David Platt reflects on IMB transition

GALVESTON  David Platt, president of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention who recently announced his transition out of the organization he has led for the past four years, assured a group of SBC state newspaper editors  Feb. 14 that the IMB is conducting business as usual.

“[T]he IMB is not David Platt,” he said, but instead a “coalition of over 47,000 churches working together for thousands of anonymous missionaries whose names and [locations] cannot even be mentioned in public because in spreading the gospel, they bring great risk to themselves and their families. They are the IMB.”

IMB personnel continue to work hard, Platt said, summarizing the organization’s “pretty full” week following his announcement—including training pastors in South Asia, spreading the gospel through media in the Middle East, seeing six converts from an unreached people group in Eastern Europe, and worshiping with 85 new believers in a Asian country where evangelism and baptism are illegal.

“Disciples are being made. Pastors and missionaries are being trained all over the world. And the gospel of Jesus is being proclaimed,” Platt said. “We’re still doing what we’ve been doing for 173 years.”

Describing a recent trip to Brazil, Platt recounted visiting Sao Paolo’s notorious Cracolândia district southwest of the city’s Luz station, calling the few city blocks an “urban jungle” where the government sequesters crack addicts.

“Picture a city square filled with people of all ages … all strung out on crack,” Platt said, labeling the heavily-policed scene among the “most hopeless” he had ever witnessed.

At the edge of Cracolândia sits Cristolândia, a food kitchen established by IMB partners and also visited by Platt, who served breakfast and presented the gospel to addicts gathered for a meal. A few responded to Platt’s invitation to a transformed life.

“They began a process that day,” Platt said, explaining Cristolândia’s rehab program. Soon after, Platt saw the results of that program while attending a conference of 1,000 Brazilian pastors. A few dozen former crack addicts, sporting yellow tee-shirts emblazoned with “Jesus Transforma” in Portuguese, led the worship, praising Jesus with strong, sober voices.

The work in Sao Paolo continues what Texans William and Anne Bagby, the first Foreign Mission Board missionaries to Brazil, began in 1881, Platt said, evoking the IMB’s history.

“Hold fast. Stay fast,” Platt said he encourages contemporary missionaries to remember, calling the IMB’s potential “limitless,” especially when more than North Americans are involved and “people from the nations [go] to the nations.”

Platt affirmed his commitment to leading the IMB until a new president is found.

“I don’t want to put pause on what we are doing. Nobody in the IMB wants to put pause on what we are doing. The last thing the unreached people of the world need from the IMB is a pause.”

David Platt affirming his commitment to leading the IMB until a new president is chosen

“I don’t want to put pause on what we are doing. Nobody in the IMB wants to put pause on what we are doing,” he added. “The last thing the unreached people of the world need from the IMB is a pause.”

The IMB is “financially healthy, biblically strong and practically ready to send and support,” Platt said, admitting being “overwhelmed” by both the “power of the gospel” to transform lives and by “God’s mercy” in his own life, which enabled him to hear the good news of Jesus when so many have never had the opportunity.

“I realized the only difference between these people and me is the mercy of God,” he said of the addicts mired in Cracolândia.

When asked about the Cooperative Program, Platt said his appreciation for the CP and the entire SBC “ecosystem” had increased throughout his tenure at the IMB, even in recent days.

As for the IMB’s allocation of resources, Platt was adamant that the IMB would not “shrink” from pursuing even those people groups resistant to the gospel.

Regarding the relationship between local church evangelism and the sending of missionaries, Platt admitted a correlation. “We often say there’s no transformation by aviation. We … want to send Southern Baptist missionaries to share the gospel around the world who are sharing the gospel right now where they live.” He called upon pastors to be “intentional” about encouraging both missions and candidates.  

He also recommended downloading the IMB prayer app, available for both Android and iPhone users. (Visit imb.org/imb-apps.)

In his letter to IMB trustees announcing his intentions, Platt confirmed he remained “passionate” about reaching the lost. 

As teaching pastor of Virginia’s McLean Bible Church, he will lead a congregation of 100 nationalities strategically located near Washington, D.C., he told editors, confirming that IMB trustees had expressed a desire for his continued involvement in the “IMB family.” 

When asked about his IMB successor’s challenges, Platt cautioned against complacency and stagnation, while urging that mission work will grow increasingly complex in an “ever-changing world.”  

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