I saw it first on Facebook and could hardly believe what I was reading. On Wednesday, August 27th there was a seismic shift in the Great Commission Community when well-known pastor and author David Platt publically announced that he was taking the helm at the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Denomination. David is widely known for his best-selling book, Radical and his passion to share the gospel with the least reached people’s on earth. I had the great privilege of hearing him speak at Urbana 2012 and afterward described it as the first time that I had ever heard someone speak who was out of breath before he got started.
Check out this video to hear about this decision in David’s own words.
This is truly the dawning of a new day in the world of global missions as a hero of the millennial generation steps into this vital role. The IMB is one of the biggest missions organizations in the world but is not widely known outside of the Southern Baptist and Great Commission circles. This move by David Platt will shine a bright light on reaching the ends of the earth with the gospel in a way that very few others could have done. His platform was already quite significant and growing. I wish him well and look forward to seeing how God will use him in the days ahead.
In many parts of the evangelical church today, responding to the great commission not a big topic. Many churches are just struggling to be relevant in a world that is less and less tolerant of absolute truth. As young people are rushing out the back door in droves and baby boomers are growing older, a real crisis is occurring and churches are closing. Some see the needs all around them and can hardly fathom sending people out from their own congregation to meet needs that are thousands of miles away. Who could afford that these days anyway?
Fortunately, there are churches bucking that trend and radically reshaping their churches to put the great commission in the center of all that they do. That is certainly true at Calvary Church in Lancaster where Steve Beirn is a pastor. For many years now, this innovative church has pioneered a local church driven vision for global mission. Instead of shrinking, they have grown. They now have over 100 people deployed in countries all over the world that call Calvary their home church. Their budget for this part of their ministry is larger than the entire annual budget of many medium size evangelical churches.
One of the keys to their success is the commitment to training and preparation. They recruit constantly and make it clear that this is a high calling and worthy of significant time. A person must complete a three year training program at Calvary before they are commissioned to go overseas. It is important to the church that they demonstrate an ability to share the gospel and disciple people in the local context. Once a person has completed this training, they are encouraged to join one of twelve “preferred” missions agencies that have a similar commitment to excellence. The results speak for themselves in the hundreds of people that have gone to the mission field over the years from this one church and have had a significant impact on spreading the gospel and fulfilling great commission.
As David Platt begins his new season on ministry, I am encouraged to believe that there may be a few more churches like Calvary springing up around the country. It is amazing to see how God blesses a congregation that is outward focused and gives of their best. As they focus on the needs of others, they are seeing their own needs met as well. A Great Commission church will be a healthy, vibrant and growing church.