by David Roach
RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — Following an “organizational reset” that saw more than 1,100 International Mission Board personnel transition away from the board, President David Platt told a March 3 live stream audience he is ready to focus on the future.
“I really want to shift the conversation from talking about numbers and finances to talking about how this army of brothers and sisters going out specifically from Southern Baptist churches across North America can make the Gospel known among the nations,” Platt told an online audience that included viewers on more than 1,000 electronic devices.
Platt acknowledged “there has been and continues to be in the IMB family … and the broader SBC family a kind of grieving process” associated with seeing hundreds of missionaries and stateside staff shift to other ministry fields. Southern Baptists are “continually wrestling through” implications of that transition even as they focus on fulfilling the Great Commission going forward.
In an hour-long livestream event that included viewer questions submitted via Twitter, Platt listed five “primary desires” that drive the IMB in its ongoing work:
— A desire to exalt Christ
— A desire to mobilize ordinary Christians
— A desire to serve and equip local churches
— A desire to facilitate church planting
— A desire for the 46,000-plus Southern Baptist churches to each play their part in accomplishing the Great Commission.
The SBC’s program of international missions, Platt said, can be envisioned as a “three-legged stool” whose legs represent missionaries, local churches and the IMB. Local churches send and continually encourage missionaries while the IMB leads those missionaries to play specific roles in a coordinated global strategy to evangelize the world’s 6,000 unreached people groups.
The path forward in sharing Christ is “going to cost people’s lives, futures, plans [and] dreams,” Platt said.
But believers take the Gospel even to lands where terrorists oppose it and seek their lives, he said, “because there was a day when all of us were totally opposed to the glory or our God. We were running from Him in rebellion against Him, and He came running after us. In His mercy, God pursued us to the sacrifice of His only Son.
“So now it just makes sense for all those who are hidden in Him … to go to the most radically rebellious against the Gospel and to proclaim it in the grace and the love of Christ, knowing it will cost us, but believing it will be totally worth it,” Platt said.
To help churches fulfill the Great Commission, Platt noted two forthcoming IMB resources: a six-week course for small groups and a six-month curriculum on cross-cultural disciple making. Additionally, “Missions Intensive” training events will help pastors and other leaders transform their churches into “global missions sending center[s].”
The IMB’s Global Cities initiative is in a pilot phase that seeks to help ordinary believers find ways to plant their lives in major world cities to make disciples there, Platt said. Among the cities Platt listed are Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, London and Shanghai — each of which provides missionary platforms for professionals, families, singles, retirees, entrepreneurs and students.
By going overseas in such capacities, Southern Baptists can become part of what Platt called a “limitless” missionary force that includes more than just fully-funded IMB personnel.
As this army of Christians plants churches among unreached people groups, the IMB will do all it can to ensure those congregations are biblical and healthy, Platt said.
“The missionary task is not just evangelism — lead them to Christ and get out,” he said. Rather, it is “lead people to Christ; see them baptized and gathered together in a church; see leaders trained up in that church so that now the church can be led by pastors who are shepherding that church well, and the church is now involved in sending people to missions.
“The missionary task carries all that,” Platt said, “which necessitates a focus not just on the planting of the church but the health of the church.”
Small and large Southern Baptist churches alike are called to participate in the Great Commission worldwide, Platt said, and the IMB stands ready to help them all.
“The potential exists in every single church no matter what size — 13 or 13,000 — to send somebody,” he said. “If that’s the case, then how much more the beauty of how this picture in the Southern Baptist Convention works, because no one church can do this alone.”
David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.