David Platt Is Ready to Leave the IMB

After trying to both run a major missions agency and preach on Sundays, the local church won out.

“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,” said Platt, who brought his radical approach to faith to the IMB during a major budget crisis.

 

When David Platt became a teaching pastor at a DC-area megachurch last year, onlookers wondered whether the president of the International Mission Board (IMB) could really do both jobs.

Platt answered them this morning, announcing that he will end his three-and-a-half-year tenure at the IMB to work at McLean Bible Church as soon as the Southern Baptist missions agency can find his replacement.

“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,” said Platt, who brought his radical approach to faith to the IMB during a major budget crisis.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Platt has clarified the news is not an immediate resignation; he has asked trustees to begin the search for a new president, and will resign once his successor is elected.

Prior to being named IMB president in 2014, Platt led the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, as one of the youngest megachurch pastors in America.

He soon instituted major changes at the IMB, drawing in record missionary offerings and balancing the budget after several years of overspending. The organization—based in Richmond, Virginia—is one of the country’s biggest missionary-sending groups, with a $300 million budget and 3,500 missionaries around the world.

When Platt assumed the presidency, the IMB faced a $21 million deficit due to giving in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) not keeping up with the expense of sending more and more missionaries overseas over the decades.

In 2015, Platt announced plans for 600 to 800 staff layoffs, fewer missionaries, and a tighter budget. The following year, the IMB ended a six-year deficit streak that had drained $210 million from reserves—though it lost almost 1,000 missionaries in the process.

The author of The New York Times bestseller Radical, Platt also loosened restrictions that once disqualified missionaries from serving with the IMB—including a ban on speaking in tongues.

“Platt sought to implement his vision of a new IMB, but his short tenure means we will never know if that vision was going to succeed,” wrote Dave Miller, editor of SBC Voices and an Iowa pastor who “took over” the SBC’s annual pastors conference last summer.

“The IMB needs a new leader now, one who has both a passion for world missions and an understanding of Southern Baptist cooperative missions. I do not envy the trustees of the IMB in their difficult task of finding the next leader for our world mission effort.”

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