By Bob Allen
David Platt, a 36-year-old pastor active in the “young, restless and reformed” movement in the Southern Baptist Convention, was elected Aug. 27 as president of the SBC International Mission Board.
Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., since 2006, succeeds current IMB president Tom Eliff, who in February announced plans to retire as soon as a new president was named.
David Uth, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., and chairman of a 15-member search committee that recommended Platt as president, told reporters in a telephone conference call that the group became convinced that Platt “is the man that God appointed and anointed” for the job after a meeting in July in Denver.
Platt said he was “honored, humbled [and] overwhelmed” to see God at work not only among the IMB trustees but also in his own ministry. Since a recent mission trip to Nepal, he said, his focus has increasingly narrowed on sharing the gospel with unreached people groups around the world. At one point, he said, it occurred to him that if he was willing to serve as an international missionary, he should also be willing to shepherd and lead others desiring to do the same.
Platt is founder of Radical — a para-church ministry dedicated to making disciples both locally and around the world.
He has been active in Together for the Gospel, a biennial preaching conference for followers of the so-called “New Calvinism” — popularized by leaders including John Piper of Desiring God Ministries and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler — that emphasizes God’s sovereignty in deciding who is saved.
Platt said at a Together for the Gospel gathering in Louisville, Ky., in 2012 that “global missions is tragically neglected” in much of the contemporary church’s emphasis on local mission and ministry.
Some who trumpet what they term a “traditional” Southern Baptist understanding of salvation — highlighting human free will to accept or reject the gospel — complain that recent SBC leadership choices all tilt to one side of the Calvinist/non-Calvinist fault line.
Current leaders at LifeWay Christian Resources, the North American Mission Board, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and Southeastern and Midwestern seminaries all have ties to Southern Seminary.
Uth told reporters there was some opposition to Platt’s nomination, but “not the kind of opposition that we thought was formidable.”
Platt acknowledged differences exist over theology and methodology, but said “I really believe the majority of Southern Baptists want to come together across a variety of differences” in order to share the gospel. “I want to help cultivate that kind of spirit among Southern Baptists,” he said.
Platt, who earned the M.Div., Th.M. and Ph.D. at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, sparked controversy in 2012 when he criticized the “sinner’s prayer” used in many churches to lead people to faith in Christ as a “superstitious prayer” that is not found in the Bible.
In Wednesday’s press conference, Platt said he believes the message posted on YouTube was misunderstood outside of the context in which it was delivered, a Verge Network conference on the importance of communicating the gospel with clarity.
Platt, who made his home in New Orleans before being displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, is the author of books including Radical, Radical Together, Follow Me and the soon-to-be-released Counter Culture. He and his wife, Heather, have four children.