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Platt announces departure from IMB

David Platt

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RICHMOND, Virginia (Special) – Citing a personally-felt need to involve himself more deeply in leading local church work, International Mission Board (IMB) President David Platt on Feb. 12 asked the Southern Baptist mission agency’s trustees to immediately begin searching for his successor.

Platt also announced his decision step down to IMB field personnel and staff, in person and via e-mail to those not in Richmond.

Platt will continue to serve until a new president is elected. A presidential search committee will be comprised of IMB trustees selected by trustee chairman Rick Dunbar, member of First Church, Madison, and a physician.

Platt began serving last year as a teaching pastor at multi-campus McLean Bible Church in northern Virginia, while at the same time retaining his role as head of IMB. The IMB trustee executive committee agreed to allow Platt to serve in those dual roles as they evaluated the situation.

The executive committee had apparently not reached any conclusions at the time of Platt’s announcement that he is leaving IMB.

According to information obtained by The Baptist Record from the IMB web site in September of last year, McLean Bible Church became a cooperating church with the SBC in 2016 and serves as a “hub for the North American Mission Board’s church planting efforts in the Washington, D.C. area.”

Platt is currently listed as “Pastor-Teacher” on the McLean Bible Church web site.

Platt told trustees, missionaries, and staff that during his nearly four-year tenure at IMB, he has been “burdened to continue preaching and leading in the local church,” which led him to a teaching pastor role at McLean Bible Church in Northern Virginia alongside his leadership of IMB.

“I am more passionate today than I have ever been about getting the Gospel to the nations, and I want to spend what little time I have left on this earth with urgency toward that end,” he said. “This passion is what drove me to become IMB president, and I have sought to honor Him and you in this role over the last four years.”

Platt said his decision to initiate the process seeking a successor is founded in concentrated prayer and fasting alongside counsel from various leaders across the Southern Baptist Convention over recent months.

“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.

“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.

“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.”

Platt and other senior IMB leaders have stated their commitment to the continuity of IMB’s work during the successor search. Platt said they will continue to implement the initiatives that leaders in Richmond and around the world have put in place and are aimed toward fulfilling the agency’s mission.

An IMB press release stated that during Platt’s tenure, the Southern Baptist missionary-sending agency has achieved a stable and healthy financial position, clarified of its mission, and recalibrated internal systems and structures around that mission.

“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.”

Platt specifically encouraged the 3,500-plus IMB missionaries around the world to remain steadfast in their devotion to the missionary task in the place and the role where God has placed each of them, noting they “know better than anyone else: the nations need the Gospel.”

Platt implored the missionaries to not let the news of his departure distract them from getting the Gospel to those who have never heard it.

Trustee chair Dunbar said after Platt’s announcement, “I am thankful that David will continue to lead until a new president is elected. He wants to continue IMB’s momentum and progress in reaching this lost world and making us a more effective organization to do that.”

Platt was named IMB president in August 2014, succeeding former IMB missionary Tom Elliff who served as president for three years after the retirement of Mississippi native Jerry Rankin.

Trustees will begin their search for the 13th president of the 173-year-old entity following their next board of trustees meeting Feb 28-March 1.

“We are sad, but also feel confident in the future as we move forward,” Dunbar said. “We trust that David’s gifts of preaching, teaching, and writing will continue to bless the work of the IMB for many years to come, and we look forward to a long-term relationship.”

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