David Platt to transition out of IMB presidency

David Platt told IMB missionaries and staff Feb. 12 he will transition out of the SBC entity’s presidency.
BP file photo.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Updated Feb. 12 at 2:35 p.m. CST.

RICHMOND, Va. (BP) -- David Platt has announced plans to transition out of his role as president of the International Mission Board but will continue to serve until a new president is selected.

Platt told trustees, missionaries and staff today (Feb. 12) that during his nearly four-year tenure at the IMB, he has been "burdened to continue preaching and leading in the local church," which led to assuming a teaching pastor role at McLean Bible Church in Northern Virginia, alongside his leadership of the IMB.

"I am more passionate today than I have ever been about getting the Gospel to the nations, and I want to spend what little time I have left on this earth with urgency toward that end," Platt said according to an IMB news release (see full statement by Platt following this story). "This passion is what drove me to become IMB president, and I have sought to honor Him and you in this role over the last four years."

David Platt (right, in yellow shirt), as president of the International Mission Board and earlier as a pastor, regularly has preached in overseas settings toward sharing the Gospel with the nations.
IMB photo
Platt added, "I have come to the realization that it is not viable long-term for me to lead as president of the IMB while serving as teaching pastor in a church. This realization has been sobering, for I don't believe I can choose between preaching and leading in the local church, and mobilizing and shepherding people in global missions. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that if I am going to serve in this way in the local church, then I need to serve in different ways for the cause of global missions."

In 2017, Platt began serving as a teaching pastor at McLean. The IMB trustee executive committee agreed in August to evaluate Platt's involvement at McLean during a provisional period, BP reported in September.

Platt "has no timeline for his departure," according to a Q&A posted on the IMB website, "but he asked that the search" for a successor "begin immediately."

Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines praised Platt's IMB service.

"I have known and loved David Platt for many years," Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., told Baptist Press in written comments. "I am very grateful for the service he has provided as the leader of the IMB. His love for our Savior and passion for the spread of the Gospel are both well known to all. He has served Southern Baptists well. We will continue to pray for him and his precious family as they faithfully serve our Lord in the days and years ahead."

An IMB presidential search committee will comprise board trustees appointed by trustee chairman Rick Dunbar, according to the IMB release.

Dunbar, a member of First Baptist Church in Madison, Miss., said he is "thankful that David [Platt] will continue to lead until a new president is elected."

"We are sad, but also feel confident in the future as we move forward," Dunbar said according to the IMB release. "We trust that David's gifts of preaching, teaching and writing will continue to bless the work of the IMB for many years to come, and we look forward to a long-term relationship."

In a statement released to BP, Platt said "trustee leaders have communicated a desire" for him "to serve with the IMB in the future in some capacity." Platt indicated willingness to do that "if the Lord so leads."

Among other SBC leaders to react to Platt's announcement:

-- Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, told BP, "I love David Platt and thank God for him. I wish the best for him and his precious family during this time of transition. I look forward to working alongside him in the future as well as the new president of the IMB."

-- Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, tweeted he is "grieved and saddened" by Platt's announcement. Akin added, however, that he is "grateful our sovereign God is in control! Our trust ultimately is always in Him."

-- Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, of which Platt is an alumnus, tweeted, "I am grateful for the hard work of [Platt] and the [IMB]. They work diligently each day to serve the Kingdom. Join me in praying for David and the IMB as they begin this leadership transition. Great work has been done, and will be done! To God be the glory!"

-- Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, tweeted, "I am grateful to God for [Platt] and for our [IMB] and for their common commitment to reach the nations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

Among highlights of Platt's IMB tenure were establishing new channels for professionals, students and retirees to enter the mission field and collecting a record $165.8 million for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions in 2015.

Under Platt's leadership, IMB trustees adopted a balanced budget in 2016 following a six-year period in which the board's expenses exceeded its revenue by some $210 million.

Previously, the IMB had overcome the shortfall by using reserve funds to make up the difference -- including global property sales -- as it gradually reduced its missionary force. But beginning in 2015, IMB trustees and staff realized an "organizational reset" was necessary to put the board on stable footing for the future.

Consequently, voluntary resignation and retirement incentives were offered beginning in 2015, and 1,132 missionaries and stateside staff accepted, bringing the board's total number of missionaries under 4,000 for the first time since 1993, according to SBC Annual reports.

As of Dec. 31, 2017, the IMB reported 3,562 overseas missionaries, according to SBC.net.

"By God's grace over recent years, we have come to a stable, healthy financial position, we have clarified our mission, and we have recalibrated our internal systems and structures around that mission," Platt said. "We have set the stage for a limitless mission force that is focused on the missionary task with urgent motivation and strong biblical, theological, ecclesiological, and missiological foundations.

"We have sought to create collaborative processes in the IMB such that what we do doesn't revolve around one leader, but around all of us working together. Consequently, our vision for the future remains the same: we will continue partnering with churches to empower limitless missionary teams who are evangelizing, discipling, planting and multiplying healthy churches, and training leaders among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God," Platt said.

Author of the bestselling books "Radical" and "Follow Me," Platt was pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., from 2006-2014. He also founded and leads Radical, a ministry that provides resources to support disciple-making in local churches worldwide.

Platt and his wife Heather have four children: Caleb, Joshua, Mara Ruth and Isaiah.

Platt's full statement follows:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Language is insufficient to express all that is on my heart and mind as I write these words, but I want to let you know that I have asked trustees to begin a search for a new president of the IMB. The paragraphs below are my best attempt to explain why and what that means.

I am more passionate today than I have ever been about getting the gospel to the nations, and I want to spend what little time I have left on this earth with urgency toward that end. This passion is what drove me to become IMB president, and I have sought to honor Him and you in this role over the last four years. Along the way, as I have shared with you, I have been burdened to continue preaching and leading in the local church amidst the lack of biblical literacy and missional urgency in the church and culture around me. That is why I began volunteering as Teaching Pastor in a church alongside my leadership in the IMB.

However, through concentrated prayer and fasting alongside counsel from various leaders across the SBC over recent months, I have come to the realization that it is not viable long-term for me to lead as president of the IMB while serving as Teaching Pastor in a church. This realization has been sobering, for I don’t believe I can choose between preaching and leading in the local church, and mobilizing and shepherding people in global missions. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that if I am going to serve in this way in the local church, then I need to serve in different ways for the cause of global missions.

This is why I have asked trustees to begin a search for a new president. To be clear, I am not resigning now, but I will resign upon the election of a new president. Until that new president is found, I am committed to serving you faithfully in my current role. Trustee leaders have communicated a desire for me to serve with the IMB in the future in some capacity, and I am certainly willing to do so if the Lord so leads. I love this IMB family, and I want to encourage you continually with God’s Word, I want to mobilize limitless missionaries to join you, and I want to work with you overseas in any ways I can help you. In short, I want to do anything I can to see missions succeed across and beyond the IMB and the SBC for the glory of God.

So what does this mean for now? While this search begins for a new president, trustee leaders have asked me to continue implementing the initiatives that our leaders here and around the world have put in place aimed toward fulfilling our mission as the IMB. In other words, we will keep moving forward together in all the ways we are currently moving forward. By God’s grace over recent years, we have come to a stable, healthy financial position, we have clarified our mission, and we have recalibrated our internal systems and structures around that mission. We have set the stage for a limitless mission force that is focused on the missionary task with urgent motivation and strong biblical, theological, ecclesiological, and missiological foundations. We have sought to create collaborative processes in the IMB such that what we do doesn’t revolve around one leader, but around all of us working together. Consequently, our vision for the future remains the same: we will continue partnering with churches to empower limitless missionary teams who are evangelizing, discipling, planting and multiplying healthy churches, and training leaders among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God. Specifically, I want to encourage you to remain steadfast in your devotion to the missionary task wherever God has placed you. You know better than anyone else: the nations need the gospel. Please, please, please don’t let this distract you from getting the gospel to them.

As I spent time with the Lord this morning, I was reminded that my life, along with yours, is His to spend for His glory however, wherever, and whenever He wants. I know that you are serving where you are because you believe this same truth. So this morning my prayer for your life and mine was the same---that one day, Lord willing, we will kneel before His throne together with every tribe, tongue, and nation, and He will say to each of us, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Yours in Christ,

David

David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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