RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Passion for God — more than the needs of a lost world or even the command of Christ himself — is what must compel Southern Baptists to take the gospel to a lost world, International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin told 79 new missionaries Aug. 1.
Rankin delivered his charge to the new missionaries before a capacity crowd of 2,200 during International Missions Week at Ridgecrest, a LifeWay Conference Center in North Carolina. The appointment service capped six days of seminars, workshops, missionary testimonies and inspirational messages.
Almost 600 emeritus missionaries were guests of honor for the week, attending their own track of conferences designed to help them with the challenges of missionary retirement and update them on what God is doing around the world through the IMB.
During the Thursday evening appointment service, Rankin told the new workers that only passion will enable them to cope with the difficulties and discouragement they will face.
“It’s not sufficient just to respond to the needs of a world that’s lost,” Rankin said. “It’s not sufficient for you to be going out of a sense of obligation that Christ said go and make disciples of all the nations.
“There’s only one thing that will fulfill your call and allow God to empower you and use you, only one thing that will keep you there to persevere through the trials and discouragement, and that’s the passion God places in your heart. I pray that a passion for a lost world, a passion to be obedient to the call of Christ, a passion for God and the world that will know him will be what takes you to the mission field.”
One new missionary, whose family will serve a people group in southern Asia, said he was shocked to learn that so many people have never even heard about Jesus — and God’s call overcame his fear.
“As a student at Southeastern [Baptist Theological] Seminary, I was afraid God would send me to the mission field,” he said. “But it was in a missions class that I learned about the 1.7 billion people who have never heard. I no longer felt fear. I felt called.”
Two of the new missionaries said they had been reluctant to obey Christ’s command to make disciples of all the world’s tribes.
“During a Sunday morning worship service, God showed me his desire for me to serve him overseas,” said one, headed with his family for the IMB’s Southeast Asia and Oceania region. “For years, I had been disobedient to his call, but on that day I said yes.”
“Three years ago, I came to International Missions Week unwilling to sing ‘Wherever He Leads, I’ll Go,'” said another, whose family will be moving to Central Asia. “But the Lord broke my heart that week.”
One young woman, who will serve in eastern Africa with her husband and five children, testified clearly about the passion that was propelling them overseas.
“We and our precious five children were privileged to live among an unreached people,” she said. “And our hearts are breaking because of the special love God has given us for a people who are living without a hope.”
Nine years after a car crash took her missionary husband’s life and seriously injured her, another new worker said she is returning to the mission field.
“I was devastated when my husband, Jim, was killed in an auto accident on the mission field. Yet my call remained strong,” said Jan Johnsonius. “Today is the anniversary of that accident. God has transformed a day of sadness into a day of celebration and new beginnings as I continue on mission with him to Spain.”
Rankin encouraged the new missionaries to let God’s passion for a lost world fill their hearts as they move toward their overseas assignments.
“Why are you here tonight?” Rankin asked the new missionaries. “You are going not just because of the need of a lost world, not just because our Lord said to go, but because of the passion God has planted in your heart that compels you.
“It’s that passion that will enable you to persevere. It’s that passion that will continue to draw you to your Savior to depend on him. And it’s that compelling heart for God that will allow him to empower you and pour his grace upon you.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: TESTIMONY, CALLED, HONOR GUARD, BLESSING, HONORED COLLEAGUE and FRIEND OF MISSIONS.