By Julie McGowan
International Mission Board President David Platt reiterated his desire that the 173-year-old missions agency stay on course for taking the gospel to the darkest, hardest-to-reach places while trustees begin the search for his successor, he told the group during their Feb. 28-March 1 board meeting near Richmond, Virginia.
To that end, the IMB trustees approved the appointment of 20 new full-time, fully funded missionaries who will serve around the world. Also during the meeting, trustee chairman Dr. Rick Dunbar named a 16-person committee to find Platt’s replacement.
The IMB board of trustees’ presidential search committee will be led by Chuck Pourciau, senior pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana, committee chair; and Andy Davis, senior pastor/elder of First Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina, committee vice-chair. Other members include David Sills, professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, president of Reaching & Teaching International Ministries and a member of Ninth & O Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky; Lisa Lovell, physical therapist and a member of First Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas; Ken McLemore, missions pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton, Virginia; Nancy Patrick, licensed school psychologist and professor of special education, and a member of Living Legacy Church in Hershey, Pennsylvania; Will Payne, FCA campus director of Syracuse University and a member of Central Baptist Church in Syracuse, New York; and Seth Polk, lead pastor of Cross Lanes Baptist Church in Cross Lanes, West Virginia.
The committee also includes Bill Ricketts, retired and a member of Prince Avenue Baptist Church in Athens, Georgia; Tim Simpson, pastor of Greenridge Baptist Church in Clarksburg, Maryland; Cindy Snead, clinical laboratory scientist and a member of North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix, Arizona; Derek Spain, executive pastor of Hebron Church in Dacula, Georgia; Susan Bryant, Kentucky WMU president and a member of Graefenburg Baptist Church in Waddy, Kentucky; Rick Dunbar, a physician and a member of First Baptist Church Madison, Mississippi; and Robert Welch, senior pastor of Rock Hill Baptist Church in Brownsboro, Texas. Duane Ostrem, an IMB field leader, will serve as a non-voting member to provide perspective from the mission field.
The search committee is receiving names for consideration at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In prayer, Pourciau thanked God for His grace — how that grace has worked through Platt to reach more people in the nations and to position the IMB to reach more people in the nations.
“Thank you for the time that has been given to us with him and the time that remains,” Pourciau prayed. “We ask that not only that the time between now and when a successor is named not be a pause, but that it be an acceleration. May your grace pour through him so that the time remaining here will be the best time he has, and that it will not only prepare us for the next leader, but that it will prepare him even better for where he’s headed.”
Platt called for IMB trustee officers to begin the search for his successor on Monday, Feb. 12. He informed IMB field leaders, missionaries and staff of his decision that morning via WebEx call, email and in person during staff meetings in the Monument Avenue office and at the agency’s training facility in Rockville.
What matters most
“Trustees have started a search for my successor,” Platt said. “Together, we’ve discussed continual improvements that we are making in the foundations, systems and structures of the IMB. But the IMB is not ultimately about systems and structures.
“The IMB is ultimately about the gospel of Jesus Christ and a coalition of over 47,000 churches working together to support thousands of missionaries right now who are working for the spread of that gospel around the world. The IMB is about a new group of missionaries last night who will leave soon for the spread of this gospel, and I pray thousands more Southern Baptists who will join them in the days ahead.”
“Spreading the gospel among people who have never heard it is what the IMB — and I would argue, the SBC — is all about,” Platt added. “It is incumbent upon us never to lose this perspective because this is what matters most. This is what has mattered most in the IMB in the past, this is what matters most in the present, and this is what will matter most for all of eternity.”
In his report to trustees, Platt recognized, with names and photos, the lives of 75 emeritus missionaries and 10 retired staff who died during the past year. The field personnel’s lives totaled 2,176 years of service through the IMB, with an average age of 88 and an average of 27 years of service.
“Every year, during our first trustee meeting of the calendar year, we always look back and remember brothers and sisters who have gone before us and who have now gone to be with the Lord,” Platt said. “IMB missionaries sent out from Southern Baptist churches who have worked for the spread of the gospel around the world. Their lives — and their deaths — remind us what matters most.”
He gave the example of Betty Butcher, the visionary founder of Thai Country Trim, a ministry for battered women to hear the gospel of God’s grace while receiving emotional and financial support that they need. Today, hundreds of such women work in Thai Country Trim centers around Thailand, because of God’s grace in Betty Butcher.
“That’s just a small glimpse into the effect of one life, and we’re about to remember 75 such lives,” Platt said. “So as I read off each of these names and you see their pictures, just let your heart rise in praise to God for how His grace in these brothers and sisters has resounded to His glory around the world in ways that only heaven can measure.”
He also noted the service of Billy Graham, who served as an IMB (then Foreign Mission Board) Trustee from 1957-1963, noting Graham’s unmistakable impact on the spread of the gospel in the world.
“Billy Graham’s legacy lives on in the IMB, and in the lives of multitudes of men and women throughout the IMB who are doing today what Billy Graham did all of this life: sharing the simple gospel of Jesus Christ and inviting people to believe in Him for eternal life,” Platt said. “That is what matters most. That is what the IMB is all about all around the world. That is what the IMB has been about for 173 years, that is what the IMB is about today, and that is what the IMB must be about in the days to come. May God make it so.”
“This is God’s work that we’re about to do, this is God at work all around the world,” Dunbar said as the trustees moved from the memoriam into a time of business. “We just see these people, and may the Lord count us faithful.”
During the plenary session, Kristy Carr, senior manager for National Woman’s Missionary Union, presented a check for $19,752.50 from the WMU Foundation for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® for international missions, the MK Educational Endowment and the MK Spiritual Endowment funds. WMU partners with IMB in a multitude of ways, including fostering missions education, promoting the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, helping missionary kids as they transition to the United States for college, and providing water filters for all overseas personnel.
The Administration Committee, chaired by Michael Cloer of North Carolina, recommended:
- Adopting a new trustee travel policy to request IMB trustees make an annual trip to the mission field;
- Affirming a November 2018 board of trustees meeting in Richmond;
- Affirming a schedule of three board of trustee meetings per year plus one international mission trip for each board member. In researching locations of trustee meetings, the committee reported that when board meetings are conducted in Richmond, the cost for trustees, missionaries and staff is about $61,500. If the meetings are moved to a “hub” city such as Atlanta for convenience, the costs expand to $173,000 per meeting. Therefore, the committee recommended continuing to conduct as many meetings in Richmond as possible.
“We as the committee felt that it’s just not right for us to ask people all across the IMB, ‘Let’s cut, let’s be good stewards,’ and then the trustees not be the best stewards,” Cloer said during the committee’s final recommendation. “So I think we need to be the one to set the precedent. We’re going to say as trustees, ‘Convenience is not the priority. If we can save costs and use that money to put more people on the [mission] field, that’s the priority.”
The next IMB trustee meeting is June 10-11, 2018, in Dallas, Texas, to be conducted in conjunction with the SBC Annual Meeting.
For more about the ministry of Betty Butcher, read Crafted by God: Late Oklahoma Baptist missionary is genius behind WorldCrafts in the The Baptist Messenger of Oklahoma. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® is a registered trademark of Woman’s Missionary Union.
Julie McGowan is public relations manager for IMB.