The president of the International Mission Board (IMB) is, I believe, the most important post in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). With news that David Platt is stepping down, the SBC will be looking for the next person to fill that critical role. More than anything we need to pray for wisdom and to find God’s man for this time. With that said, here are my thoughts on the kind of person we need to lead us.
We need a unifier. Perhaps no agency has the potential to unite the SBC as does the IMB. The mission of reaching the world for Christ requires and ignites unity. We can unite around this mission whether young or old, traditionalist or Calvinist, Alabama or Illinois fan. (There are only 10 of us Illinois fans in the SBC but I just like to put our name in there with Bama!)
The mission is not all that unites us. We are also united by a cooperative methodology in missions. Someone committed to the cooperative program and our method of funding missions will be beneficial.
And while we are on unity, the theology of the Baptist Faith and Message connects our denomination. A president committed to leading our mission with that theological engine can bring clarity and connectivity to us as a whole.
We need an expander. Our greatest days of missions strength do not have to be behind us. Let’s dream of bigger and even more effective days. We have the potential and God certainly has the power! The next decade has the potential to be a decade of financial growth and missionary expansion. We seem to be on sound financial footing now for which I am very grateful. Now let’s plan to send more missionaries in the future and to have an even greater impact. We are ready to build!
I would love for us to expand our ethnic mission involvement. One of the few black missionary couples with the IMB is from our church. (James and Sonya Herron, FBC O’Fallon, IL) More please! Let’s encourage more black and ethnic pastors to go on mission trips, lead their churches to support the cooperative program and mission giving and sound the call to reach the nations. And it would be great to have an African-American as a vice-president, if not the president.
We need a plodder. Parts of the job of the president are less than exciting, I’ll bet. He works to make sure policies are healthy and helpful. He oversees purchases and spending. He mediates disagreements and manages budgets. But these things must be done and done well. Flamboyance is not the key to bringing sound, missional methodology to the agency. Pizzazz is not the only characteristic needed of a president.
A good plodder will be less likely to chase the newest methodological rabbit just because it is warm and fuzzy. He will stay steady when times are challenging. He will think long-term and not just of the moment.
I would love to see a strong emphasis on building a tremendous endowment for the IMB. Our mission is greater than Harvard’s and our endowment should be as well. Perhaps we could ask every SBC church member to leave 10% of their estate to the cause of Christ through the IMB. We could make financial decisions that take both the short- and long-terms into account.
We need an encourager. Missionaries are awesome but it can be a discouraging world. Watching my own IMB missionary son-in-law and daughter deal with the adversities of living in a third world country reminded me of this. They dealt with language barriers, isolation and a long-term illness that finally forced them to leave. Every missionary deals with problems. This should not surprise us. But it ought to remind us to encourage them.
Our IMB president can be the Encourager in Chief. He doesn’t need to berate Southern Baptists into caring about missions. But we do need him to encourage us to remember the nations and not just focus on the needs of our own churches. I can focus on the squeaky wheels of local church ministry and forget about the mission field. I want to do the right thing. I just need someone to lovingly encourage me toward that end.
Preaching matters in the SBC. The president of the IMB has the power of the pulpit to motivate us toward evangelism in general and missions in particular. A strong communicator will greatly benefit the work. He can call us to greater giving. He can encourage us to greater participation. He can help us connect the gap between our mission trips and supporting career missionaries who learn the language and culture. A strong preacher can multiply his encouragement across our land.
I think these are days of great potential for our convention. We are, I believe, more inclined than ever to want the next president to do well. Perhaps we are more willing than before to pray for him and to think the best of him and to give him the benefit of the doubt. At least, I hope we are.
So, if you care about our SBC Zion and the needs of the nations, join me in praying. Let’s pray for the trustees who search. Let’s pray for Dr. Platt and the administration in these important days. Let’s pray for our missionaries all around the globe. And, let’s pray for the person God has prepared for such a time as this.