WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Back in the faraway reaches of the Himalaya Mountains in the center of the Hindu kingdom of Nepal, a conspicuous sign boldly states: “Drink Coca-Cola.”
This measure of capitalistic tenacity and resolve by a major American soft drink maker serves as an indictment on Christians in the United States, the president of the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board said April 17 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“What an indictment,” Jerry Rankin said, “that those (who) market a refreshing drink with a zeal for … monetary profit would carry their product to the ends of the world (where) we as God’s people have not yet carried the most gracious commodity of all — the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Stating there are 1.7 billion people in the world who have yet to hear the name of Christ, Rankin agreed in part with those who argue God would not condemn people to hell who have never heard about Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross for their sins.
“God does not condemn them to hell,” Rankin asserted. “They’re condemned by their sin.”
Delivering the keynote address as part of Global Missions Week April 14-17 at the Wake Forest, N.C., campus, Rankin denounced any type of theology that exempts people of their responsibility or accountability for making a decision to accept or reject God’s gift of salvation.
A no-hear/no-accountability theology of missions, Rankin said, would actually advocate a mission strategy that called for Christians to keep silent about the good news of Jesus Christ while vainly hoping unreached people groups would be saved from eternal separation from God.
“Is this what the Word of God tells us? To keep silent? Rankin asked. “No, the pages (of the Bible) literally reverberate with the command, the urgency, the mandate (to) go and preach the gospel to every creature. Go and make disciples of every nation, because there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.”
“The glorious truth,” Rankin said, “of ‘whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved'” applies to Muslims across North Africa; Buddhists in Thailand, Burma and Sri Lanka, as well as Hindus in India, animists in unreached people groups and secular materialists and humanists in Western Europe and Japan.
Rankin said praise for God’s grace — not guilt-ridden theology — should be the driving force toward fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission to take the gospel to the “uttermost ends of the earth.”
“You’re here today not because of any merit of your own, but because of God’s grace who saved you as a sinner,” Rankin said. “I believe that God is going to hold us accountable for every person that does not have an opportunity to hear because he has provided salvation for the whole world and he has committed to us the task of telling them.”
Rankin suggested Christians’ joy in heaven over their eternal salvation may be tempered by the realization of the “vast multitude” of people in parts of the world who never heard about Jesus.
“And much like that look that broke the heart of Simon Peter on his night of denial, the eyes of Jesus will meet ours as we see that multitude unsaved and will simply say, ‘I told you to go. I promised you my power. I assured you of my grace but you chose to stay at home, to follow your own plans, embrace your comfortable lifestyle in the amenities of an American church — and multitudes never had a chance.”
Rankin, who described Southeastern as the foremost, SBC seminary in missions emphasis, challenged students to reconsider God’s call on their lives.
“Are you simply waiting for a call to a staff position in a traditional church in your culture and background?
“Who is going to the uttermost? Who is sending their resume, responding to (the) search committee for the Kanuri (4 million people) in West Africa, the Berbers (5 million people) in Algeria, the Bhojpuri (43 million people) in north India, the Zhuang (15.5 million people) and Uygers (7 million people) in western China?”
Responding to Rankin’s invitation to commit their lives to service on the foreign mission field, students on bended knee filled both sides of the alter kneeling together several rows deep into the center aisle.