RICHMOND, Va. Outgoing International Mission Board President David Platt issued an emotional farewell before the confirmation of Clyde Meador as the IMB interim president during the trustees’ meeting at the International Learning Center on Sept. 26.
Platt addressed trustees after they affirmed the appointment of 66 new missionaries.
Calling his presidency undeserved, Platt expressed gratitude for the “pure privilege and honor of serving the brothers and sisters who make up the IMB.”
“I have been far from the perfect president,” he said, praising his leadership team of Sebastian Traeger, John Brady, Rodney Freeman, Zane Pratt and Edgar Aponte.
Platt noted the accomplishments of his tenure, calling the achievement of a balanced budget “not an easy process for anyone,” least of all for IMB staff and missionaries.
“But because of their hard work across the IMB and because of recent years of record giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, by God’s grace, we now stand in a strong financial position.”
Platt said the IMB remains strong biblically and practically, while also acknowledging the “glaring reality” of limited resources.
Full-time missionaries are “the priceless, precious critical core of the IMB,” Platt said, admitting that the future holds places for “all sorts of pathways [to missions]: students, professionals, retirees,” and proclaiming that “after years of decreased missionary sending, we are growing again” with both long-term, fully supported missionaries and mid-term, partly-supported missionaries.
Platt then issued a threefold challenge to trustees, calling upon them first to “strive for biblical faithfulness and practical effectiveness,” decrying the “gospel-less or gospel-light,” “church-less or church-light” activity in some missions today.
“We fool ourselves into thinking that we are doing God a favor by carrying out his work around the world while diluting his Word and devaluing his bride,” Platt continued, cautioning that even IMB personnel are subject to attacks from Satan.
“Please do not assume biblical faithfulness. Please assert biblical faithfulness. And practical effectiveness,” he urged.
Reflecting on the $260 million entrusted by churches to the IMB to spread the gospel, Platt recommended trustees examine effective ways to steward the money in a changing world.
Admitting that work remains in the areas of ethnic diversity, generational engagement, organizational streamlining, access, security and technology, Platt warned against complacency: “The IMB mindset cannot stay rooted in the past, avoiding needed conversations about necessary change because it makes us feel uncomfortable.”
Platt asked trustees to consider facts over anecdotes, affirming the value of story but cautioning against the assumption that “one person’s story represents the whole story,” positive or negative. Facts may paint a different picture, he added.
Referencing a report from the 2018 SBC in Dallas indicating Baptist church attendance had decreased by 24,000 over the last 20 years while 7.1 million had been baptized in that timeframe, Platt emotionally exclaimed, “We hear stories of people being baptized and we think we are all right. Things are not all right. We are sick.”
Noting a chart showing decreased SBC church attendance as a percentage of the U.S. population, he implored, “Don’t close your eyes to reality.”
Platt used another chart to show high levels of giving within the SBC in the 1970s and ‘80s. Platt said that beginning in the mid-1990s, as wealth in the U.S. has risen markedly, SBC giving has decreased significantly.
“It is clear we are contracting,” he warned, showing trustees the generally downward trend from 1996-2016 in state and national Cooperative Program giving, and in the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which has rebounded of late.
“We must rethink where we are going,” he said, urging trustees to choose a president “who will not be content with the status quo” or “business as usual.”
Instead, Platt called for trustees to select a president to “aggressively drive the IMB to push forward, press boundaries, redefine paradigms,” supporting him as he does, lest the IMB “drift into increasing irrelevance.”
Finally, Platt urged prioritizing “missional urgency over political expediency,” lamenting the politics of the SBC he had encountered.
“I just want to urge you by the grace of God with the help of God to rise above it [denominational politics] for the mission of God and for the glory of God. 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,” he urged.
Calling himself a “grateful president who is stepping back into the pastorate,” Platt pledged future cooperation with the IMB while expressing gratitude for staff, missionaries and leadership.
Following a standing ovation for Platt, North Carolina trustee Andy Davis offered personal words for Platt at the request of board chair Rick Dunbar of Mississippi, evoking the apostle Paul’s final meeting with the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 and praising God for Platt’s gifts and “lasting impact,” sentiments echoed by Dunbar.
“You are one of the most talented, gifted preachers, teachers and writers of your generation,” Dunbar told Platt. Both Davis and Dunbar expressed gratitude for the sacrifices made by Platt’s family during his IMB tenure.
Before adjourning the session, Dunbar asked trustees to approve the executive committee’s minutes from the Sept. 13 meeting, affirm a new policy concerning the interim president, and confirm Clyde Meador to that office effective Sept. 27. The three items passed by acclamation.