As I write this, I am in the Casamance region of Southern Senegal on my seventh mission trip attempting to bring the gospel to the Ehing people, a UUPG, and seeking to establish churches in the region. I came first with Bart Barber in 2015, came back in early 2016 and have done two trips a year for the last three years. In previous years I have done two mission trips to Taiwan, two to Honduras and one to Tanzania. I have interacted with many missionaries through the years as well. Of course, my parents were Foreign Mission Board missionaries for a term back when I was a youngster.
All of this leaves me with strong opinions but nothing that approaches expertise.
It is surprising that there is no new president to replace David Platt; who knows, they may render this post obsolete quickly by announcing a candidate before the digital ink is dry here. I am fine with a slow process – the IMB needs to hire well more than it needs to hire quickly.
I have no name to offer the IMB today, at least not publicly. I’ve worked through a few in my mind and in discussions with friends, but I do not pretend to know who should get the job. I do believe there are some character qualities and competencies that would go a long way toward making the next IMB president successful.
These opinions have formed over time, through the Rankin era, the Elliff administration, and the Platt term. This is not reactionary or an analysis of perceived failings of David Platt or any other president. But there are some things I think matter and I’d like to share them.
I have had discussions – wide-ranging but not scientifically or systemically conclusive. My opinions are based on many such discussions but are not researched.
Permit me to opine.
The next IMB President should have a firsthand understanding of field missions.
This is the drum that many of my friends who are missionaries have beat for years. Being a missionary kid, I know that living abroad is an experience you can’t learn on short-term assignments. Missionaries have expressed a strong desire for a leader who has served as a missionary.
We have moved away from that. Tom Elliff served a partial term and like me, David Platt’s experience was from volunteer work. Baseball teams are managed by people who played baseball. Conductors of symphonies are musicians. It seems logical, right, and good that the president of the IMB would be a missionary.
Maybe there is a way around this if the president is not a missionary but his key leadership team is – that might work. But several missionaries have expressed this sentiment to me with varying levels of passion.
They want their president to be a missionary.
The next IMB president should be a consensus builder, not just a “vision guy.”
Of course, the IMB president needs to be a forward-thinking man who sees the big picture. That is a given.
But in conversations with missionaries through the years I have heard constant frustration about massive reorganizations of “the company” that greatly affected the lives of missionaries but into which they were given no input. Of course, sometimes there have to be directives that come from the top down and employees have to tow the line, but perhaps those who minister in Asia have some insight as to how to do that that could be helpful to the people in the administrative offices in Richmond.
The IMB president needs a passion and a set of convictions about world missions, but as he seeks to develop strategy it would be best if he included field personnel in formulating that vision.
It is my understanding that this has not always been the case.
The next IMB president must be Southern Baptist.
This is a loaded statement, meaning different things to different people. But the IMB is our heart and soul, our top job. The president of the IMB needs to be someone who is identifiably, unquestionably, and passionately committed to SBC cooperative missions at every level.
He must be theologically Baptist as defined by the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and he should be known as an active participant in the Cooperative Program and cooperative missions.
If the Cooperative Program matters to us – and it does to me – then we need people who have demonstrated a strong commitment to the CP at the helm of our entities, especially this one.
We do not need a celebrity or megachurch wattage, but we need participation and cooperation.
The next IMB president needs to give his heart and soul to the IMB.
I will always be grateful to Dr. Platt for addressing fiscal concerns at the IMB but it became clear at some point that his heart was still in the pulpit, not in the IMB. The job of IMB president must consume the heart, soul, and mind of the president. Perhaps someone with young children is contraindicated because of the travel, but the key here is passion. He must love the Lord, the word, the church, and see the IMB as the last job he will ever have.
I think we can agree that interim pastoring ought to be a no-no for the next IMB president! His focus must be on Christ and the nations.
I originally had a much longer list as I worked on this in Senegal. After my return, I decided to pare it to these I think are the most important. There’s more to say but this might be enough for now.
God bless the trustees of the IMB as the search for such a man.