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New Orleans Seminary hosts global missions extravaganza

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–A desire that began three years ago became a reality Nov. 17-21 when New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary hosted the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board personnel, trustees, 55 candidates for appointment and their family and friends during a global missions emphasis week.
Although every three years IMB teams regularly travel to each of the six SBC seminaries for a global missions emphasis week, this occasion was the first to feature both the 90-member IMB trustee meeting and a missionary candidate appointment service, with one of the largest groups of candidates ever to be sent out at one time for global missions service.
Seminary students and their children participated from morning to evening in the week-long events. IMB personnel hosted breakfast, lunch and dinner meals to meet and pray with students and be available on an informal basis to answer their questions; spoke in classes; taught special multimedia seminars; and transformed the Hardin Student Center into an extravaganza of international sights and sounds with 16 cultural displays, Internet-accessible computer centers and scores of flags draped throughout the building’s two-story atrium.
“Around the World in 80 Minutes,” a first-time special event just for children, allowed youngsters to meet missionaries; dress in indigenous costumes; and learn games, songs and customs of children from nations around the world.
Featured in the daily chapel services were Jerry Rankin, IMB president; David Garrison, IMB associate vice president for strategy coordination and mobilization; and Bob Sjogren, a Presbyterian, founder of the missions agency Frontiers and speaker-at-large for Advancing Churches in Mission Commitment, based in Mesa, Ariz.
Rankin challenged students to question their call to ministry if they have never considered a call to missions.
“Our greatest sin may be that we think we see” what ministry is all about “yet all the while we are blind to God’s world,” he said.
His own provincialism, Rankin said, having grown up in southern Mississippi, kept him blind for many years, as he interpreted the will of God “only as I had seen it demonstrated.”
“We have our theology tied up in a neat little package. We think we understand God’s will. We think our neat little office and our little church that nurtures us so well is the world.”
Yet ministers are neglecting multitudes, he said, such as Asia, where “it is incomprehensible to understand just how many are regimented, brainwashed, isolated, in starvation and totally unaware of the gospel and the rest of the world.”
“That world is the world that God would have us to see,” not just massive population statistics, demographics and geographics.
“See the masses striving with futility for karma, in spiritual darkness, caught in the grip of untruths.
“That’s the world that God knows. That’s the world that God loves.
“May he forgive us of our sin of the ethnocentric, self-centered, egotism that has kept us blind to that world.”
Of the 16 million people who call themselves Southern Baptists, Rankin said “less than 5 percent will ever consider that God may want them to go” and serve him in a global missions capacity.
Referring to the candidates waiting to be appointed Nov. 19, Rankin said while this was one of the largest groups ever to be appointed, “hundreds of other requests for help are going unfilled.”
Garrison spoke on knowing and proving God’s will. Reflecting on a time as a young adult when he planned out what he thought would be an innocent one-hour adventure on a freight train, he said he would never forget the feeling of suddenly realizing he was headed in the wrong direction.
“Sometimes in life you find yourself going a certain direction, and God sends subtle hints to let you know you’re going in the wrong direction,” just as he noticed from his view out the boxcar door that the evening shadows should have been falling the other way.
“Despite the success, the smooth ride, the beautiful scenery, I knew was headed in the wrong direction and I had to jump off,” despite how terrifying the act would be.
In the same way, “the things we add to our lives over the years tend to pull us away from doing God’s perfect will.”
Being in the religion business, ministers may all too easily find themselves going in the wrong direction, he said, “doing things the world’s way.”
Personally, he said, “the thought of going through life on the wrong train, in the wrong direction, taking my children with me, is a scary thought.”
Sjogren, a missionary to Muslims in the Arab world, presented what he called “a panoramic view of the amazing things God is doing around the world today” and encouraged students to “take a step back and catch a fresh new glimpse of what is happening on a global scale.” Besides speaking in chapel, he presented a multimedia seminar each afternoon called “God’s Heart for the Nations.” He is the author of two books, “Unveiled at Last” and “Run With a Vision.”
“The gospel is exploding across the globe,” said Sjogren, who is networking with the International Mission Board as its personnel focus on unreached people groups around the world.
“God is right in the middle of seeing his glory go to the ends of the earth,” he said, estimating 178,000 people around the world become Christians every day.
Citing what he called “verifiable evidences” of God’s “taking the world by storm,” Sjogren told of recent events, such as a village in Africa where people waited all day in a line five kilometers long to be baptized; a town in Asia where a Muslim teacher said he had a vision to go to a bridge to learn about God, left his bed in the middle of the night to go there and found Christian missionaries whose truck had broken down there at the bridge; of another village in Africa where an estimated 60 men had “the exact same dream” of God, told the rest of the village and, by the time missionaries arrived, the whole community was immediately ready to accept Christ as Lord and Savior.
Christianity is growing at three times the rate of the world’s population and, at current statistics, doubles every 10 years, he said, noting the world population takes 30 years to double.
“God is moving in ways we’ve never seen before,” Sjogren said. “Half of the people who have ever lived or died on this planet are alive today. No wonder God’s working today like never before.
“He’s writing a whole new chapter in world evangelization. Christianity used to be an Anglo religion. It’s now an African religion, a South American religion, an Asian religion.
“The Great Commission is so do-able right now. We could easily see the world evangelized in our lifetime,” Sjogren said.
“God forbid you should say ‘No’ to the world.”

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  • Debbie Moore