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Maintain ‘eternal perspective,’ Rankin urges new missionaries

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–God’s Spirit is moving in the most remarkable ways in Southern Baptist hearts, as well as among people overseas who hear the story of Jesus for the first time, International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin said during an April 27 service at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn.

“Southern Baptists have shown that their passion is to reach the world, in response to the Great Commission mandate, by increasing giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering by more than 18 percent,” Rankin said. “Overseas, we are astounded at the way God has opened doors in places we would never have dreamed. Your missionaries are reporting a phenomenal harvest and church growth among peoples who are hearing the Gospel for the first time.”

Rankin told about a young Muslim man who was shunned by his community and disowned by his family because he asked so many questions about religion. When God led him to a Southern Baptist missionary, the young man found the answer to all his questions in Jesus. Returning to his village, he was harshly persecuted for his newfound faith. He persisted in his witness, however, and 10 years later more than 200,000 of his people have been baptized.

“Things like this are not happening because of our plans as a mission board, but because God is moving to fulfill His purpose of bringing a lost world to Jesus Christ,” Rankin said. “God is moving to fulfill His mission that one day people from every tribe, people, tongue and nation will be gathered around the throne, worshiping the Lamb.

“We’re grateful that God has given us the privilege of being part of what He is doing.”


Several of the 76 new missionaries appointed that evening echoed Rankin’s sentiment.

One man, who will serve with his wife in East Asia, told the congregation, “Through Scripture, God slowly peeled the scales from my eyes until I could clearly see His heart for the nations.”

His wife said she knew in college that God was calling her to missions, but it was only when she actually got involved overseas that God broke her heart “for the millions walking the crowded streets who had never heard His name.”

Another new missionary couple — headed to service in the board’s Northern Africa and Middle East region — said the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., helped them understand that now is the time for proclaiming God’s love.

“At age 14, God called me to missions,” the wife said. “Twenty years later, through the events of Sept. 11, I sensed an urgency that someone must go and tell the world about Jesus. God said, ‘That someone is you.'”

“Pastoring a congregation with members from six continents, I was thankful that God was bringing the nations to us,” her husband said. “But after one of our missionaries died on the field, I asked who would take his place. God answered, ‘You will. Now go.'”


Rankin challenged the new missionaries to be heroes of the faith “of which the world is not worthy.”

“That expression comes from Hebrews 11:38, toward the conclusion of that familiar chapter on the roll call of faith,” Rankin said. “That chapter tells us of biblical heroes that ‘by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword … and put foreign armies to flight.’”

Like the biblical heroes of faith, the world was not worthy of the four Southern Baptist workers recently killed in Iraq — Larry and Jean Elliott, David McDonnall and Karen Watson — because their lives were focused on something beyond this life, something of eternal significance, Rankin said.

“Those of whom the world is not worthy are those who put the risks and dangers of following Christ into eternal perspective,” Rankin said. “They are those who are living for a city whose maker is God, and they are those who, whether suffering a martyr’s death or serving to retirement, will hear their Master say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.'”

Rankin challenged the new missionaries to imitate Abraham, who followed God even though he didn’t know where he was going; to be like Moses, who rejected the comforts and riches of Egypt to identify with his people; and to emulate the heroes of faith who refused to shun suffering and death because they valued God’s higher purpose even more than their own well-being.

“The call to follow Christ has always been a call to take up your cross and die,” Rankin said. “The price of discipleship has never changed.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: HEARTBREAKING, GOD’S PURPOSE, WILLING and PHENOMENAL HARVEST.

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  • Mark Kelly