FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–With a music school dean behind him and many music students, music professors and ministers of music in the audience, the president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board gave a music lesson on how to find a lost song and become an international singer.
The nations around the world will discover praise songs when Christians recover theirs by laying down their “lives on the altar of sacrifice and are the ones willing to go and share the gospel,” said Jerry Rankin at a Global Missions Day chapel Feb. 21.
The chapel occurred in the middle of the annual Church Music Workshop at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
“What music is all about is missions,” Rankin said.
God’s desire, he continued, is that the hearts of Christians would “spontaneously flow” with praise, glory, honor and worship to him.
This spontaneous flow, however, is not for Christians alone, Rankin pointed out.
God’s purpose is that Christians would “tell of his wonders among the nations that all the ends of the earth and all the peoples would praise him,” he said.
Rankin’s sermon was based on Psalm 117, the shortest chapter in the Bible, which contains “the central message of the Bible”: “Praise the Lord all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.”
“The only reason we do missions is because worship does not exist among the peoples of the world. Missions is not the main thing,” Rankin said, quoting from John Piper’s book “Let the Nations Be Glad.”
One day Christians will worship their Lord for all eternity, and “missions will cease,” Rankin said.
“When you sing ‘O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing,’ it’s not talking about a mega-church worship with a thousand worshipers, but it’s talking about a thousand languages praising our Lord,” Rankin said.
However, most of the nations, languages and peoples of the world are not worshiping him with songs of praise, he said.
Muslims lack the “kind of concept of God that elicits the praise from their lips, and Buddhists and Hindus know nothing of God’s grace that elicits songs of joy and praise,” Rankin said.
The IMB president shared a testimony from American missionaries in Cambodia ministering to Buddhist monks. The missionaries sang praises choruses to them and then asked the monks to sing some of their songs, Rankin recounted. The monks gathered together and began a dissonant chant, but they realized how it sounded and after just a few lines the sound faded away.
“And one of them said, ‘We don’t have any songs in our religion,'” Rankin said.
Although Christians have the great privilege of singing, many Christians don’t sing because they have lost their song and sense of praise in their hearts, the IMB president said.
They have lost the song because they are holding on to those things that are meaningless and valuable to them: comfort, wealth, recognition and success, he said.
Rankin, a Southwestern graduate, observed that seminary students lose the song when their attitude is, “I’ll serve the Lord if you can give me an affluent pastorate somewhere where I can drive a Buick LeSabre and have a comfortable lifestyle.”
He also noted that others have lost their song during discouraging predicaments, such as illness, conflicts and failures.
When the song is lost, “life that is reflecting a praise and relationship with God doesn’t have a very effective witness,” Rankin said, adding that Christians who lose the song lack the motivation to share with the lost world.
“How do you recover the song? How will the nations discover the song and praise our Lord?” Rankin asked.
“When the sacrifice is laid on the altar and when we bring our lives in surrender and dedication and yielded to him and are willing to go and to share the gospel with the lost world,” he answered.
In 2 Chronicles 29:27, Hezekiah gave the order to sacrifice the burnt offering on the altar, and “when the sacrifice began, the song of the Lord also began,” Rankin said.
The song will not start “until you die to yourself, until you are willing to give up your personal aspirations,” he said.
However, many Christians don’t want to abandon their American dream and go sing the song in a foreign land because they don’t want to live deprived lives in isolation and be harassed and persecuted by people of other faiths, Rankin said.
He warned the listeners that this is “Satan’s strategy,” a mission to “convince Christians that missions is optional.”
Satan tries to convince Christians never to make the sacrifice of giving their lives to touch the nations with the gospel of Jesus Christ, Rankin said.
“And if Satan can convince you not to do it,” the IMB president continued, “how successful he is at depriving God the glory that he desires [that] is due around the world.”
After reading from Revelation 12:11, Rankin emphasized that the ones who overcame the evil one in the passage were the ones who did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
Satan’s “appeal is to our selfish nature” and “he can feed that until you are totally focused on the flesh,” Rankin said.
“But when you lay [your life] on the altar in sacrifice, he is totally disarmed because there’s no appeal he can make,” Rankin said. “This is the victory over the spiritual warfare and the enemy, that God might be glorified among the nations.”
Rankin shared the testimony of first-term missionaries to a Muslim country in Southeast Asia, where they endured four years of difficult ministry without any response.
Yet they wanted to return for another four years, which surprised Rankin. He recalled them saying, “We had to reconcile ourselves to the fact that God had not called us to success and fulfillment, but to obedience, and if this is where God wants us, we don’t want to even entertain the possibility of going anywhere else.”
“The song will begin when the sacrifice is laid on the altar,” Rankin reiterated. When Christians no longer follow their plans, he said, and “no longer put geographical restrictions on God’s call, the unreached people groups [will] sing hallelujahs to the Lamb.”