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Have God’s heart for the nations, missions week audience challenged

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Knowing God intimately and having his heart for the nations should be top priorities for Southern Baptists, speakers said at the second annual International Missions Week at Ridgecrest, a LifeWay Conference Center, in North Carolina.

The July 8-13 week was a potpourri of seminar tracks, missionary testimonies, dramas, special music and media presentations interspersed with sermons by missions leaders. The assembly drew more than 1,400 people.

It also was a time for memorable one-liners:

— Quipped missionary Wade Akins during his testimony, “If you feel led to foreign missions, it certainly isn’t the devil calling you.”

— Said Chesed Dent, 17, daughter of IMB regional leader Don Dent, in another testimony: “I’m not just an MK [missionary kid]. I’m a kid missionary.”

— Commented a missionary to a restricted country in Asia, “A country may limit access of people, but it can’t limit the access of God.”

— Lamented an unidentified missionary after a drama about a fictitious Christian in Saudi Arabia: “This was a dream. There’s no church in Saudi Arabia nor any meeting in a home that we know of.”

The emphasis of the week was on “The Unfinished Task: Dispelling the Darkness” which will be the theme for this year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, including the annual International Mission Study in churches across the Southern Baptist Convention.

The theme focuses on God’s heart and desire to shine on the world’s darkness. Said program literature, “Until ALL peoples behold His light and worship Him, until ALL nations hear of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, the task of global missions is unfinished.”

Special seminar tracks throughout the week focused on training and equipping Southern Baptists in prayer, volunteer work, missionary service options and Global Priority Churches. Special focus groups also zeroed in on select groups, such as African-Americans, missionary parents and medical missions.

In his daily Bible studies, popular missiologist and pastor John Piper repeatedly told his audiences, “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him.”

Piper, considered one of the leading proponents of missions theology today, challenged Southern Baptists to truly satisfy God by living God-centered, holy lives that reflect his heart for the entire world.

“To glorify God is to magnify him,” Piper said. “That’s what your life is supposed to do.”

Piper said, “God does not look upon sinners with delight or on something beautiful in the nations, but because there is something in God that wants the nations to have that which they do not have [God].”

Christians who truly obey and love God will share God’s same desires, he said.

International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin said in opening remarks, “God has blessed Southern Baptists [spiritually and materially] not to take pride in being a great denomination but to be instruments in his hands.

“If God has chosen to bless us — if he is blessing you and your church and your family — it is because he wants to bless the nations,” Rankin said.

Gordon Fort, the board’s regional leader for southern Africa, told participants, “The key question is, what in my life is worth dying for?”

He said the answer to that question is a passion to see every person who does not know Christ have the opportunity to embrace him.

“When I wake up in Zimbabwe every morning, my heart’s desire is that the nations may know him, and that is something truly worthy dying for,” Fort said.

Fort told about missionaries and nationals who have been killed because of their faith and determination to share Christ with others.

“There is something far worse than physical death — it is the person who dies without Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior,” Fort said. “Why else would we send people to places like Angola, where there are more land mines than people?”

IMB Executive Vice President Don Kammerdiener recounted great moments in the history of Southern Baptist international missions.

“When World War I ended, most missionary movements in the Western world began to die out, but your spiritual ancestors didn’t do that,” he said.

“In the 1980s, Southern Baptists fought about many things, but we never fought about international missions.”

Kammerdiener also noted, “The current younger generation are coming forth saying, ‘Let us go to the difficult places.'”

Avery Willis, IMB senior vice president for overseas operations, told the participants, “God is moving in unique ways today all over the world.”

Using the apostle Peter as an example of how God works, Willis said, “God had to interrupt the comfortable Peter [in Acts 10] to move his attentions beyond Jerusalem and the surrounding area.

“God has to interrupt us to get us on mission with him today too,” he said. “And God instructs you on the way.”

Willis said God calls Christians today in at least four ways:

— To himself, where a Christian is committed to following wherever he leads.

— To a passion, where a particular people group or some aspect of ministry attracts the Christian’s interests intently.

— To a profession, where the Christian finds the work compelling.

— To a place, where the Christians finds his interests in a particular location highly magnetic.

The capstone for the week was an appointment service for 57 new missionaries, many of whom will serve in locations that only a few years ago seemed impossible. The 57 included a former police officer, a widow, a former business owner, a former high school choral director, a former Buddhist, a couple in their 60s, a former home improvement store worker, a seminary professor’s daughter and eight people of Asian descent as well as former pastors and church staff members.

Also included, but totally unidentified, was a couple who will work with one of the least evangelized and most dangerous people groups in the world.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at www.sbcbaptistpress.org.

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  • Louis Moore