.
Among the SBC’s challenges claimed in Platt’s Sept. 26 address were a failure to disciple new believers and an unhealthy political climate within the convention.
At the conclusion of the IMB trustees’ Sept. 26-27 meeting in Richmond, Va., Clyde Meador assumed leadership of the SBC’s international missions entity as interim president. Platt resigned the presidency after four years to serve full-time as pastor of McLean Bible Church in northern Virginia.
Platt’s three main exhortations to trustees were to strive for biblical faithfulness and practical effectiveness; look at analysis and not merely anecdotes when making decisions; and prioritize missional urgency over political expediency. Click here for additional reporting on Platt’s address.
Amid Platt’s discussion of looking at analysis, he referenced a report to the SBC in June by Robby Gallaty, chairman of the Disciple-making Task Force appointed by the North American Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources. According to the task force, Southern Baptist churches baptized 7.1 million people over the past 20 years but saw an overall decrease in worship attendance of 24,000, suggesting a failure to disciple new believers adequately.
“Am I going to wake up to this reality?” Platt asked. “Or am I going to sit in SBC meetings, or even meetings in the church I pastor, listening to stories here and there of people coming to Christ, and think things are going alright? Things are not alright. We are sick, and we need to open our eyes to reality. And I believe this is critical for the IMB.”
Southern Baptists are decreasing as a percentage of the U.S. population, Platt said, and giving to SBC causes is decreasing. The IMB should select a new president “who will not be content with this status quo.”
“We do need to rethink how we’re going to send, sustain, support missionaries and how we’re going to engage churches in this mission,” Platt said. “Otherwise, we will find less churches partnering with us, and we will be less able to support the missionaries we currently have, much less send new missionaries in the future.”
In exhorting trustees to prioritize missional urgency, Platt lamented what he perceived as the political climate in some sectors of the SBC.
“I hate the politics of the SBC. And I don’t say that as an outsider. I say that as an insider these last four years. Some of the lowest points in my leadership have been when I found myself participating in them — jockeying for position, continual self-promotion, backroom deals followed by spin in the front room, strategizing like brothers are your enemy, feeling like others see you as their enemy … getting to the point where you wonder if you can trust anyone even as you start to wonder how trustworthy you’ve become,” Platt said.
“I just want to urge you, by the grace of God with the help of God, to rise above it for the mission of God and for the glory of God,” Platt said. “I want to plead with you to refuse to play political games while 2.8 billion people have little to no access to the good news of God’s love.”
At the close of the session, trustees gathered around Platt and prayed for him in his days ahead as a pastor.