One of IMB President David Platt’s favorite metaphors continues to be the “blank check.” He mentioned it in his book “Radical” and frequently uses the phrase to inspire Christians to commit themselves to great sacrifices in keeping with God’s calling.
Platt has used this comparison to praise current and former IMB workers whose lives were freely given without limiting the depth and breadth of their commitments to God.
He frequently exhorts those who are considering the Voluntary Retirement Incentive (VRI) to consider this blank check in responding to God’s guidance.
New workers who may feel a calling to give up their new status as IMB workers also received a message from Platt on the subject. In responding to concerns over the VRI, Platt said that workers would have the opportunity to sign that check and move on to other challenges. While most would not see the matter this way, Platt clearly believes the blank check applies to new workers possibly leaving the IMB.
The blank check lies before those who might volunteer to accept some sort of severance package in Phase Two. Leaving a secure job for an insecure future intimidates, and rightfully so.
There’s another check that gets overlooked, and yet the calligraphy in the sheetrock clearly points towards it. This check, though, is for those who remain.
The new IMB is not going to function like anything we’ve ever had before. Some evidence pointing in that direction:
- Platt’s elevation to the top job should have sent shock waves and tremors. He’s the first non-IMB worker to hold the presidential office since the apostle Paul. His philosophy of “the church does missions” is a subtle but important shift from past IMB visions. With this perspective, we can easily see that a visionary, missional pastor with excellent administrative skills just might be as qualified as an IMB-trained missiologist.
- Platt runs town hall meetings and chapel in button up shirts and blue jeans. This may seem like a tempest in a teacup, but SBC offices are the last stronghold of the Baptist uniform (suit and tie). Some folks treasure that formality; Platt respects tradition but is no slave to it.
- Platt’s first new appointment was an executive VP, Sebastian Traeger; a godly man with no IMB roots.
- The first major personnel move was the elimination of roughly 28 VP/associate VP positions in Richmond. That’s 28 men and women told their jobs were vanishing out from under them; these were not short-termers, either, but instead were IMB lifers who had risen through the ranks.
- Town hall summaries and post-trustee reports went to the press within minutes of their being released to IMB workers. No longer would churches find out the news from their friends on the field. Tidbits of information, written well after the fact and released to specific press outlets, are a thing of the past. Instead, staff writers seem to have the copy all but complete before President Jeans-and-Intensity takes the stage. This leveling of the informational field fits perfectly within Platt’s view of the church as the most vital missionary player.
- The man heading up some of the re-structuring in department that oversees church mobilization and involvement has tremendous credentials and knowledge. None of it happens to be about the IMB.
- The home office has opted to replace certain outgoing field strategists with US-based ministers who, for all their godliness, have never lived in the area they will be overseeing.
- Retirement policies are changing dramatically on January 1. While some see this as a natural product of economic factors, another perspective says this is a reflection of the current generation’s view that few people join a company and stay long enough to retire.
- Platt rarely speaks of sending missionaries by themselves. His goal is to send limitless missionary teams. Those teams will not be only IMB workers, but will include Great Commission Christian partners, business men, students, and volunteers. In the past we sent missionaries who then formed a team with other IMB missionaries. They utilized business men, students, and volunteers without making them a part of the team. However, since the church (and its members) carries the burden of missions…
My contention is that perhaps the largest and overlooked check is that being signed by IMB workers who are staying. A summary, if you will:
By staying I recognize that I am a part of an ever-changing IMB that will probably look, feel, and function very differently than ever before. The Home Office will not be run by IMB lifers, but by those determined to be the best fit regardless of background. I will just have to trust that our leaders have their reasons.
I will train more than evangelize. My partners will be non-IMB folks who nonetheless are missionaries just as I am. Funding might work differently. I freely choose to remain in the organization knowing full well that we know nothing of the future.
The IMB’s form and function is more of an unknown than it -literally – has ever been. I see this, accept it, and choose to remain anyway.