What David Platt’s IMB Presidency Signals About Our Future
This morning, the International Mission Board (IMB) trustees announced David Platt as the new IMB President. I have no doubts that he is God’s man, chosen for this task in this hour. Personally, I could not be more thrilled. I think this is a wonderful gift of God to our Convention of churches.
On a personal level, no one has inspired me more toward believing God for the nations than David. There is no one I would trust more to steward the cooperative efforts of our church—together with the 42,000 other churches of the SBC—toward the completion of the Great Commission.
Over the last few years, I have watched David lead his church to give extraordinary amounts of money away to global missions through Southern Baptist agencies (in addition to other means). Furthermore, Brook Hills has been a pioneer in new ventures in mission. The Summit Church has learned much from Brook Hills, and I have learned much from David.
I want to deal with one objection to David’s presidency which I have heard raised, and suspect we will hear a lot in the next few days: though David and Brook Hills give an extraordinary amount to missions, they have not been leaders in giving to the Cooperative Program (CP), at least in a traditional sense. And so the question is, “How can a man who has not given a ton to the CP expect to lead others to give to it?”
It is true, David has wrestled with the CP, but not because he doesn’t believe in cooperating in mission. Because he does.
We all know the statistics, and they are discouraging. Of the $481 million given to the CP in 2011-12, only $96 million (20%) made it to the IMB. If you add in the North American Mission Board’s portion, it is only 29%. That gives even the strongest supporters of the CP an uneasy conscience. This is what David has wrestled with.
David Platt and his church have certainly not demonstrated an entrenched opposition to the CP, however. In fact, last year, David told me that he and the leaders in his church had decided to increase their CP giving incrementally, as a way of affirming the new emphasis of the SBC in getting more money to missionaries, and in anticipation of greater movement in that direction. This was not a discussion prompted by David’s consideration for President. Before anyone was talking about the future of the IMB, Brook Hills was taking steps to increase their support of missions through the SBC.
But let’s address the question from a different direction: I think David Platt’s election may lead to a renewed interest in the CP.
It’s not news that the younger generation of Southern Baptists struggle with denominational loyalty, expressed in CP giving. In fact, even the most optimistic analysts note that if nothing changes, we are headed for dark days. So, the question begs to be asked: Why are younger Southern Baptists less inclined to lead their churches to give? Isn’t it because they are bewildered at how CP funds are allocated? I have heard some people say, “The big problem is that the younger generation simply isn’t educated about CP.” That may be true for a small percentage of people, but the bigger problem is probably that they are educated about it. The more they find out about CP giving, the less they are motivated to give.
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?
Even the most aggressive supporters of traditional CP giving admit they are uncomfortable with giving percentages. They want to see waste eliminated. I anticipate that even they will be encouraged to know that their church’s mission money is now in the hands of a guy who burns so singularly to see money get to the field.
Think of it this way: Let’s say that God laid it on your heart to give $100 to missions. You want to put it into the hands of someone whom know would do the best job of stewarding it. Would you feel confident with it in David’s hands, knowing how concerned he is to live simply and to get the majority of that money overseas? Isn’t that what we want with someone who stewards CP funds?
For that ever-increasing group that feels uncomfortable with traditional CP giving, the election of David Platt will more likely lead to renewed interest in—rather than discouragement from—traditional cooperative giving.
A few years ago The Summit Church committed to substantially increase our Cooperative Program giving. We were excited about many of the new changes happening in our Southern Baptist institutions. We said that we would allocate more of our missions dollars to traditional CP channels in good faith, believing that those institutions were showing real motivation to be good stewards of it. We really liked the direction things were headed. We said that as they continued to improve, we could continue to increase the amount of our support. David’s election certainly moves us more enthusiastically toward that end.
The best way to kill the CP is to go on tweaking the status quo. If you want to ensure its demise, keep gently encouraging it on the downward trajectory it is on. Thus, I suggest that the very thing that worries some people about David Platt is the very reason he should be our next President. The election of David Platt will lead to a renewed interest and confidence in the CP.
I am certain that the question of CP giving has been at the forefront of the mind of every trustee on that search committee. If they elected David as a candidate, we should rest assured that the question of his relationship to the CP has been adequately answered.
The more important question is for us: Are we ready to believe God for the salvation of all nations? Do we believe the Lord Jesus can do, wants to do it, and will use us to do it? Are we ready to rise to new levels of sacrifice to make that happen?
We are excited. David, lead us forward.
At the end of the day, our hope is not in David or any Southern Baptist leader. Jesus promised to build his church and left his Spirit to accomplish it. We are simply to follow that mighty Spirit as it moves throughout the world. It seems clear that the Holy Spirit has said to our trustees, “Separate for me David Platt for the purpose to which I have called him” (cf. Acts 13:2).
Our thoughts and prayers go to the people of Brook Hills for their “loss” of this incredible leader. The Chief Shepherd, the most Senior Pastor of every church, will take care of you. Thank you for your sacrifice of him to us for the purpose of the Great Commission.