A Few Thoughts on David Platt’s Election as President of the IMB

Doug Coleman IMB 5 Comments

david-platt-itickets-comThis past Wednesday (Aug. 27) the IMB announced the election of David Platt as its new president. I have some friends who know David, but I have never met him. I have listened to a number of his sermons, heard him preach in person on a few occasions, and have interacted with some of the missions staff at Brook Hills, his soon-to-be former church.

Platt’s election has generated some debate, mostly about his soteriology and his church’s giving towards the Cooperative Program. (For example, see Bart Barber’s post here. Note that Barber wrote a gracious follow-up after Platt was elected.)

A number of people have spoken to these questions. For example, Hershael York writes about Platt’s soteriology:

Furthermore, isn’t the most common objection to a high view of election that it undermines missions? Can anyone reasonably cast that stone at David Platt? The man breathes missions. No one I have ever known is more passionate or strategic about reaching the lost than he. Forgive my historical reference, but I say of his Calvinism what Lincoln said when Grant was accused of imbibing whiskey: “Find what he’s drinking and send it to the rest of my generals!” If Platt’s soteriology drives him to reach the nations with the gospel for the glory of Christ, then may we all get a dose of it!

Regarding the issue of giving to the Cooperative Program, J.D. Greear asks:

Here is the question that David’s presidency prompts for us: Are younger Southern Baptists more likely to give to the CP when they know the man at the helm of the IMB has proven his willingness to do whatever it takes to free up more money for the field, and who shares their concerns about CP money not getting to the field?

Jon Akin also points out how much Brook Hills has given to missions in various ways. In a strong endorsement of Platt, Russ Moore expresses confidence that Platt believes in the CP.

These debates are important, but as a field worker with the IMB for 16 years, other questions are just as important for me. The biggest, of course, are: Who is David Platt? and How will a pastor who has never lived overseas lead the IMB? Since I do not know David personally, I can only assess based on what I see of him in his preaching, pastoring, writing, and what others who know him have said about him. I’ll list a few impressions that seem relevant for his role as IMB president. The final two are probably the most significant.

First, David is clearly a gifted communicator and passionate advocate for missions. This short clip is what I’m talking about:

This gift of communication and passion for God’s glory among the nations can only be a good thing for the IMB.

Second, David has led his church to make serious changes in its use of financial resources to free up more money for missions and ministry. Maybe the most well known example is depriving his son of Goldfish crackers in the children’s ministry at Brook Hills. (See chapter 1 of his book Radical Together.) If David leads in the same way at IMB, it may mean tightening the belt. That might hurt, but it could also be a good thing in terms of how he leads the IMB itself but also for how God might use him to challenge the broader SBC.

Third, David’s preaching is rich in biblical and theological content, and I look forward to David leading IMB as a deep biblical and theological thinker. I say this for two reasons. First, like other ministries, for far too long missiology has drunk too deeply from the wells of pragmatism and drawn too uncritically from the field of anthropology. I am grateful that this is not true of many of the IMB personnel with whom I have personally worked, but in an organization as large as ours, we would be naive to think that it doesn’t exist. Second, in my opinion a strong desire to get the gospel quickly to as many people as possible–which in itself is a good thing–has at times led to an overemphasis on rapidity and an insufficient emphasis on biblical and theological depth. (I hope we can emphasize BOTH, by the way.) It is difficult for me to imagine David would not challenge either of these as president of the IMB.

Finally, perhaps the biggest debate regarding any potential candidate is whether he should be a pastor or a field worker. I admit that I have always been partial to field workers serving as president, but I also see the value in having a pastor serving in the role since one of the main tasks is leading SBC churches in missions cooperation. However, a pastor who has never lived overseas simply cannot know–by experience–many of the challenges and issues involved in cross-cultural missions. I have seen two things since last Wednesday that give me significant hope this will not be a major hindrance for David. First is his humility. I see it in his preaching, and it is one of the first things mentioned about him by his friends. A humble person is willing to learn from and lean on others. Second, in an interview conducted right after his election, David acknowledged his need to draw on experienced field personnel in leading the organization (see his comments on the senior leadership team towards the end of the interview).

I am looking forward to the days ahead. David, if you happen to read this I have one request. My youngest son loves Goldfish crackers. Can you bring him some when you come to visit?

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Doug ColemanA Few Thoughts on David Platt’s Election as President of the IMB

Comments 5

  1. Mark

    We could add Platt’s name to the following list of people who have impacted the world for Christ while maintaining BOTH a robust missiology/evangelistic zeal, AND a “high view of election”:

    “John Calvin: Calvin sent missionaries from Geneva into France and as far away as Brazil. Most of these young men sent to France died a martyr’s death, but the church of Geneva continued to send them.

    John Eliot: A missionary sent to the American Indians in the 1600′s. He is believed to be the first missionary among this people group. As many have said, if William Carey is the father of the modern mission’s movement, then John Eliot is its grandfather.

    David Brainerd: A missionary to the American Indians in the 1700′s. Many historians believe that he has sent more individuals into the mission field than any other person in the history of the church via his diary, An Account of the Life of the Late Reverend David Brainerd.

    Theodorus Frelinghuysen: The great evangelist and preacher, who set the stage for the First Great Awakening in the middle colonies.

    Jonathan Edwards: The great theologian, writer, and preacher of the First Great Awakening. He was also a missionary to the Indians.

    George Whitfield: The great voice and preacher of the First Great Awakening. He journeyed across the Atlantic Ocean thirteen times and scholars believe he preached over 18,000 sermons.

    William Tennent: He founded the Log College, which later became Princeton University. This college trained pastors and provided many of the revivalist preachers of the First Great Awakening.

    Samuel Davies: The famous President of the College of New Jersey (Princeton University), preacher of the First Great Awakening, and evangelist to the slaves of Virginia. It is believed that hundreds of slaves came to saving faith through his evangelism efforts.

    William Carey: He is the famous missionary to India and is considered the father of the modern mission’s movement.

    Robert Moffat: The first missionary to reach the interior of Africa with the Gospel. He translated the entire Bible and Pilgrim’s Progess into Setswana.

    David Livingstone: Arguably, the most famous missionary to the continent of Africa.

    Robert Morrison: The first Protestant missionary to China and the first to translate the Bible into Chinese.

    Peter Parker: An American physician and missionary to China who first introduced Western medical techniques to the Chinese. He also served as the president of the Medical Missionary Society of China.

    Adoniram Judson: The famous missionary to Burma, translated the Bible into Burmese, and established multiple Baptist Churches in Burma. His mission work led many to enter the mission field and was foundational for forming the first Baptist association in America.

    Charles Simeon: The vicar of Holy Trinity Church and the founding figure of the Church Missionary Society. This organization was instrumental in leading many students to the mission field. The Society itself has sent more than 9,000 missionaries into the world.

    Henry Martyn: The renowned missionary to India and Persia. He preached in the face of opposition and translated the New Testament into a number of languages.

    Samuel Zwemer: He is affectionately known as “The Apostle to Islam.” His legacy includes efforts in Bahrain, Arabia, Egypt, and Asia Minor. His writing was used by the Lord to encourage and mobilize an entire generation of missionaries to labor in Islamic countries.

    John Stott: Scholar, preacher, pastor, and evangelist of the twentieth century. He was one of the principle authors and the influential leader in establishing the Lausanne Covenant, which promoted world-wide evangelism.

    Francis Schaeffer: Pastor and found of L’Abri, which has been used by the Lord to draw many to saving faith as they intellectually wrestled with the tenants of Christianity.

    D. James Kennedy: The founder of Evangelism Explosion, which many believe is the most widely used evangelistic training curriculum in church history.

    John Piper: Pastor, writer, and theologian, who has been used by the Lord to define missions and send many young people into the mission field.”

    List source: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2013/07/03/does-calvinism-kill-missions/

    Knowing this list, could someone please explain to me why there is still a rejection of Calvinism BASED ON A CONCERN THAT IT NEGATIVELY AFFECTS EVANGELISM/MISSIONS? In other words, could someone support this concern with historical data?

  2. Mark

    I guess I’ve been in the States too long, but this question and answer (from the initial press interview linked above) is what I am most excited about:

    “Van Payne: I’m going to go back to Keith Collier’s questions from Southern Baptist TEXAN: Dr. Platt, what missions strategies do you think will be most effective in the future that we haven’t considered or pursued in the past?

    David Platt: Fundamentally we’ve got to make sure the paradigm with which we’re approaching mission strategies is less “top down,” more “bottom up.” And what I mean by that, I think there’s a temptation in a denominational structure to see the IMB, for example, the IMB exists for missions, so the IMB sends missionaries, raises funds and then once it sends those missionaries, they support them and do all the strategy, and the local church then just exists — from a top-down picture — the local church just exists to send money and send missionaries, and then the IMB takes care of it. We’ve really got to make sure that paradigm is turned upside down so that the local church is the agent that sends missionaries and shepherds missionaries, and the IMB comes alongside local churches to do that … because those strategy questions don’t necessarily need to be manufactured in a boardroom of denominational entity as much as they need to come from the hearts of the Spirit of God working in the hearts of local pastors who are owning missions and who are seeing the gifts represented across the body of Christ … and saying, “How can we, together, most effectively plant churches around the world?””

    THE LOCAL CHURCH IS THE AGENT THAT SENDS MISSIONARIES AND SHEPHERDS MISSIONARIES!

    Far too many SB churches have given up this role in the name of “cooperation”. Either that or in many cases they choose to just go it alone when “cooperation” proves to be too difficult.

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