“The needs around us are too great, and our gospel too good, for us to sit back,” exclaimed David Platt at an International Mission Board (IMB) dinner reception during the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), in St. Louis, Missouri earlier this month.
During an intimate dinner of around 2,500 Southern Baptists, president of the IMB, David Platt, addressed the crowd on the issues of Gospel proclamation to the nations and immigration. Platt, shared a heartfelt story of a Syrian immigrant family’s perilous journey seeking refuge in Europe. As the account played out, this particular family spent their entire life’s savings and possessions on a ruthless passage across the Aegean Sea floating on a dinky rubber raft with countless other refugee seekers. At one point in the midst of the freezing sea the raft was too heavy and wasn’t going to make it to shore, so the father of this family, with no warning, thrust himself off the boat to relieve the weight and sacrifice his own life for the rest. This journey was not simply about a more comfortable life, but the plight for life in the face of death.
Platt’s intention in sharing this story was not to present a political position on immigration to Southern Baptists. Rather, to highlight the desperate need of our fellow humans across the world and encourage the Southern Baptists to “life our eyes to what matters.” For Platt, the main issue was not a particular political agenda, but the faithfulness of the Church to share the life-transforming Gospel with those in need.
“Instead of sitting back and debating whether a few of them will come here, the time is now for Southern Baptists to go to them into a world of urgent spiritual and physical need,” he called; ”refugees need to hear the gospel.”
As if reading the minds of some in the room, Platt addressed the reality of risks involved. “Of course there are risks” he stated but, “where did we get the idea Christians were not about risks.” We cannot be a people who fret over the risks of our own lives and comfort and claim to follow the One who took upon himself our sin and shame to redeem us to God. As a Christian and fellow Southern Baptist, Platt claimed of Southern Baptists, “self is no longer our God and safety no longer our purpose.” We must take head on the task set before us.
In light of the recent reductions of missionaries on the field by the International Mission Board, many have questioned what the future of international missions will look like for Southern Baptists. Platt made it very clear of his intentions for the future while also thanking Southern Baptists for giving an unprecedented record amount of $165.8 million from the 2015 Lottie Moon Offering, the highest total in the 127 year history of the IMB. In light of the picture of those from every tribe and tongue in Revelation 5, Platt called out “Let us send more missionaries!”
To the glory of God and the good of humanity, Platt believes this is possible because of “the power of what a multiplicity of churches can do around the world.” Southern Baptists across the room resounded in cheers of joy in standing ovation.