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‘Raise the dead to life,’ Rankin urges new missionaries

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BP)–When ordinary Christians open their hearts to God’s love for a lost world, they find themselves in the extraordinary position of raising the dead to life, International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin told 38 new missionaries appointed March 15 at First Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C.

The new workers were welcomed by Pastor Charles Page, who only a month earlier had awakened from 10 days of unconsciousness following cancer treatment. He moved slowly to the pulpit after removing a surgical mask that protects him from infection.

“First Baptist Church of Charlotte is a church that loves missions with all its corporate heart,” said Page, who has led the congregation since 1991. “We love Southern Baptists, and we love our International Mission Board.”

He then read Acts 1:1-8 and voiced a prayer of blessing on the evening’s events.

Rankin asked the new missionaries if they were shocked by the idea that they were called to raise people from the dead.

“It may be startling for you to hear me say that we are sending you out to raise the dead,” Rankin said, “but you have been called to a world that is dead in trespasses and sins. Paul told the believers in Ephesus that, prior to being saved, they were separated from God, without hope and, due to the condemnation of their sin, spiritually dead.

“But when one comes to faith in Jesus Christ, they are literally resurrected to a new life, a Christ-life that is eternal,” he said. “The reason you are being sent is to bring life to those who are dead through the message you proclaim.”

Drawing on the account of Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:38-44), Rankin challenged the new missionaries to “roll away the stone” and “unbind them and set them free.”

Just as the entrance to Lazarus’ tomb was blocked by a stone, the new missionaries will find people whose hearts are blocked by social pressure, distorted worldviews, pluralism, humanistic philosophy and false religion, Rankin said.

“You can remove the stone — the barriers that keep people from believing in Jesus — by the life you live,” Rankin told the new workers. “When you build relationships that allow them to see the difference Christ makes, then they will begin to understand that the message you proclaim is authentic.”

However, the missionary’s task does not stop there, Rankin said. New believers must be set free from old habits, superstitions and cultural traditions.

“You unbind them and set them free by teaching the Word of God,” Rankin said. “It is amazing when they discover the reality of 1 John 4:4, ‘Greater is He that is in you than he who is in the world.’ A radical change will occur when they understand they no longer have to fear the demons and spirits that dominate their lives and villages. As they learn to obey and live as disciples, they will be unbound from old habits and beliefs and be set free to a victorious new life in Christ.”

For the miracle of salvation, God needs only regular people willing to follow His heart for a lost world, instead of their own, the new missionaries said.

“I am discovering that God can use ordinary people for His purposes,” said one new worker, who is headed for Kenya with his wife and four children. “I never imagined that God could use a graphic designer like me in missionary service.”

“I struggle daily with leaving my grandchildren,” said another, who is going to Western Europe with her husband. “In all of this, God says to me, ‘My grace and strength are sufficient for this day. Your obedience will be blessed.'”

A woman who will serve with her husband in South Asia said: “As a young girl, I traveled with my grandmother over the Colorado prairie to tiny farming communities where she taught Bible clubs. I was fascinated by the colorful, exciting missionary stories she told. When international missionaries would visit our little, white country church, I longed to serve Jesus in faraway places as they did. I am so thankful that God has granted me the privilege of serving. I am believing Him for great and mighty things.”

“My life was about ambition, climbing the corporate ladder and acquiring more toys,” her husband said. “After my first trip to South Asia, I looked up the ladder and realized it wasn’t bringing me any closer to God or my family. I pleaded with the Lord to allow me to serve Him. He gave me the desire to go.”

A man who will serve with his wife in the Pacific Rim region said: “In my intro to missions class at seminary, [the professor] said, ‘If you say I won’t go there, learn that language, eat that type of food or share Jesus with those people,’ in effect you are saying, ‘As far as I’m concerned, those people can spend an eternity in hell.’ I realized that this was what I had been saying to God. I went home that night and told my wife, ‘I think God’s calling us to missions’ and she said, ‘OK.'”

“I live in a place where people can easily hear about Christ. I have the ability to go somewhere where people haven’t heard,” his wife said. “There will be things we have to give up or do without, but when compared to someone gaining eternal life, it’s all worth it.”

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  • Mark Kelly