RICHMOND — The search for the next International Mission Board president has begun as current president David Platt informed IMB field personnel and staff this morning of his asking trustees to begin the process.
Platt, who will continue as president until a new one is found, requested that the search begin immediately, according to an IMB news release.
“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,” Platt said. “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.”
Last September Platt began as Pastor Teacher at McLean Bible Church, a Southern Baptist congregation based in Vienna, VA with five campuses around the Washington, D.C. area.
“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,” Platt continued. “In short, I want to do anything I can to see missions succeed across and beyond IMB and the SBC for the glory of God.”
Search process underway
A presidential search committee will consist of IMB trustees selected by Rick Dunbar, trustee chairman and a member of First Baptist Church in Madison, MS.
Appalachee Baptist Association missionary Allen Hill, an IMB trustee who sat in on the meeting by phone, commented on Platt’s arrival and the impact he made over the last four years.
“David came in at a time when someone with his gifting and vision was needed,” said Hill. “Since then we’ve seen major changes that were probably necessary to get us back on strong [financial] footing. That was a difficult challenge he had to face.”
Hill served a total of 27 years as an IMB missionary to The Philippines, first as a Journeyman after college and then for 25 years alongside his wife, Emily. He views Platt’s IMB presidential tenure as one that sets up the agency and more-than-3,500 Southern Baptist missionaries worldwide for even better days.
“We’ve come quite a way and are now where the next president can build on that work.
“When David speaks on missions, people respond. He’s gifted in that area as a powerful communicator and will continue to mobilize people to share the gospel worldwide. We certainly want to see that happen.”
Fellow trustee Derek Spain, executive pastor of Hebron Baptist in Dacula, echoed those sentiments.
“We’re grateful to God for David’s impact at the IMB,” he said. “Obviously, he has a heart for the nations, to teach and preach God’s word, and see people come to Christ. He connects to all generations. And, he’s inspiring this next generation to take the gospel to the world.”
A call to continue empowering missionaries
The 39-year-old Platt grew up at Briarlake Baptist Church in Atlanta before attending the University of Georgia, where he earned a journalism degree. From there earned his doctorate at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary before joining The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, AL, making him the youngest megachurch pastor in America at 26 years old.
Platt was named IMB president in August 2014, succeeding Tom Eliff. His recent decision to step down came after months of prayer and counsel from various leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention.
“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,” Platt said. “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.”
The Presidential Search Committee will be named at the next IMB board of trustee meeting, slated for Feb. 28-March 1. That committee will go through the process of interviewing candidates before nominating a new president. The full board of trustees will then vote on that nominee.
The last three IMB presidential searches, said the agency’s press release, have lasted between six and 18 months.