I am happy to share that the Trustees of the International Mission Board just elected Dr. David Platt as our 12th President. We did this for one very stark, simple reason: this man is anointed by God and has a passion for missions like no one else. He is a gifted leader and a brilliant strategist, but the purity and humility of his heart sets him apart as unique. I am encouraged beyond words and convinced that under the leadership of Kevin Ezell at the North American Mission Board and David Platt at the IMB, the greatest days of Southern Baptist missions lie ahead.
Many have taken to their blogs and social media to object to him based on two things: his Calvinistic soteriology and his church’s low giving to the Cooperative Program. Though many others will write a lot about Dr. Platt and about these two things that they find objectionable, I hope my perspective as a trustee might shed a little light and provide the rationale that the majority of other board members and I used in support of his election.
First, David Platt’s supposed Calvinism is really a balanced and biblical understanding of what salvation is. He unequivocally affirms that God loves everyone and desires everyone to be saved, that believers are commanded by Christ to preach the gospel to every person, that the atonement of Christ is sufficient for anyone who will repent and believe to be saved, and that men and women are responsible before God for their sin, for natural revelation, and for their response to God’s command to repent and believe. At the same time, he affirms that the Bible also speaks specifically of Christ’s death for his people, for the church. His belief about salvation is completely and comfortably within the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and in line with many other contemporary and historical Baptists.
No brother who can clearly affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 should be treated as though his beliefs are unwelcome, unacceptable, or out of the mainstream. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 was written intentionally broad enough to accommodate different nuances of soteriology, so no one should be shocked when different streams of thought run through our SBC institutions. It would have been improper for me to oppose Dr. Frank Page’s election as President of the Executive Committee, for example, because he’s not as reformed in his view as I am. He is clearly within the Baptist Faith and Message, and that should be enough. I don’t even make it a litmus test to be on my church staff, so the venom with which some commentators attack brothers who are confessionally within the BFM2K always dismays me. It’s not right.
Furthermore, isn’t the most common objection to a high view of election that it undermines missions? Can anyone reasonably cast that stone at David Platt? The man breathes missions. No one I have ever known is more passionate or strategic about reaching the lost than he. Forgive my historical reference, but I say of his Calvinism what Lincoln said when Grant was accused of imbibing whiskey: “Find what he’s drinking and send it to the rest of my generals!” If Platt’s soteriology drives him to reach the nations with the gospel for the glory of Christ, then may we all get a dose of it! In all seriousness, whatever fear anyone might have about reformed theology undermining missions is laughable in Platt’s life. I don’t rejoice that a supposed Calvinist is president of the International Mission Board. I rejoice that a man who seethes and churns because the enemy keeps much of the world in darkness and who will stop at nothing to send them the light is president. I really don’t care if he’s a Calvinist or not, but rather that he is saturated with Christ and his gospel.
The second issue that troubles many is that the church Platt pastored did not give significantly to the Cooperative Program. I want to be clear. I love the Cooperative Program. Even in the midst of a multi-million dollar relocation project, Buck Run and I are committed to not cutting back on our Cooperative Program or missions giving. The Cooperative Program is largely the reason I became a Southern Baptist. But missions going and giving is bigger and more expansive than the Cooperative Program.
Going through this process has been healthy for David Platt. By his own admission he now sees the beauty and the usefulness of the Cooperative Program as a missions dynamo for a large denomination and would certainly do things differently. That’s not enough for some, but that is the truth. In his zeal to be intimately involved in going and giving, he led his church to give nearly one third of their budget to missions causes--most of them Southern Baptist causes--directly. This year their budget sends over $700,000 directly to the International Mission Board, for instance. Simply put, when we stand before Christ, he’s not going to question us about which fund we used, but about what we did to reach the world with the gospel for His glory. David Platt and his church can certainly answer for that more confidently than the majority of churches.
I love and will fight for the Cooperative Program, but I don’t idolize it or equate it with God Himself. While not supporting the CP significantly, David Platt and his church have clearly made Christ and His mission the priority, and that should not disqualify him from leading, not even an institution that is funded and fueled by the Cooperative Program. All analogies break down, I know, but if we were choosing the CEO of a big soft drink company in Atlanta (avoiding trademark issues here!), would our biggest concern be how much of the product a candidate drank or how much of it the candidate could lead the company to sell? I am convinced that no one will excite and energize a young generation for missions and, by extension, the Cooperative Program like David Platt. Perhaps instead of fussing and fuming about the young Southern Baptists who don't support the Cooperative Program we should ask why they aren't excited about it and have not bought into it. I do not mean to be unkind, but I can't help but notice that many of the ones whose recriminations ring loudest are the very ones who have presided over our precipitous decline in giving, missions, and baptisms. David Platt was 5 years old the last time Cooperative Program giving went up! Maybe it's time we allow some of the disenchanted, disaffected but deeply devoted young leaders to share the burden of leadership.
I’ve been in ministry all of my adult life. I’ve known Adrian Rogers, W. A. Criswell, Stephen Olford, John Stott, and many truly great men of God. I say this carefully and reverently: I have never met anyone on whom the anointing of God rests as powerfully and comfortably as David Platt. A few months or years from now, people will grow tired of talking about how much his church gave to the Cooperative Program, and his relentless drive to reach the nations will swamp and drown those driving the chariots of anti-Calvinism in a sea of irrelevance. The anointing of God on his life will be what matters. His ability to capture the imagination and harness the passion of new and succeeding generations for the Great Commission will still be relevant when all the current objections seem silly in our memories.
I am gloriously optimistic and joyful about the future of Southern Baptists. While the culture around us is growing increasingly hostile to biblical truth, Southern Baptists are doubling down with the gospel! We are getting more focused and more intentional. We have greater tools and opportunities to reach the world than at any time in history. Our King is returning soon! What a day to be a Southern Baptist.
We trustees made our decision. We have our man. And if you are a Southern Baptist, he's your man, too. Now let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice, and get behind him with prayer and encouragement for the sake of the gospel. A lost world hangs in the balance.