Many Southern Baptists will remember the frustration and controversy from almost 10 years ago when the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention adopted rigid policies concerning, among other things, baptism and private prayer language. At the time, I was a struggling seminary student working part time with teenagers at a pretty wonderful church. Although I was aware of the issues, my heart was not tied up in the discussion.
It is now. As a pastor, I am thankfully seeing God raise up several young people (and some not so young) in our congregation who have a desire to pursue the Great Commission as a potential career missionary. One in particular has already spent 30 days in Africa, where she feels led, and together we are looking into the best sending agency for her missionary involvement. The IMB, of course, was at the very top of my list. There has never been, and dare I say, never will be a more effective and faithful international sending agency than the International Mission Board. And with David Platt as the newly appointed president, even greater things are yet to come.
But not all is perfect.
Today I drafted a letter to Dr. Platt on behalf of one of my church members. I’m late to the party, but the party is still going strong. As a newly elected president, Dr. Platt no doubt wants to avoid any entanglements that would distract from the gospel work taking place around the world – entanglements such as digging up a controversial policy discussion. Nevertheless, since there is new leadership at the helm, I wanted to peacefully let him – and you – know my concerns; concerns that are echoed by a great many SBC pastors and leaders.
Below is the next to last paragraph of my letter to Dr. Platt. My sentiments have been shared by others countless times over the last few years, but here they are again for our new IMB president. I leave them with you for your consideration.
IMB currently has a poor policy on baptism. I affirm the necessity of IMB missionaries to fully agree with the Baptist Faith & Message, to be an active member of an SBC church, and to have been biblically baptized. I cannot agree with the current IMB baptism policy as it adds stipulations that are extra-biblical concerning the nature of baptism and undermines the authority of the local NT church who has been given the responsibility to determine the legitimacy of a candidate’s baptism. That authority does not rest in a mission sending agency. The IMB needs to trust her SBC churches in determining what qualifies as biblical baptism and remove these stipulations from the current policy.
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