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‘Invite God to send you,’ Rankin implores seminarians

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–God calls more Christians to serve him abroad than act in obedience to that command, Southern Baptist missions leader Jerry Rankin told students at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.
“Why is it that so few are chosen relative to the needs of the lost world and the desire of Jesus to save it?” Rankin asked the students, faculty, staff and missionaries attending the chapel service.
Rankin, president of the International Mission Board, visited the Mill Valley, Calif., seminary for Global Missions Week Feb. 10-12, when IMB missionaries met with students interested in global missions during a series of information conferences, receptions and resource fairs. Golden Gate Seminary President William O. Crews began the missions emphasis by introducing Rankin as a man with the “vision for mobilizing all of us to share Christ to ends of the earth.”
During his message, Rankin expressed surprise at the degree of hesitation people have in following God’s call overseas.
“I’m amazed when we go to seminary campuses and we talk to students who say that they want to go abroad, but God hasn’t called them,” he said at a Feb. 11 chapel meeting. “At least 100,000 pastors and church staff nurture the (Southern Baptist) churches in our nation, yet less than 5 percent of them ever hear God’s call to the nations. What does that mean?”
Rankin reflected on a trip he made in previous weeks to Southern Asia. He said he was “overwhelmed by a sense of darkness and oppression” while visiting a temple to a Hindu goddess in Calcutta and watching Hindu adherents bathe in the Ganges River for spiritual cleansing.
“Just to see them scrambling to get closer and severing the heads of goats and seeing women dipping their hands into the goat’s blood to smear it on their foreheads was disheartening,” Rankin said. “It also was hard to travel to Bangladesh and see 120 million people living in poverty and darkness while affirming their faith to Allah and Mohammed and then to see a small church in Nepal but learn that 123 major people groups there have yet to be touched with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Statistics of the lack of Christian work there spoke loudly, Rankin said.
“As I travel to South and Southeast Asia, I have to ask why is there one missionary witness for every 2.8 million people?” he said. “Why does Russia request 150 church planters and get only four last year?”
Rankin noted God’s call in Isaiah 6:8 — “Whom shall I send?” — was not a personal call to Isaiah, but a generic one.
“Isaiah’s response of ‘Here am I; send me’ was not a conscription, but an invitation for God to send him,” Rankin said. “It’s not a matter of God singling out Isaiah or anyone. So many today whom God has called to serve are waiting for a burning bush phenomenon or a Damascus Road experience but can’t hear the still, small voice of God saying, ‘Whom shall I send?’
“Don’t tell me you’ve been born again, that you’re committed and surrendered to ministry but God hasn’t called you,” Rankin challenged. “Rather, invite God to send you.”
Garland is a newswriter in the public relations office of Golden Gate Seminary.

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