Mission Lab

IMB president challenges trustees to ‘move on’ in days of unprecedented opportunities

March 3rd, 2017 / By: Joni Hannigan / comments

IMB president challenges trustees to ‘move on’ in days of unprecedented opportunities

RICHMOND, Va.—Amidst the world’s growing refugee crisis, Southern Baptists should focus on spreading the gospel in a world of urgent need and “move on” from distractions, International Mission Board President David Platt told trustees at the group’s spring meeting Feb. 28 – March 1 near Richmond, Va.

Trustee officers also announced they will begin an “investigative process” to discern how IMB trustees are placed on the board in order to better accommodate pioneer areas and small state conventions.

Noting “unprecedented” times, Platt referenced 1 Cor. 16:8-9 in talking about the church’s mission. “Paul says a wide door for effective work has opened to me; and there are many adversaries,” he said.

“It is high time to move on” from “deception, diversion, distraction, [and] division,” Platt said, noting how “these things” dominate news in the culture, in the church and “specifically in the Southern Baptist Convention.” 

An example of “such distraction,” Platt said, is discussion of an amicus brief the IMB joined last May in support of a New Jersey’s Islamic society’s right to build a mosque. In mid-February at a meeting with Baptist state paper editors, Platt apologized to Southern Baptists for the action – after Tennessee pastor Dean Haun resigned as an IMB trustee in November because he said IMB’s action was not consistent with its mission. 

Platt told his board at the meeting, “regardless of one’s views on religious liberties,” there is a new process in place to handle such matters.

“We’re living in a day with wide open doors both here and abroad, and it’s high time for Southern Baptists not to divide but to join together,” Platt said, “not to be distracted, but to be resolutely focused on the purpose for which we came together in the first place—to spread the gospel in a world of urgent need … and unprecedented opportunity.”

Speaking of courage and strength, Platt urged Southern Baptists to be an example to the world of what happens when churches join together “in love” to reach the needy.

“Look at the refugee crisis around us,” Platt said. “Never before in history have so many people been displaced or forced from their homes and driven to different lands, including our land—people who are longing for hope and we have an eternal hope to share with them, people who are longing for a home and we have an eternal home to bring them to. So let’s walk together through wide open doors.”

Platt introduced a video about “Abuk,” a young woman from First Baptist Church in Amarillo who embodies the immigrant spirit. She was displaced with her family as a young girl to live in the United States but is now returning abroad as an IMB missionary.

“Immigrants,” Platt said. “When we hear those words today, and they are so politically charged, … if we are not careful we can start to picture immigrants as problems to be solved, not people to be loved.”

Platt closed his report by reading aloud the names of retired staff and missionaries who have died in the past year, which included 58 emeritus missionaries that collectively represent 1,672 years of spreading the gospel, for an average of 29 years each.


Scott Harris, board chair from Brentwood, Tenn., at the close of the meeting announced the formation of a team tasked with learning how the IMB “connects with the larger Executive Committee process” to bring trustees onto the board, he said.

The issue was discussed in the final moments of the IMB’s Feb. 28 trustee forum, Harris said, at which time board officers asked several trustees to serve on a team “that would help us all understand the landscape and what changes, if any, we may want to recommend be implemented in due course.”

Joining Chair Rob Peters of North Carolina, in the “investigative process,” according to Harris, is David Fleming, pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church, Houston; Lucinda Snead, Ariz.; Joel Williams, La.; and Spencer Plumlee, Mo.

“We look forward to working with them as we ascertain the best way to move forward to also ensure that our pioneer areas and smaller state conventions are adequately represented here on the board,” Harris said.


In a time of prayer awareness, IMB’s senior VP for prayer, Gordon Fort, introduced the Arasu of India as an unengaged and unreached people group. He reported that in June 2011, the IMB counted 3,684 UUPG’s in the world, and that today there has been a net drop of 448 UUPG’s from the list, leaving 3,227 remaining.

“Today, someone cares for their soul. Someone is learning the language and preparing to plant a church,” Fort said.


  • During the meeting, IMB trustees also approved the appointment of 29 new personnel, including 16 units that will serve around the world with a combined missionary force around 3,600. 
  • Seth Polk, IMB’s support services committee chair, presented two recommendations related to endowments the board approved. The first proposed the appropriation percentage for 2016 be approved at 2 percent, and the second directed monies associated with endowments be moved to a separate pool with a specific investment strategy with designated returns for a projected payoff.
  • The next IMB trustee meeting is June 12, 2017 in Phoenix, Ariz.