…then the IMB is going to be in pretty good hands.
by Dave Miller
If you can get past the cacophony of naysayers questioning every decision he makes, turning every action he takes into some kind of portent of evil, and if you examine the actions he has taken in his short tenure as president of the International Mission Board, you see a profile of courageous, visionary, godly and effective leadership. In both his public communications (one published this afternoon) and in communications to missionaries which I’ve seen but cannot publish, he exhibits the kind of leadership we need in the SBC right now.
If a couple of members in my church read what I”m about to say, they may be church shopping this weekend. I’ve never been a huge David Platt fanboy. I appreciated him and had respect for him, but he wasn’t at the top of my favorites list. If there were CDs of sermons of 100 top Baptist preachers of the last 20 years, his would probably not be among the first 10 I picked up. In fact, when I heard the rumors that he was going to be the IMB president, my response was twofold: “huh?” and “meh.” I thought a career missionary should have the job and there were a couple of names that I’d hoped to hear picked.
All of that is to say that what I’m about to say does not come from a fanboy who was predisposed to give unqualified support to the Platt administration. I wanted him to succeed, but I had some serious doubts as to whether a young whippersnapper pastor without international missions experience could be an effective IMB president. I’ve come to believe that his appointment was a blessing arranged by our God. I’ve seen some leadership trends from him that make me believe he’s going to do a great job at the IMB. Let me spell them out.
If David Platt is going to be the kind of leader who faces tough issues directly, we will be blessed.
I don’t know what David Platt knew when he entered the office at the IMB, but evidently he realized pretty quickly that we were on a years-long over-spend that threatened the financial health of the entity. This had been going on for most of a decade and very little had been done to change the situation. A few steps had been taken, but in his first year, the deficit was 21 million, or nearly 40 million if proceeds of property sales were removed. The IMB has run a deficit of 210 million since 2010.
And David Platt, within a year of walking in the front door as president, has developed a plan to deal with this. It’s an undesirable plan (he admits this in his letters). No one wants to draw down 600 missionaries. But he is, evidently, not the kind of leader who procrastinates. A 40 million dollar annual deficit is not going to continue under the Platt administration. He took decisive action.
If David Platt is going to be a transparent leader, we will be blessed.
One of the common complaints about the SBC through the years has been the secrecy under which our boards have operated. Quick question for you old timers: Do you ever remember an action anywhere near as controversial as this in which the entity president has been anywhere near as open, transparent and forthright as Platt has been on this issue?
He has spoken out, revealed his process, answered questions. He has given his missionary force unprecedented information about this. He is the president and they work for him, but if you read the communications or watch the videos, Platt is comforting, encouraging, and humble in his dealings with the missionaries.
His responses to critics questions have been instructive and encouraging as well. There have been several issues raised by responsible parties both inside the IMB and outside of it. In his recent letters – both the public one that was released to the SBC family and the one sent directly to the missionaries of the SBC – he directly addresses issues that have been raised. “Pastors have asked me…” “Some of you missionaries have been asking….” When have we seen this level of responsiveness, transparency and grace in a situation such as this?
If David Platt is going to eschew the blame game, we will be blessed.
Platt is taking a lot of heat for trying to fix a problem he did not create. President Obama has spent pretty much his entire administration pointing the finger of blame for all the problems in the land on W. We can argue whether that is fair or not, but there is no question about his tendency to play the blame game. “I am just trying to fix the problems he created.”
In both of the letters I read today, Platt went out of his way to protect the IMB administration from blame – not his administration, the past administration. To be honest, I’ve been a little rough on them in some of my comments, wondering how they let this go on year after year. Platt plays apologist for Dr. Elliff and even back into the Rankin days. He defends them against two charges specifically.
- He responds to the commonly made charge, “Why didn’t anyone tell us about this?” Listing a series of articles and warnings, he demonstrates that the previous administrations made it plain that there was a problem. We may not have paid attention but we cannot claim that we were not informed that there was a problem.
- He also makes it clear that the previous administration was dealing with the issue. They were using the attrition method that others believe should be used now – letting retirement and resignation gradually get us down to the number we could afford. He says that method is no longer workable, but he makes it clear that the previous administrations did have a plan. They were not fiddling while Rome burned.
Think about it. In a time of great stress, when he is under criticism, he did not throw his predecessors under the bus. He honored them. He defended them. That’s Christian character.
If David Platt allows his employees to question, even criticize him, we will be blessed.
“Touch not God’s anointed!”
I can almost hear some pastors and leaders telling their people something like that when they responded to a shocking announcement like this. In the letter circulated to the mission force, Platt addresses responses from missionaries. We’ve received some here. It is safe to say that there is among our mission force quite a few dissatisfied, disgruntled, fearful and even angry servants of God.
In all of his communications, he has given validation to the feelings of the missionaries. Platt has given them assurance that he understands why they are upset, why they
If David Platt leads from conviction and is not derailed by criticism, we will be blessed.
A good leader has to balance being sensitive to the feelings of others and being convictional in his leadership. If he tries to keep everyone happy, he will never accomplish anything significant. If he cares nothing about the feelings of others, he can become arrogant and unfeeling. Platt seems to be striking that perfect balance here in the first months of his administration.
If David Platt continues to work WITH the Trustees, we will be blessed.
Platt did something important here. He led – forcefully and intentionally. But he also made his case to the trustees and by every account he had the backing of the trustees this decision. It is important that president and trustees work together and it is clear that in this case, that is precisely what happened – it was as it should be. The administration administrates and the trustees oversee and make sure that what is happening is proper.
What We Don’t Know
We have no idea if the Platt plan will work. We don’t know if churches will give more. We don’t know if things will turn around in the SBC – the real key to increasing our mission force. There is a lot we don’t know. The future will give answers to those questions.
But, in my opinion at least, what we do know is that we have seen excellent leadership from David Platt in his first year at the helm of the International Mission Board.
Dave Miller serves as senior pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa.
This article originally appeared at SBCvoices.com.