Monday, August 25, 2014

Why David Platt Should Not Be the Next IMB President

I hope you'll recall that I have, in general, tried to be a voice of reasoned, calm moderation in the midst of previous administrative transitions in the SBC. When so many of my friends were vocally opposed to the election of Dr. Jason Allen at MWBTS, for example, I wrote this to ask them to take a deep breath and calm down (and I've got to say, I'm pretty pleased with his performance so far). Those of you who know me well have come to conclude, I hope, that I am not unreasonably reactionary.

Nevertheless, having received confirmation from multiple independent sources across the country that David Platt is the IMB Search Committee's choice to receive the presidency of the International Mission Board, I cannot help but express my opinion that the trustees must not elect him to serve in this position. I offer the following reasons, pretty much in descending order of their importance to me.

First, his election is a disastrous blow to the Cooperative Program. His church makes no Annual Church Profile report, and the strongest endorsement of the Cooperative Program he was able to make when asked was, "I'm still wrestling through how [the Cooperative Program] looks in the context of [the church I pastor]." Wrestling. In other words, he affirmed the Cooperative Program with his words even though he didn't lead his church to support the Cooperative Program financially. It isn't because they are so embarrassed about how high their CP support is that Brook Hills is refusing to complete Annual Church Profiles. The Southern Baptist Convention is full of pastors, missionaries, and laypeople who don't have to wrestle with it at all. We know how the CP looks in our churches. We give money through it and change the world for the gospel.

I've got to say, generally I'm the guy who is uncomfortable with all of us picking on each other about our varying levels of CP support. Churches are autonomous. They make their own decisions. Especially I find it distasteful for denominational employees to dare to criticize churches for what they give or don't give. We ought to be thankful for every dollar.

But the calculus of all of that changes a little, I think, when you're asking to be considered for the position of heading up the agency that receives over half of the national CP allocation. At that point, I think it becomes relevant whether you've been a CP visionary who has given actual leadership to strengthen the CP or whether you're somebody who didn't consider strengthening the CP to be worthy of your time and effort. The latter category reflects a group of people who are too lacking in vision and leadership to be promoted to such a position as the helm of the IMB.

David Platt simply has not given leadership with regard to the CP—neither to contribute to it effectively nor to fix whatever he thinks is broken that might prevent him from having confidence in the CP. I'm not saying that he could not; I'm simply observing that he has not. If he wants to go about doing so between now and whenever the next guy at the IMB retires, I'd be happy to consider him among the other qualified candidates at that time.

Look, friends, the Cooperative Program is not dead yet, and it will only die if you and I sit by and watch it die. If those setting the vision for the future of the SBC are a collection of people who really don't care very much about the Cooperative Program, then it certainly will die. I think that would be a shame. I'd be ashamed of myself if I stood by and watched it happen without having said anything. That's what brings me to my keyboard tonight.

Second, His election will be a needlessly polarizing event. And our trustees ought to ask themselves whether that's good for the IMB, good for the SBC, or good for the cause of the gospel. Think of all of the constituencies in the SBC who are going to be offended and polarized by his election:

  1. Pro-Cooperative-Program Southern Baptists are not going to like it.
  2. Anti-Calvinists are not going to like it (and this time there are not going to be non-Calvinist voices like mine speaking to mitigate them)
  3. Anyone who uses "The Sinner's Prayer" is likely to have some concerns.

Perhaps you don't sympathize with ANY of those points of view. But that's not really the question, is it? The question is whether it makes a brighter future for the IMB to put a stick into the eye of every Southern Baptist who does fall into one or more of those categories.

Some of you will be offended by what I am writing tonight. I beg of you to ask yourself this question: If you and I have sometimes agreed… If you've ever in the past respected anything else that I have written or felt that I was at all a reasonable interlocutor when we disagreed… If ever you've felt that you and I were partners in the work of the Great Commission or could be partners in the work of the Great Commission… If any or all of that has ever been true for you, then do you think it is a wise choice for the IMB to elect a president who would bring you and me to an impasse like this?

Why, at this moment, in this way, should we polarize the Southern Baptist Convention over this?

The clear answer to me is that we shouldn't. There are other good choices. I pray that the IMB will make one of them.

Third, I fear that, even after his election were over, if it were to occur, he would prove to be a polarizing personality. His statements about "The Sinner's Prayer" are a good example. Ask yourself, how much worse would that controversy have been if the sitting president of the IMB were to make statements like that? And if the president of the IMB made statements like that, wouldn't more than his book sales suffer from it? Should the International Mission Board be jeopardized in that way?

But I think that being "Radical" necessarily involves being someone willing to charge off into controversy from time to time. The question is not whether the world needs people like that. The question is not even whether the Southern Baptist Convention needs people like that. The question is whether Southern Baptists need people like that…at the helm of the International Mission Board.

For my part, I think that personality type and aptitude fit very well the role of a seminary professor. I think it fits very well the role of a pastor and author. I'll even say that I'm entirely comfortable with the idea of David Platt as a successor to Al Mohler or Danny Akin (especially if he shows a little more leadership with regard to the Cooperative Program in the future). I just think it is a mistake we cannot afford right now for us to make him the IMB President. The right guy for the wrong job.

And I cannot make this point strongly enough (I mean that: I won't be able to make it strongly enough for most of you to hear it and believe it). I like David Platt. He's a good preacher. He's a good author. He has said a few things that we need to hear. I support him. I want him to succeed. I support David Platt, and I support the IMB. I just don't support David Platt at the IMB.

Those facts won't keep me from losing friends over this post. And with a heavy heart I realize that if David Platt were to author a post like this about me, I would certainly take it personally and would be offended. It would cast a pall over any friendship or partnership we might try to have afterwards. I realize that the personal stakes involved in a post like this one are high.

But I value the tens of thousands of dollars that my church annually gives through the Cooperative Program. I value the UUPG work that my church is doing through the International Mission Board, to which tens of thousands more dollars are going and to which I personally have given a lot of time, prayer, effort, and discomfort. I value the lives of young people and not-so-young people who are close to me who are serving through the IMB or are planning to serve there. I value the Great Commission. I value the cause of the gospel. I value these things too much to be able to remain silent at this point when I believe so much of this is on the line. We are to be servants of one another. To borrow a phrase from Thomas More, I desire to be David Platt's good servant, but God's first.

I believe in our trustee system. Our trustees have not voted yet. I beg of you not to do so until you have given these questions full and careful consideration. That's your job. You owe that to the rest of us. There are better choices out there. Please be careful to get this one right.

The IMB President's salary comes from the Cooperative Program. Whoever draws that salary ought to have been supportive of the Cooperative Program. For me, it's no more complicated than that. We need not an IMB President who wrestles with the Cooperative Program, but one who has embraced it.


Dave Miller said...

I want to make it clear that all I've heard is rumors and chit-chat, which I did discuss with Bart. I hope his other sources provided him with mire sound intel than I did.

I have no sources at the IMB. I have no sources at the search committee. I have had some friends who have shared rumors.

So, I hope that Bart gas information other than what we gained in our discussions.

Bart Barber said...

Sorry, David. I mentioned you as a sort of tongue-in-cheek aside, since everyone knows that you aren't on the Search Committee, aren't on the IMB Board, aren't in any position of confidentiality that you could have betrayed. Anything I got from you had to be at least third-hand.

I do have better information than what you and I discussed.

And I know in retrospect that I may have put you in a bad spot by making my little aside. Perhaps I should've used an emoticon.

When last I checked, exactly 27 people had read this post. I'm guessing that all of them already had the name.

Dale Pugh said...

I didn't have the name, only a suspicion based on your Facebook post yesterday evening. I'm disappointed in this direction, to say the least. I'm really not sure what to make of it, other than that there is a political/personality mechanism in place within the SBC that is just more "good ol' boy-ism". I don't like the choice.

Bob Cleveland said...

Bart, The Church at Brook Hills is in the same county I'm in, and I have heard nothing. Which doesn't surprise me.

I love to disagree with you, but in this case, if the rumors are correct, I couldn't agree with you more. Absolutely. I've been active in the local association here and have never seen Brook Hills involved in any way.

volfan007 said...

Good words, Bart. I think if this is true, it will cause a whole lot of trouble in the SBC.


Jerry Corbaley said...

Until given a great reason to mistrust the IMB (the "Board" is the IMB and the IMB is the "Board"),I will continue to trust them; and all the other Boards of our SBC entities.

As far as having a source on the IMB, I believe each state/regional convention has a number of official sources. That is how the trustees are elected. The trustees are to be sources of information to SBC members and sources of information to the whole board regarding the members' input to the IMB.

While virtually all of our boards have been slow to release accurate information in the opinion of those of us who blog, our efforts to cooperate with the local trustee "sources" should be attempted. I think Texas has eight trustees?

If the trustees ever decide that the bloggers were right all along about the needed level of transparency, then they will be glad the more-right-than-they bloggers did not give up on them.

This is enough nutritious water to pour at this point. If it is not treated like kerosene, I might have some other things to say.

Bart Barber said...


I admire much about David Platt. I think any nomination could be vulnerable to the charge of good ol' boy-ism. After all, I would consider as unqualified for this kind of position anyone who hadn't ever built any relationships within the SBC.

David Platt is brilliant, winsome, visionary, and generous. The problem is that the model for his generosity has not been the Cooperative Program model. That amounts to an enormous obstacle, in my opinion.

Bart Barber said...

It's always good to hear from you, Bob.

Bart Barber said...


I very much agree with you. One of the reasons why I have posted in the timeframe that I have is simply because this is not yet the decision of the IMB. Once the IMB has made a decision, the situation changes.

Todd Benkert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jerry Corbaley said...


And I very much agree with you.

The time for SBC members to speak their opinion of the next IMB President is now, before they elect someone.

And while all of our trustees of all of our boards will not discuss, by name, who they are considering; they should be willing to engage in meaningful conversation about such topics as CP support,doctrine, SBC controversies, missionary zeal, and such.

Dale Pugh said...

I have nothing against Platt, personally. He has done some great things. I understand that any nomination is going to have some element of the "good ol' boy" system to it--that's the way things get done. I'm reticent to say much more than that, as I'm not nearly as well connected as others in this comment thread. I would not be for the nomination of David Platt to this position. My opposition means nothing. My church supports the Cooperative Program (6%), local missions (4%), and Lottie Moon (over $1700 for a church that averages around 25 on Sunday). A nominee who can't make a clear, decisive, and powerful commitment to SBC cooperative efforts is unworthy of the nomination, in my opinion--no matter who he is.

Bart Barber said...


"A nominee who can't make a clear, decisive, and powerful commitment to SBC cooperative efforts is unworthy of the nomination"

Those are my sentiments.

Anonymous said...

As a pastor whose church gives 12% to the CP, a Platt presidency would change things based on his CP position.

Kevin Sanders said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason Wright said...


Are you suggesting, as one commenter clearly did, that if Platt were elected, your church's giving to the CP would be affected because of the reasons given?

Louis Cook said...

As a lifelong layperson in the SBC, I would be excited about David Platt's appointment to head the IMB. Why? From the sermons that I have heard him preach and the books he has written, he has shown me a definite heart for the lost.
Check out this sermon at SEBTS, if you like to and tell me that he should be disqualified.

I hear you on the CP support but since they do not fill out the ACP, do we know what they do and do not give? I know you can easily find records for any church in my home state of SC for CP, Lottie, Annie and State Missions giving but not sure if AL does that as well. The BF&M does not ask that churches fill out the ACP.

I was raised on the importance of the CP and am an advocate of it but if you give $100 to the CP in an average state, then about $50 is forwarded nationally of which 50% goes to IMB and 25% to NAMB. Please correct me if I am wrong here. That shows me that for my $100 donation, only $25 ends up with the IMB and $12.50 with the NAMB. Might some churches see a way to ensure that $100 given is $100 put into the mission field?

Jason said...

There are a lot of conclusions here based on the supposed lack of CP giving by Brook Hills.

But as of yet I have not seen any evidence that his church does not give to the CP or gives a low amount? There are a lot of assumptions made off (1) lack of an ACP, (2) a vague comment about CP giving.

Maybe some hard facts would be a better place to start when it comes to that particular issue. Assumptions do not help clarity or unity.

Dale Pugh said...

Jason, the fact that CP giving is even a question is the problem here. Platt has had years to state his church's support for the CP. He's had ample opportunity to make his own support of and investment in SBC cooperative mission efforts a point of his spiritual leadership. He hasn't. And that is not acceptable for one of our entity heads.

Bart Barber said...

Before I go off to sleep tonight, permit me to put a thought or two out there for you all and then to address some of your questions.

First, let me say that I take no joy in this post or this situation. My soul is tormented over it, not because I believe that I have done the wrong thing, but because I just despise this sort of situation and love our convention.

Second, I am not speculating about the CP situation. Cooperative Program giving is money that one gives through the adopted budget of the state convention, a portion of which then goes through the adopted budget of the national SBC. Nothing else is Cooperative Program giving. Platt's own linked video includes his statement that Brook Hills hasn't implemented Cooperative Program giving, or hadn't as of that time.

People have made it clear that Brook Hills does give to the IMB and does give some amount to some national SBC causes. I am thankful for their generosity. That qualifies them to be a participating church. It qualifies them to earn all of our gratitude. But it isn't Cooperative Program money, and I believe that the IMB President must be a CP supporter. Platt has not bee that.

Finally, permit me to address the theme many have mentioned about speculating that Platt does not support the Cooperative Program because he does not support the ministries or the budget of his state convention. I have long advocated the 50/50 split. I believe that ongoing CP reform is a good thing. We always ought to be ready to re-examine every part of the CP in order to achieve the maximum Great Commission impact for the Lord's money. I'm very thankful for the work of people like Jim Richards and Paul Chitwood in this area.

Show me a guy who didn't agree with the priorities in his state convention, got involved in the state convention, advocated for his point of view, attempted change, failed after valiant effort, and then started giving around his state CP, and you might be able to earn some of my respect. My understanding is the Platt has not made the attempt.

The Cooperative Program is about more than money. It's about Southern Baptists at all tiers cooperating together to develop a consensus plan in budget and strategy by which we cooperate rather than compete to do the work of the Great Commission. The IMB President ought to exemplify that approach.

Many will respond with disdain for the "politics" of doing that hard, risky, and unpopular work at the state convention level. So be it. But in my opinion, the people who take those risks and engage in that process have demonstrated true, high-quality leadership among us. There are plenty of those people around. They, in my opinion, have demonstrated the kind of leadership that we ought to have at the helm of the IMB.

To have shrugged one's shoulders at the whole situation and just reflexively bypassed the state convention not as a last resort but as the first option? That's just not the Cooperative Program model. I support the Cooperative Program model. I think it is absolutely essential that the next leader of the IMB support that model.

I think it is so important that I am willing to write blog posts that I find NO FUN AT ALL in order to try to secure it.

Louis Cook said...

So it certainly seems that full, public, and unabashed support of the CP is a prerequisite for the next IMB President. So is our SBC heritage one of CP support first and foremost or is it as a mission-focused group of autonomous churches? Yet the outgoing IMB President stated before the Convention that the time is ripe to look beyond the CP in funding our missions efforts. Should he have been strung up in Baltimore for such sacrilege?

If candidate A leads his church to give 15% annually to the CP yet never leads or goes on a foreign mission trip should he be disqualified as IMB leader? What about candidate B whose biggest weakness appears to be no vocal public support of the CP while he leads his church on 2-3 foreign mission trips a year?

For me, I thank Preacher A for his generous financial support but I want Preacher B to actually lead our missions efforts as Southern Baptists. now of there is a great candidate C who has done both, I will happily support him. I think the primary focus needs to be on having a heart for the lost and action in fulfilling the Great Commission.

Stephen said...

Bart, I have enjoyed reading most of your posts and reflections for a couple years, but I think this is a bit doom and gloom. There is political leadership, which Platt does not seem to care for, and then there is theological and missiological leadership. Perhaps Platt, who led his church in deeply cutting their own budget for the sake of sending out dozens of missionaries, is a God-sent leader for such a time as this so the SBC at large can double down on reducing excess for the sake of the nations?

Is it directly in the IMB President's handbook that he go out everyday and cheer lead for the CP? I think Frank Page does a pretty good job of that. I don't think anyone else will do a better job than Platt has shown in calling out all believers to spread the gospel to those who have not heard.

Mission First said...

Praise God David Platt was elected the new President of the IMB.

Mr. Whirley said...

What a sad article. I'm glad to see Platt elected to the IMB. One of the very best decisions I've seen come out of the SBC in a long time. Let the feuding stop, the healing begin and the gospel go forth like never before.

Daniel said...

I think it's a great selection.

Anonymous said...

As a local church with members on the field with the IMB, we are very encouraged to see Platt voted in as president.

Eric W said...

A breakdown of missions giving at Brook Hills from Baptist 21. And this is strictly to SBC causes, not taking into account the missions work they have done independently which is TREMENDOUS...

"In 2013, Brook Hills gave $100,000 to the Southern Baptist Executive Committee to be allocated nationally; $25,000 to the Cooperative Program through the Alabama state convention; $12,500 to the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home; $15,000 to the Birmingham Baptist Association; $300,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions; and $325,000 to the International Mission Board in special designated gifts, for a total of $777,500, or 8.9% of the church’s total giving for the year, to Southern Baptist causes. Projections for 2014 are: $175,000 to the Southern Baptist Executive Committee; $25,000 to the Cooperative Program; $15,000 to the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home; $68,000 to the Birmingham Baptist Association; $300,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions; and $718,000 to the International Mission Board in special designated gifts, for a projected total of $1,301,000, or 13.8% in total church giving."

Eric W said...

Must more in the article worth reading as well.

SicilianCalvinist said...

I am an outsider looking in, but here are some recent statistics that were posted - sounds contrary to Bart Barber's post.

In 2013, The Church at Brook Hills gave $100,000 to the SBC CP Allocation Budget through the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee; $25,000 to the Cooperative Program; $12,500 to the Alabama Baptist Children's Home; $15,000 to the Birmingham Baptist Association; $300,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions; and $325,000 to the International Mission Board in special designated gifts, for a total of $777,500, or 8.9 percent of the church's total giving for the year, to Alabama Baptist and Southern Baptist causes.

Projections for 2014 are: $175,000 to the Southern Baptist Executive Committee; $25,000 to the Cooperative Program; $15,000 to the Alabama Baptist Children's Home; $68,000 to the Birmingham Baptist Association; $300,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions; and $718,000 to the International Mission Board in special designated gifts, for a projected year-end total of $1,301,000, or 13.8 percent in total projected church giving.

Joshua Masih said...

As a visitor to this blog, let me share this: I recently became aware of some things that are apparently 'polarizing' in the convention - to use the words of this blogpost... but really, do we need to let them drive a wedge? Really? As one who has seen SBC life from the outside and has joined the ranks by conviction, and who has seen dead SB orthodoxy on one hand (really) and real life in Christ in SBC life on the other, let's truly not get so bogged down in that which is being articulated here. The differences will be plenty as long as there are only two of us...but let us simply cooperate. You bring up some good points, brother, yet non-core things will continue to divide the convention IF we let them. Really. Example: As an IMBer I have a team from Ohio here right now who clued me in on how SWBTS has polarized itself from many of our other schools theologically regarding Reformed theology. I think we need to have such theological issues brought to the table...some will use them to politically divide, others to ensure that these historic issues are dealt with with integrity to the Word, yet still - there is more that unites us than divides. Platt's presidency will only divide if you and others let it do so. Really. It is time for us as SBCers to simply Cooperate publicly rather than make public everything non-core that divides. I beg of you to use your blog to unite and capture the attention of SBCers to unite under the flag of Jesus Christ and what SBC life has meant for our generation. There is a need for discussion and theological debate, etc, we all get that, yet I beg of you and others - even in these key issues, use your platform to unite and bring us together or we will become weaker and weaker. Too many people tell us what is wrong with people. What would it look like if instead of blogging about the polarization - if it was about casting vision for what SBCers can be if we keep the main things the main thing and all get behind it? The reality on the field is we often use more special gifts funds outside our IMB budget to do the work because our SB churches are not giving what is needed. We are SO grateful to all of you who are giving...but look at the #'s of IMBers we want to send out. It is dramatically dwindling. Will we be still here in 10 years? BTW, CP is only 30% of the IMB's budget. It's LMCO that is the real puller.

Joshua Masih said...

Just read more of your posts...and enjoy the issues you are bringing up...thanks for writing about them.....yet, I'm commenting as I yearn for more voices that bind us together and lead the charge ahead than for more critiques about what is wrong with individuals and positions. Thanks for writing the post the followed this one. Note that this comes from the field where we are NOT privy to much of what is happening...but too often when we do find out about things...often they are overly critical rather than a balanced view.
PS My name as listed here is a pseudonym but I'm with the IMB.

James Arnold said...

terry turner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
terry turner said...

Giving to the Cooperative Program is a necessity for SBC churches if we are to support the IMB in the effort of reaching people around the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Bart Barber has made some very sound points that could create leadership difficulties for David Platt the new leader of the IMB. However, prayer changes things and reaching the lost around the world will continue as a a major focus of the SBC if churches continue their Cooperative Program support. We give because of our belief in the Cooperative Program, not who heads any SBC entity. My prayers are that the decision made by our IMB trustees to appoint Dr. David Platt as its president will produce results that will usher in the return of Christ.

shepherdsrestmom said...

Our family has been visiting Brook Hills for several weeks now, searching for a church home. We've been tremendously blessed by David Platt's genuine passion for reaching the lost, the unreached peoples of this world. Our allegiance as Southern Baptists must be to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, not to any "program," no matter how wonderful it is or has been. As a Believer and member of SBC churches for some 45+ years, I have long supported the CP, but it is a program, a tool in God's Hands. And God is more than capable, and has the sovereign right, to introduce a better one, at any time of His choosing! I pray SBs will not be so committed to a "program" that they will miss the Lord's leading! Personally, selfishly, our family groaned when we heard the news. At the same time, however, I can't imagine anyone more qualified to lead in this arena - assuming the primary qualification is a deep passion and drive to reach the lost - a passion that includes going and giving himself, not only pushing for others to go, give, etc (as well as needed leadership skills)!If you'd like to get better acquainted with David Platt and his stance on missions, I recommend you take time to listen to this sermon, preached at Brook Hills this past August 17. It is towards the end of the list, titled "Our obligation to the Unreached" Part 1.

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