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Glorieta conference spotlights growth, role of global missions

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–As the world enters the 21st century, Christians face unprecedented opportunities to literally carry the gospel to every person on earth, said speakers at the first-ever International Missions Week at Glorieta, a LifeWay Conference Center, in New Mexico.
More than 1,800 people gathered for the July 24-29 sessions to worship God and to learn how to be more personally involved in the global expansion of missions under way today.
Through it all, participants heard that:
— God, not missionaries, institutions or strategies, is the focus of missions.
— Missions is not an end in itself but a means to the end. Missions will end someday, but worship of God will continue forever.
— Doors around the world are swinging open to the gospel in unparalleled and unprecedented ways.
— God is mobilizing Christians throughout the world for missions, with “Two-Thirds World” countries moving quickly into a dominant role in sending out missionaries, which used to be the exclusive domain of Christians in the United States and Europe.
— Southern Baptists will continue to have a role in advancing missions worldwide but only through humble submission to the sovereign will and plan of God.
International Missions Week was punctuated with a potpourri of simultaneous events that collectively displayed the width and breadth of international missions today.
The week included a Stateside Assignment (formerly known as furlough) Conference for 222 missionaries and 237 MKs (missionary kids); appointment activities for Southern Baptists’ 70 newest international missionaries; an IMB trustee board meeting; a mini-conference on “Experiencing God on Mission” led by Henry Blackaby and Avery Willis; and an assortment of other international missions-related seminars, symposiums and worship services.
The appointment of the 56 career and associate missionaries and 14 apprentice missionaries was the crowning moment of the week.
It was the largest group ever of missionary apprentices — a new category established two years ago for people who meet all the criteria for career missionary appointment except sufficient work experience in the ministry. Apprentices gain their work experience and then are appointed as career missionaries.
Conference participants included the largest stateside assembly ever of missionaries in one place — the 222 missionaries on stateside assignment plus the 69 appointees. The Thursday evening appointment service drew several hundred additional unregistered participants, sending the total well over 2,000.
“The main reason you are here is to get to know these missionaries personally,” International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin told participants on the first night of the conference.
“As we move toward the 21st century, God is doing something around the whole world,” Rankin said. “God has blessed us [as Southern Baptists], as he did Israel long ago … and favored us and our churches, but not simply because he chooses to bless us but so that his name may be blessed around the world.”
Rankin described his personal trips to countries all over the world — some where he had to travel merely as a tourist because of the hostility of the governments toward missionaries — and said he is amazed to see how God is bringing people to faith in Jesus Christ.
His message focused on the conference theme, “The Unfinished Task: Loving the Lost,” which will also be the theme for this year’s International Mission Study and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
Rankin called on participants to have such a love for the lost that they are willing to make whatever sacrifices necessary to enable the gospel to be preached to every person in the world.
“To love the lost means to have a heart broken and filled with sorrow,” he said. “To love the lost means to live a life of sacrifice … . It means giving sacrificially so the gospel can be shared.
“Jesus said, ‘No greater love than this [exists], that you lay down your life for a friend.’ Do you love the lost enough to do this [for them]?”
A mother eagle stirs her nest to force her chicks out and into flight, noted Avery Willis, the board’s senior vice president of overseas operations. God is at work in a similar way among Southern Baptists today, he added.
“God is stirring this whole world,” Willis said.
Willis described countries throughout the world where God is at work, bringing nonbelievers to faith in Jesus Christ.
“Look at Cambodia, where the killing fields have become the living fields,” he said, describing how in less than a decade the number of Baptists grew from a few hundred to more than 10,000 and the total number of evangelical Christians from 1,000 to more than 60,000.
He said God has opened whole areas of the world that were once thought closed to the gospel and is calling for Southern Baptists to respond.
Willis said the recent unsettling downturn in the number of Southern Baptist Convention baptisms and membership may be yet another way that God is trying to get Southern Baptists’ attention.
“I think God is stirring our nest in this,” he said. “He stirs up our nest so we will cry out to him.
“God has stirred my nest,” Willis said, describing how God moved him from being a pastor to be a missionary, to being the author of “MasterLife” discipleship materials and then moved him into IMB administration.
“God knows how to stir your nest,” Willis told participants. “As God stirs you, respond. As God stirs your church, respond. As God stirs your nation, respond.”
Willis’ message was interspersed with missionary testimonies which illustrated his points.
Don Kammerdiener, the board’s executive vice president, told participants God is calling out Southern Baptists to go to the openings at an unprecedented pace.
“The people of God are getting involved in international missions,” he said.
In the past, the IMB would trumpet its entry into a new country, but today the board is organized to reach “every country, every national, every people group” everywhere, Kammerdiener noted.
The expansion is costing more today, Kammerdiener said. But Southern Baptist giving to missions also is escalating through increasing Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering gifts, as well as through special designated funds.
“A strange thing about God’s plan is that he always sends the provisions for what is needed,” he said. “God sent the manna that was sufficient for each day’s needs, but none could be saved over for the next day. So today, he sends financial resources on a ‘just in time basis.’ The resources have never failed to arrive, but there is never an excess.”
Kammerdiener also noted that with great opportunities come great obstacles.
“There are many adversaries [to the movement of God worldwide],” he said.
He cited as major adversaries materialism and “bad theology that says those who have not heard the gospel still will be saved.”
“Every one of us is under the influence of a media system in Hollywood and New York that is saying … one religion is as good as another and that missionary work is imperialism,” he said.
Kammerdiener urged attendees to be on guard against materialism and to those who would say Jesus is not the only way to salvation.
Former Philippines missionary Bill Tisdale, now the retired pastor of First Baptist Church, Henderson, Texas, was the Bible study leader for the week. His four messages were “The missionary motivation … message … method … and means.”
He urged participants to remember that a literal, eternal hell awaits people who prior to their deaths do not believe in Jesus Christ as personal Savior.
“At the judgment seat, it will be a day of reward or a day of regret,” he said.
“There’s not a liberal today who doesn’t mock or scoff at the idea of a living, eternal hell,” he said. “That’s what they say, but that’s not what Jesus says.
“I am motivated to be the best missionary I can because of the people who are dying and going to hell,” Tisdale said.
“That which motivates and inspires me [to want to spread the gospel throughout the world] is what Jesus can be in the life of a believer.”

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  • Louis Moore