by Tess Rivers
OLIVE BRANCH, Miss. (BP) — IMB President David Platt outlined his five-point strategic plan while presiding over his first trustee meeting as head of the mission agency. In a plan based on five biblical goals which have led to four practical steps and three initial recommendations, Platt offered two important reminders to reach one all-consuming goal: glorifying God.
Platt’s five biblically based goals for IMB are: exalting Christ, mobilizing Christians, equipping the church, facilitating church planting and “playing our part in completing the Great Commission,” he explained to trustees during Nov. 6-7 meetings in Olive Branch, Mississippi.
“Missions is not our life. Christ is our life,” Platt said. “I want to lead us to love Him, to enjoy Him … and to exalt Him among all peoples.”
These desires led Platt to identify four practical steps to lead the organization, including shaping culture, streamlining strategy, simplifying structure and solidifying leadership.
“We’re working and pleading for God to raise up multitudes of workers,” Platt said. “And when He does — and I believe He’s doing it now — we don’t want to have a small funnel that people have to squeeze through to be involved with IMB in getting the Gospel to the nations.”
Instead, Platt said, “we want to simplify our structure to set the sails for the wind of God to blow His people to the world.”
As a result, Platt brought three personnel recommendations to IMB trustees — two requiring a vote — describing the moves as “high-level, 40,000-foot decisions” designed to “set the stage” for subsequent decisions in the days to come.
First, IMB trustees approved Sebastian Traeger, an innovator and entrepreneur based in Washington, D.C., to serve as the agency’s executive vice president. Traeger, 40, is an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and author of the book, “The Gospel at Work.” He will replace Clyde Meador, 69, who has served in the role since July 2003. Meador will continue to serve on the IMB leadership team as executive advisor to the president.
Trustees also voted to approve Zane Pratt, 57, as vice president for global training. Pratt, who currently serves with IMB as theological education strategist for Asia, has 21 years of IMB missions’ experience. From 2011-13, Pratt also served as dean and associate professor of Christian missions at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
Traeger, who earned a bachelor’s degree in politics from Princeton University, brings a wide variety of skills and experience to the position of executive vice president, including ministry awareness, proven leadership ability, organizational acumen, financial competence and strategic experience, Platt told trustees.
As an entrepreneur, business professional and management consultant, Traeger has co-founded, built and sold several companies, including Village Phone, which launched mobile services in rural developing communities in El Salvador; Christianity.com, a self-publishing platform for Christian organizations; Razoo.com, a crowd-funding site that leverages small acts of charity to support a variety of causes; and Five Street, Inc., which provides lead management software to the residential real estate industry.
In addition, Platt said, Traeger “stands on strong biblical, theological foundations that inform a healthy understanding of the local church, global mission and every Christian’s involvement in both.”
Traeger, who accepted Christ as his personal Savior as a 6-year-old boy, also credits his Princeton involvement in Campus Crusade for Christ and Athletes in Action as significant milestones in his spiritual development. Since 1996, he has been a member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., where he currently serves as a Sunday School teacher and elder. He and his wife Nikki have three children, ages 6, 5 and 3.
“I am honored and privileged to be asked to serve in this role,” Traeger said. “It’s amazing how God has providentially given me the capabilities and the experiences to do this work.”
Specifically, Traeger said he believes his experience with leading innovation and his focus on “doing all things with excellence as unto the Lord” will prove helpful as Platt seeks to bring new models to the 169-year-old organization.
“As David starts to lead the organization with a vision for raising up more missionaries, forming more teams and incorporating more professionals, I can see how my experiences as an innovator will be helpful,” Traeger said. “All my work is for the King, and I’m humbled and excited by my assignment with IMB, where I can put my hand to the plow in serving David, our staff and our workers on the field.”
As Traeger steps into the role of executive vice president, Meador will move into a new position as executive advisor to the president. Meador had discussed transitioning away from IMB to a new area of ministry upon the arrival of a new president, but Platt asked him to wait.
“I want and need the kind of biblical, missiological, experiential and personal wisdom that exists in Clyde Meador,” Platt said, acknowledging that he expects Meador to speak into “every decision that is made, every change that is considered, and every step that is taken.”
Focus on training
Platt recommended creating the new position of vice president of global training to oversee IMB training efforts. Platt endorsed Pratt to fill the role based on “a unique combination of extensive missions experience alongside deep theological acumen.”
“I want to make sure that everything we are and everything we do is grounded in the rock solid foundations of God’s Word,” Platt said. “I want God’s Word to drive what we believe and how we operate, the message we proclaim and the methods we use to proclaim it.”
In other business, IMB trustees:
— Welcomed 63 new missionaries, who were recognized in a special appointment service Sunday, Nov. 9, at First Baptist Church Olive Branch.
— Approved the 2015 Fiscal Resources Strategy Plan at a budget of $301,100,000 as presented by David Steverson, IMB treasurer and vice president of finance.
— Received the 2013 Annual Personnel Report from Dickie Nelson, associate vice president of global personnel, who noted that at 3.8 percent, missionary attrition reached its lowest level in 15 years. The average 15-year attrition rate for IMB is 4.8 percent. The national average for non-profit agencies is about 16 percent.
— Received the 2014 Annual Statistical Report, which summarizes the work of Southern Baptist missionaries and their overseas ministry partners in 2013. More than 1.7 million people heard a Gospel witness in 2013. Of those, more than 274,000 became believers and more than 190,000 were baptized. Missionaries and local believers with whom they partner started more than 13,000 new churches.
— Heard specific reports from strategy leaders serving around the world about the progress of the Gospel in their areas.
The next trustee meeting will be Feb. 24-25, 2015, in Houston, Texas.
Tess Rivers is an IMB writer.
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com).
Baptist Press (BP) is the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention and provides news to the 42 state Baptist papers.