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Mobilization strategy helping churches catch a heart for missions, Rankin says


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–God is at work in amazing ways through Southern Baptist missionaries and their coworkers around the world, but the International Mission Board also wants every Southern Baptist church to experience firsthand the thrill of personal missions involvement, IMB President Jerry Rankin said during a March 13-15 trustee meeting in Knoxville, Tenn.

After five years of study and research, the board is moving to “re-engineer” the way it relates to Southern Baptists, he said.

“It is absolutely phenomenal for three times as many people groups to be hearing the gospel and being confronted with the claims of Christ than just five years ago,” Rankin said. “Truly God is glorified as more than a thousand new believers a day are being baptized. The 42 percent increase in churches started last year represents 8,369 new local congregations — along with 43,000 outreach points — each becoming a multiplying, indigenous nucleus of ministry and witness, vastly expanding access to the gospel.

“But the task of the International Mission Board is not only about what happens overseas,” Rankin said. “As a denominational missions agency, we have a responsibility to our Southern Baptist constituency to lead and assist them in fulfilling God’s mission.

“What is being done overseas represents only a miniscule portion of Southern Baptist potential in personnel and resources. It is our vision to see the massive resources with which God has blessed Southern Baptists to be channeled to impact a lost world.”

CREATING PASSION

Accomplishing that requires a radical shift from promoting programs to creating passion, Rankin said.

“Mobilizing Southern Baptists will not happen by continuing our traditional program promotions but by creating a passion for God and his heart for the nations. It will happen only as we personalize missions through opportunities for direct involvement and ownership of the task. And it must take the form of partnership with Southern Baptists at every level rather than trying to maintain exclusive control that restricts and alienates.”

When a congregation is filled with passion for God’s mission, they move into a new dimension of strategic partnership and support for missions, Rankin said.

He cited the example of First Baptist Church in Cassville, Mo., a congregation of about 800 in southwest Missouri. Three years ago, the church’s pastor, John Duncan, participated in an overseas vision trip and caught God’s heart for the nations.

“Now we seldom have an International Service Corps conference without someone from FBC Cassville being present,” Rankin said. “This past Sunday evening, they had 30 or 40 people make commitments to missions service.

“The year before John Duncan went on the vision trip, this church had given $35,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering,” he said. “Their faith commitment goal to missions this year was $192,000, and this past Sunday, they made a commitment of $271,000 to missions.”

OWNING THE MISSION

The factor that transforms a church from generous giving to strategic involvement and sacrificial support is catching God’s heart for the nations through direct personal involvement, Rankin said. What has been the IMB’s mission becomes their mission, and the agency becomes a facilitator rather than a middleman.

“We know that churches are no longer interested in channeling their money through a middle man without direct ownership in where it goes and what it does,” he said. “We know that churches and other partners want personalized, customized attention and service focused on their needs, their desires and their agenda.”

The question is how to customize services to 42,000 churches, 1,200 associations, 40 state conventions and scores of other organizations without a massive multiplication of staff, products and promotions, Rankin said.

“The challenge requires us to evaluate what we are currently doing and re-engineer how we relate to our constituency and communicate our message,” he said.

MAKING CHANGES

Research conducted in the Atlanta area in 2002 yielded insights that led the board to create mobilization teams to give personal attention to churches, associations, state conventions and others who want to be more involved in completing God’s mission overseas, Rankin said.

Another initiative focuses on discovering ways to establish personal relationships between churches and missionaries, Rankin explained.

“We must enable our missionaries to build relationships and create accountability with churches,” he said. “They need to enlist prayer support, develop covenant relationships of adoption and accountability and involve churches in growing partnerships and support.”

Among the other initiatives is an effort to help people who find themselves stuck in “phone mail jail” — unable to get a real, live person on the phone to answer their questions when they call the board, Rankin said.

“We receive more than 1 million phone calls a year, plus millions of e-mail messages and Internet contacts. These inquiries come to dozens of different points in our organization,” Rankin said. “It is not uncommon for calls to be misdirected or for a caller to be unable to connect with a live voice. We are migrating these services to a contact center, where trained experts will be able to handle any and every question.”

A PASSION FOR GOD’S GLORY

Board leaders are excited about the powerful way God is moving through Southern Baptist missionaries and their coworkers, but they are not motivated by the numbers, Rankin said.

“We are not driven by pride in growth and accomplishments,” he said. “We do not gauge the success of our mission efforts by impersonal and meaningless data.

“Our passion is the glory of God among the nations, and our only desire is penetrating the lostness of our world in bringing all the peoples to saving faith in Jesus Christ. We want to see every Southern Baptist and every Southern Baptist church rise up and play their part in fulfilling Christ’s command to make disciples of all the peoples.”
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To learn more about how the IMB can help your church mobilize to complete the Great Commission, contact the Church Services Team by calling toll-free 1-877-462-4721 or e-mailing [email protected]. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: MAKING MISSIONS PERSONAL.

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  • Mark Kelly