Like every other corner of the SBC, in recent days all eyes in Kansas City have been on David Platt and the International Mission Board. When I announced in chapel Dr. Platt’s election as president of the IMB, the room filled with applause from our students, faculty, and staff.
Since the IMB’s announcement, I’ve been asked countless times how I think Platt’s leading the IMB will play out. With pun intended, I’ve said, “It will be radical—in one of two directions.” Let me explain.
I understand many of the questions observers have asked about Dr. Platt and the future of the IMB. Whenever a leadership transition of this magnitude occurs, questions, and even wringing of hands, often occurs. That is expected and routine.
In American foreign policy, cooler political heads have long since agreed that “politics should end at the waters edge.” This is to say, when dealing with foreign threats or diplomatic rows, as a nation we must speak with a united voice. That’s not a bad organizing principle for SBC international missions either.
There is little doubt David Platt will inspire a new generation of missionaries. Yet, if we are not united with him, in five years we could have dramatically more new missionaries ready to go, but dramatically less resources with which to send them. That result would be radically negative for all of us, most especially the Kingdom of Christ. Winning over all generations and SBC constituents, not just millennials, will be key to averting this fate.
Yet, I am praying, striving, and believing it will break radically in the other direction. This is the end to which we all must pray, strive, and believe. I see at least five reasons why.
First, we need Dr. Platt and the IMB to succeed for the sake of our missionaries. With nearly 5,000 foreign missionaries, we maintain the largest missionary force in the world. These are good people, doing good work. They depend upon our financial support. They are giving their lives to take the gospel to distant—and often-perilous—places. We must stand with them.
Second, we need Dr. Platt and the IMB to succeed for the sake of the SBC. Of course, God doesn’t need the SBC and we should not think ourselves—or our convention—indispensible to God’s work. But, if the SBC is to flourish, it will only flourish in as much as the IMB flourishes.
The IMB has always been our stack-pole entity. The lion’s share of our financial resources goes to it, and it galvanizes our churches to give to the Cooperative Program. Every SBC & CP stakeholder should root for David Platt and the IMB to succeed. So goes the IMB, so goes all of us.
Third, we should root for Platt & the IMB to succeed for the sake of David Platt. By every report, Platt did not seek the office; the office sought him. And the SBC needs David Platt more than David Platt needs the SBC. He has an influential ministry, and God has chosen already to use him in profound ways. Yet, Platt has elected to leave his church and his broader ministry, uproot his family, and take on this new and daunting task.
The president of the IMB is the most consequential person in the SBC. Satan will surely seek to disrupt his work and stymie our Great Commission efforts at every level. This is all the more reason why we should stand with David Platt, pray for him, encourage him, and be goodwill ambassadors for him. It is the right, Christian thing to do, and we as a Christian people should do no less.
Fourth, we should want Dr. Platt and the IMB to succeed for the sake of the millennial generation. Institutions, established procedures and programs, and duty to organizations does not well resonate with millennials, but David Platt does. In fact, if the IMB’s sole aim was to pick a candidate to electrify this generation, they could not have done better. I believe we have before us a unique, singular opportunity to ingather a generation questioning why the SBC—or any collective, denominational effort—is worthwhile.
Greater still, perhaps God will use Platt to touch our college campuses, like God did at mid-20th century Wheaton College, to call forth a generation of preachers and missionaries, of Jim Elliotts and Nate Saints, ready to champion the cause of Christ in the 21st century.
Fifth, and most importantly, we should want David Platt and the IMB to succeed for the sake of the nations. The seriousness of the Great Commission, and the urgent reality of global lostness should magnetically pull us together behind, with, and for David Platt and the IMB.
If we fail, as a convention of churches, to seize this opportunity, it will be to our own downfall and our lasting shame. We labor together under the Great Commission mandate until the day when “the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forevermore.”
The question is not whether David Platt can inspire a generation to give their lives for the cause of Christ. We know he will do that because he’s already done that. David Platt is a prophetic voice calling for cross-bearing, sacrificial Christian living, and gospel mission.
The question is, will the SBC unite around the ambition to vanquish the designation “unreached people group” from our lexicon? That is a radical goal, which calls for radical sacrifice from each one of us, radical unity from all of us, and must be led by someone with a radical vision. We now look to David Platt, the author of Radical, for such radical leadership.topicsDavid Platt, IMB