By David Roach and Art Toalston, Baptist Press
ROCKVILLE, Va. (BP) — Newly elected International Mission Board President David Platt wants to convince the “scores” of “totally disengaged” Southern Baptist churches that their best opportunity to reach the nations for Christ involves cooperating with fellow Baptists at the associational, state convention and Southern Baptist Convention levels, he said in a telephone press conference with some 15 members of the media today (Aug. 27).
“There are scores of non-traditional churches that are totally disengaged from the SBC and the Cooperative Program and even from the IMB,” Platt said. “… I don’t think the way to mobilize them is to tell them they ought to give or make them feel guilty for not giving but to show them that this is worth giving to.”
Platt added that cooperation within the Southern Baptist family is “the wisest, most effective means for working together with other churches to see the Gospel spread.”
Local churches are central to the IMB’s work, Platt said, noting that congregations must do more than merely provide funds for overseas ministry.
There is a common misperception that “the local church just exists to send money and send missionaries and then the IMB kind of takes care of it,” Platt said. “We’ve really got to make sure that paradigm is turned upside down so that the local church is the agent that sends missionaries and shepherds missionaries, and the IMB comes alongside local churches to do that.”
Missions strategies “don’t necessarily need to be manufactured in a board room of a denominational entity as much as they need to come from the Spirit of God working in the hearts of local churches,” he said.
Platt was asked whether he will urge churches to give to missions through the Cooperative Program — Southern Baptists’ unified program of supporting missions and ministries — or encourage designated giving directly to the IMB. In response, he acknowledged a constant need to evaluate and improve CP but said it should continue to be “the primary economic engine that fuels” Southern Baptists’ cooperative ministry endeavors.
“The last thing the SBC needs is a do-it-alone IMB that’s trying to in any way undercut the Cooperative Program,” Platt said.
Platt was asked specifically about the CP giving of the congregation he pastors in Birmingham, Ala., The Church at Brook Hills. The church has contributed to the SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget and, according to an IMB news release, has contributed directly to the IMB. Gifts sent directly to the Executive Committee or an SBC entity are defined as designated gifts, not CP giving.
The church gave $100,000 during the SBC’s past three fiscal years (Oct. 1-Sept. 30) through the Executive Committee, according to the SBC Annual, and $75,000 during the 2010 fiscal year. Through Aug. 26 of the current fiscal year, the church has given $141,667 through the Executive Committee for the SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget, according to an information request from Baptist Press to the EC’s convention finance office.
In Cooperative Program giving, The Church at Brook Hills has given $25,000 through the Alabama State Board of Missions in each of the past five calendar years. The Alabama convention allocates 43.3 percent of its CP receipts for SBC causes, with 46.7 percent utilized in state missions and ministries and 10 percent for shared SBC/Alabama ministries.
Baptist Press has queried The Church at Brook Hills as well as the IMB and North American Mission Board about the church’s giving, respectively, to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions over the past five years. The IMB reported that the church gave $300,000 to the Lottie Moon offering in 2013. Information on Brook Hills’ giving to the two offerings for the five-year period was not available through the EC’s finance office or the Alabama convention.
Through Southern Baptists, the IMB received 50.41 percent of the $188,001,276 in Cooperative Program gifts during the SBC’s 2012-13 fiscal year, or nearly $98.8 million from the churches’ tithes and offerings. The IMB also relies heavily on the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering to which Southern Baptists gave $154,057,852 during the past year.
According to the IMB news release on Platt’s election as IMB president, The Church at Brook Hills has an active current membership of 4,582, according to church administrative staff. Weekly worship attendance averages 5,500. Annual baptisms for the past several years have averaged about 100.
In 2013, The Church at Brook Hills gave $100,000 to the SBC CP Allocation Budget through the Executive Committee; $25,000 to the Cooperative Program; $12,500 to the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home; $15,000 to the Birmingham Baptist Association; $300,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions; and $325,000 to the International Mission Board in special designated gifts, for a total of $777,500, or 8.9 percent of the church’s total receipts for the year, to Alabama Baptist and Southern Baptist causes.
Projections for 2014, according to the IMB report, are: $175,000 through the SBC Executive Committee; $25,000 to the Cooperative Program; $15,000 to the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home; $68,000 to the Birmingham Baptist Association; $300,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions; and $718,000 to the International Mission Board in special designated gifts, for a projected year-end total of $1,301,000, or 13.8 percent of total projected church receipts.
Platt said he does not consider The Church at Brook Hills a “perfect model of giving” and is not holding it up as an example for every church to emulate. However, he said the church was “totally disengaged” from the SBC when he arrived eight years ago and has made “major strides” in cooperation.
It has been a blessing, he said, “over the last eight years, to see how we have made by God’s grace major strides in working with associations [and] conventions in planting churches here in North America, and then through the IMB sending church planting teams overseas.”
As he works with churches, Platt said he will advocate CP as a means rather than an end.
“What I want to trumpet more than anything else is the Great Commission and disciples made here and among the nations,” he said. “That’s what we cooperate together for, right? It’s not just cooperation for the sake of cooperation. We’ve got cooperation with a goal in mind: We want to see God glorified in the church here, God glorified among peoples around the world that haven’t even heard the Gospel.”
Among other matters discussed at the press conference:
— IMB trustee chairman and presidential search committee chairman David Uth said a “turning point” in the search occurred at the end of July when the committee met with Platt and his wife Heather in Denver.
“If you’d been where I was, if you’d seen what I saw, if you’d heard what I heard, you’d believe what I believe today, and that is that David Platt is the man that God appointed and anointed as head of the IMB,” Uth, pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., said.
Uth acknowledged that there was some opposition to Platt during the process but said it was not “formidable.”
— Platt clarified comments he made previously that were critical of the “sinner’s prayer” commonly used to help people express their desire to follow Christ as Lord and Savior. The comments were made at a missions conference where Platt was discussing “the need for Gospel clarity on the mission field,” he said. His point was that evangelism should never be reduced to getting people to repeat a prayer divorced from true repentance and genuine belief in the Gospel, Platt said, adding that he recently invited a lost friend to say a prayer surrendering his life to Jesus during a witnessing encounter
“What I was trying to say, in maybe not the best choice of words, was what we all believe about salvation and repentance and faith,” Platt said.
— Platt said he is “living for the day when the IMB is needed no more. I want us to see the day when the concept of unreached peoples is non-existent, where peoples have been reached with the Gospel.”