The generator droned on in the background providing a sensation of white noise and the comfort of electricity after a long day of ups and downs. I was sitting in my house discussing the happenings of the day with family & colleagues and casually flipping through Facebook.
Suddenly I saw it, “David Platt to leave position as IMB president.” As I read the headline and the ensuing article we were all in a state of shock dealing with the news of one more major stir up in the IMB. But ultimately before we went to bed, we collectively agreed that the core of what we do and who we are would not change. We are still called to take the Gospel to the nations. The lost are still just outside our door, and we will continue to reach out to those who don’t yet know Jesus. The refugee crisis is still happening, no matter what happens in Richmond and we will be his hands and feet to meet needs and proclaim the truth. It is frustrating news, but ultimately, changes very little from where we sit.
With that being said, If you know me, you know….I had a few thoughts.
I won’t presume to speak for all field missionaries, but I was a little frustrated that many of the promised changes and things that have seemingly been on the horizon for years, and will likely never happen and knowing that we will undergo yet another change and will take years to stabilize.
To be honest, we have not yet stabilized from our last major change and the task that we began four years ago is incomplete. I know that there are a lot of things happening in Richmond that I don't know anything about and are significantly above my pay grade. I don’t question whether this is a good or bad move, it just is. Life will go on
I have a ton of respect for David and how he has led over the past four years. His high level of integrity, sound doctrine and passion have challenged and encouraged me deeply. His boldness to initiate hard changes and face the backlash with humility and gentleness while still leading into the unknown inspired me as a leader.
However, I have had conversations with dozens of missionaries on the field when times get tough, and their desire to go back to what is familiar just keeps eating at them. I usually tell them, “You made a commitment, don’t quit because circumstances have changed or you don’t like it here. Everyone has parts of their job that they dislike, that is why they call it a job. But endurance is part of this task and learning through the unmet expectations give us an opportunity to let God direct us even when we have no clue where it will lead.”
It’s funny how most of these conversations go. “God’s calling” suddenly changes and conveniently takes us back to something more familiar or easier for us. It has been my experience that when we are giving God a “blank check,” and free reign in our lives, He usually takes us into the unknown, to the difficult, the impossible even. That is where He is glorified the most, and strangely it is where we seem least significant.
He rarely takes us to the known, familiar or even where our natural gifting leads us.
Think about Moses, Joseph, Abraham, Paul, Peter there is a long list of people pleading with God…”Please, not that! I have no idea how to do that! Let me do this thing I know. God, let's do this thing I’m good at, and I love, it will be fun.”
But our culture tells us, plug in where you can make the most significant impact, use your gifting, use your skills and influence that is the best place for you. This makes total sense to the western Evangelical mind, but unfortunately, God doesn’t usually work like that. (I kinda wish He did)
We tend to think that we can or will have a greater impact that we are capable of. We believe we are the key to these people hearing the truth about Jesus. We will start a great movement of the Lord (I confess I have had these thoughts) I know it sounds crazy, but sometimes this is how we (I) think. This is my flesh working and battling the Holy Spirits direction in me.
But what I have learned is that it’s about you and your sanctification, first. God has chosen this place and this hardship to refine you and conform you to his image. As you submit to that, the lost around you will be affected, and you will see His hand move. You can’t skip steps, no one can. You have to be transformed before they are. It's not a one-time thing, he requires it over and over. The lost world watches our sanctification, and as they wonder what is happening, we proclaim that Jesus is doing this and they come to believe because of what they see Him doing in us.
Remember, his Kingdom is upside down and backwards. Greatest will be the least, lose your life to gain it, the foolish confound the wise. It doesn't make sense sometimes, but His kingdom is different and we have to let that difference take root in our hearts.
With all that being said, I don’t know what is happening in Richmond. I don’t know what is happening in David’s life and family. I was shocked by the news and a little frustrated as I’m sure many of my colleagues were. I don’t know what the future holds. But that really doesn’t bother me. I’ve been with the IMB long enough to see these changes come and go.
But a few things remain the same.
The nations need Jesus,
He deserves to have His name praised by them,
I was commanded by Jesus to go and make disciples in their midst,
the IMB & SBC will continue to facilitate that as they have for the past 170 years,
Because all of us desire to be obedient to this Great Commission of our Lord Jesus.
In the end, very little will change. Don’t freak out, God is on his throne, and we are his emissaries here on earth, let’s act like it and don’t let minor changes shake your foundations or cause you a second of worry. We Love you David, and we know God will continue to use you mightily to build His Kingdom.