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The Hellish Southern Baptist Obligation

May 21, 2015

My parents were career missionaries with the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention of the United States of America. While the US military went to Vietnam to save it from Communism, my parents joined forces with other FMB missionaries to go to this country to save its people from Hell. These were core components of belief that fueled my parents and that drove their daily lives. The Other was lost, and they bore the Obligation to rescue as many as individuals possible.

A few things have changed.

After 150 years of hanging on to their White race supremacy, the majority in the SBC conceded, in the American Deep South, the following:

Our relationship to African-Americans has been hindered from the beginning by the role that slavery played in the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention [of us White Christian Americans].

After referring to non-American non-Christian people as “Foreign” the SBC renamed its Mission Board and begin to call the lost without Jesus who were going to Hell “International.”

After the number of IMB missionaries saving the Internationals from Hell began to decrease the organization hired a young preaching pastor of a megachurch as President.

At John Piper’s blog, this new IMB President makes very clear the mission, the obligation, the hermeneutical framework:

But my aim is to show you not simply why we must give, but also why we must go . . . however, whenever, and wherever God leads. I use the word must in light of Romans 1:14, where Paul speaks of his eagerness to preach the gospel:

I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.

Did you hear that? Paul said he is obligated to preach the gospel to all peoples. Literally, he owes the gospel to all peoples — to Greeks, to barbarians, and to the people of Rome. What a remarkable statement. Apparently, Paul’s ownership of the gospel creates an obligation with the gospel. Because he knows this good news of what God has done in Christ, he must spread this good news of what God has done in Christ.

This is what I’m praying might become a reality in our hearts: that you and I might realize that we must do everything we can to get the gospel to people who’ve never heard it. That we would realize that our ownership of the gospel creates an obligation with the gospel. That we would see that saved people this side of heaven owe the gospel to lost people (and peoples) this side of hell.

Now, the doing of “everything we can” do includes making sure that the mission force stays bigger in number than one’s megachurch. Notes Bob Smietana, quoting the new IBM President last week, in Christianity Today:

In 2009, there were about 5,600 IMB missionaries. Today, there are 4,734, a drop of 15 percent.

“We are pretty fast on the way to 4,200 missionaries,” said Platt.

Last August 2014, when David Platt became the new IMB President, Erich Bridges for the Baptist Press noted this:

The author of the bestselling books “Radical” and “Follow Me,” among others, Platt has been pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, which counts about 4,500 members, since 2006.

Last February 2015, Anne Harman in the Baptist Press quoted President Platt, outlining his Strategy with a focus on the shrinking numbers:

“Right now our funnel is really small … such that we’re turning people away,” Platt said. “And what I’m saying, what we know, is that we need to blow open this funnel and create as many pathways as possible for Christians and churches to get the Gospel to unreached people.”

IMB must creatively consider how to leverage the avenues God has given for limitless men, women and families to join together on missionary teams to make disciples and multiply churches among unreached people groups, Platt said. Since his election in August 2014, Platt has stated his five biblically based desires for IMB are to exalt Christ, mobilize Christians, equip the church, facilitate church planting and play its part in completing the Great Commission….

Platt said the changes are intended to be reproducible through the IMB’s national partners around the world: making disciples among unreached people and seeing churches established, then seeing those churches, in turn, send Christians to unreached people, training them and supporting them as they engage the world with the Gospel.

“We want to fuel movement like this all over the world!” Platt said. “But let me be clear. Strategy and structure are not the ultimate answer to seeing Christians and churches engaging unreached people with the Gospel…. What that means is that more than we need a streamlined strategy or a simplified structure, we need the power of God to do what only He can do.

“This is why I am calling everyone across our IMB family — from trustees to personnel or otherwise — to fast and pray, because only God can do this work…. Let’s get down on our knees, then get up from our knees and do whatever it takes, no matter what that means, to set the sails for God to empower limitless missionary teams who are making disciples and multiplying churches among unreached people for the glory of His name.”

The impending changes are not about IMB employees or trustees in specific roles, but about the billions of people who die without a relationship with Jesus Christ, Steverson noted during his finance report.

The numbers are to be limitless to save the billions of people who die without Jesus Christ.

Accordingly, no longer will the IMB limit its force to those who have never divorced, or those who have teenagers with them, or those who continue to practice speaking in tongues.

The numbers dictate that interpretations of the Christian scriptures surrounding divorce and household codes and glossolalia, like the scriptures surrounding slavery of African peoples by white Americans, be reset. This is the obligation of the Mission. The numbers focus is somewhat Hellish.

You can learn more about David Platt by listening to him answer John Piper’s questions here. And Dee Parsons blogs on Platt here. And Russell Moore likes him here. (And Christena Cleveland says of Moore and others of the SBC, “I’m absolutely skeptical,” here.) And Platt speaks out on speaking in tongues here. And the initial IMB “biblical” hermeneutic on speaking in tongues, the yet to be “reset” prohibition thereof, is here.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 24, 2015 5:25 pm

    One thing seems fairly certain: any attempts the SBC is making to empower black people can only empower black men. For black women, the status quo will not change except that their husbands who remain in charge of them, will be more respected in church.

  2. June 4, 2015 3:10 pm

    You’re likely correct, Kristen. “I thank God for the confidence Southern Baptists are putting in me” was spoken by the first African American to preside over the SBC, NOT a woman, of course.

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