By Andrew Davis, Senior Pastor
Yesterday was a historic day for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, and I was absolutely delighted to have had the privilege of being part of that history as an IMB Trustee. At about 11:00 yesterday morning, I wrote the single word “Yes” on a small, blank piece of paper in answer to the question, “Should David Platt be the next President of the IMB?” The day before that, I had been deeply moved to thankfulness when I found out the Search Committee was presenting David as their chosen candidate. The Committee revealed the identity of their candidate by playing an IMB video done using David’s passionate voice making a powerful appeal to Christians to risk everything for the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth. I immediately recognized two things: the identity of the speaker, and the same moving of the Spirit I feel inside my heart every time I hear David pour out passionate conviction on the urgent need for sacrifice in the cause of missions. I immediately thanked God for his providential moving in bringing such a man to such an agency for such a time as this.
Why do I say that? There are many reasons I could give. I could speak of David’s remarkable love for God’s Word, and his skill at weaving together some of the deepest themes in the Bible in ways that are both doctrinally sound and unifying. Given that the IMB is the united effort of a wide array of Baptist congregations, such a unifying theological vision is essential. Or I could speak of David’s fruitful years of ministry at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, where he led that local church in a journey of increasingly sacrificial service to Christ for eight years. Given that the IMB President will need to make an effective appeal to pastors to lead their congregations in similar journeys, such a track record gives him credibility. Or I could speak of David’s book, Radical, which has made a profound impact on the hearts of countless people, calling them away from the emptiness of a life lived for materialism to the fullness of a life lived for Christ’s Kingdom. Given that only radical obedience to Christ will be able to meet the challenges of taking the gospel to the remaining 6,500 unreached people groups on earth, such a message is vital. There are many other aspects of David’s life and gifting I could address.
What moves me to write is how the Holy Spirit moves in me whenever I hear him speak. Truth on fire! That’s good preaching, preaching with unction. It flows from the white-hot convictions of a heart shaped by God’s Word and ignited by God’s Spirit. Jonathan Edwards, in an ordination sermon he preached entitled “The True Excellency of a Gospel Minister” said that a faithful preacher must combine light and heat—truth and passion. The truth must flow from sound exegesis of Scripture. The heat must radiate from a heart that loves God and people by the power of the Spirit. Both are essential. Both are present whenever David Platt speaks. I feel my heart ignited with zeal when I listen to David… I want to sacrifice, to live with passion, to speak with conviction, to risk more and more for the spread of the gospel. David is one of the most effective tools I’ve ever heard for driving out the lukewarmness from the hearts of his hearers.
This fire is essential to the future of the IMB. Young people respond to this kind of a message. They want to live and if need be, die, for something of eternal consequence. David Platt ignites their hearts for the eternal glory of God in the advancing Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Without thousands of young people and millions of dollars flowing toward the ends of the earth, not only the IMB but all mission agencies will die. David’s message resonates with young Christians.
I picture the IMB like a sawmill by the side of a river which is powered by the flow of the water turning a waterwheel. The wheel turns in proportion to the amount of water that flows by the mill. The more water, the more lumber can be cut. At present, the stream flowing by the IMB is dwindling year by year. But further upstream, there are huge blocks of ice with all the resources needed to cut astonishing amounts of lumber. They wait for the thawing heat of the sun… they wait a fiery heat, a passionate breath from the Spirit of God. When the ice melts, the waters will flow. The ice represents locked-up resources of time, energy, money, spiritual gifts, people. David’s biblically accurate passion is like a blowtorch in the hands of the Lord, unleashing resources to flow for the eternal glory of God and the joy of presently lost people. To God be the glory for this generous gift, not only to the IMB, but to the people who will spend eternity worshipping Christ because a missionary was brought to a fork in the road of his life and made the infinitely wise decision to risk it all for Jesus.