WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (BP)–Before the 21st century dawns, Southern Baptists and their global missions partners can still significantly impact the region where more than 1.69 billion people live without knowing Jesus Christ, Foreign Mission Board trustees were told during their Feb. 10-12 meeting.
It’s possible before the end of the year 2000 to penetrate 2,000 of the remaining 2,161 unreached people groups, a segment of the world known as “The Last Frontier,” said Lewis Myers, FMB vice president for strategy among those groups. That would give 99 percent of the world’s peoples access to the gospel.
Access means each people group would have Christians and churches in their midst.
To better position itself to reach them — as well as the rest of the present harvest fields — FMB President Jerry Rankin proposed a comprehensive reorganization of the board’s overseas operational structure. He asked for — and trustees approved unanimously — a special task force of FMB administrators and trustees to conduct a study. A preliminary recommendation is expected in mid-April and the
final report in early June.
After standing in ovation, more than a half dozen trustees rose to speak in support of Rankin’s proposal. Among them was LeRoy “Skip” Smith, associate pastor of Sagemont Baptist Church in Houston. “This is a culmination of a decade of prayers for many of us,” he said. “It constitutes a new way of doing things.” While no conclusions have been reached yet, the final report is expected to be global and sweeping, Rankin said.
“We cannot afford to remain locked into organizational structures created for a different era,” Rankin said. “We need to adapt our structure for future growth. We cannot risk bogging down as we approach a new century.
“It is essential that we create a structure that enables our total missionary force to be unified and mobilized to reap the harvest and penetrate The Last Frontier,” he added. He gave few specific details of what will be proposed.
Avery Willis, FMB senior vice president for overseas operations, responded: “What Dr. Rankin said in this report is important for two reasons. One, we must change to catch up with what God is doing and, two, we must maximize the potential of every missionary to fulfill his or her call.”
Instead of viewing the world as composed of 225 or so political units known as countries, the board is already refocusing its sights on the 12,862-plus people groups who make up these countries. Focusing on people groups instead of countries allows the board to look deeper at —
and gain a more accurate picture of — how the gospel is penetrating the world.
The region the board calls The Last Frontier is referred to by most evangelicals worldwide as the 10/40 Window, and by some Southern Baptists as World A. It encompasses an area sweeping from North Africa through the Middle East and most of Asia.
It could be penetrated if the 40,000 Southern Baptist churches mobilize effectively during the next four years, Myers said. Such an effort would include “increased awareness, prayer partnerships (with individual people groups), personal involvement and sacrificial giving,” he explained.
A paper Myers presented during the meeting called for Southern Baptist churches to adopt 2,000 people groups, to minister to 2,000 international students from Last Frontier countries, to increase their Cooperative Program giving by 2 percent and to increase by 2,000 the number of convention churches giving to the annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for foreign missions.
During an appointment service, trustees appointed 37 career and associate missionaries. “God is at work around the world” and is beckoning Southern Baptists to deepen their involvement with his missions efforts,” Willis said during the service.
He told of revivals, crusades and individual situations in Cuba, Bolivia, Brazil, Liberia, Uganda, India, Thailand and China where thousands of people are coming to faith in Jesus Christ.
Testimonies from each of the new missionaries highlighted patterns that FMB leaders are seeing as emerging “pathways” to missions calls — participating in Experiencing God groups in local churches, volunteering for short-term mission trips overseas, living overseas for two years on Journeyman or International Missions Corps assignment and becoming involved in Baptist Student Unions and other college campus ministries.
During the board meeting, trustees also elected FMB Executive Vice President Don Kammerdiener to the simultaneous role of vice president of the office of mission personnel. Thurmon Bryant, former OMP vice president, retired effective Jan. 31.