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Rankin: ‘Closed mind, calloused heart, reluctant will’ undercut

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–“When I was saved at the age of 10, I remember thinking as I walked the aisle, `I wish everyone in the world could know Jesus,'” said Jerry Rankin April 14 to a chapel filled with students, faculty and staff as well as missionaries from around the world dressed in the clothing of the cultures in which they serve.
Rankin, formerly a missionary and area director for Southern Asia and the Pacific and currently president of the International Mission Board, spoke at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary during Global Missions Week. He shared that his call to missions found its focus in a junior high geography class when he became convicted about the multitudes of lost people in Asia.
“As we move into the 21st century, God is at work as never before,” Rankin declared. “It is just absolutely amazing how he is accelerating the harvest all over the world. The Ukraine has seen 150 new churches started and 9,000 new believers just last year. We have more missionary personnel in China than in any previous time in missions history. One of our teachers reported seeing 1,400 people baptized in one day in the church where she attends. In 1998 missionaries reported 348,000 baptisms; that is almost a thousand a day!
“And yet the other side of the picture,” Rankin noted, “are those multitudes who have yet to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. Unreached people groups, isolated culturally and geographically in the Muslim world and former communist countries where missionaries have never been allowed, have no churches in their midst and no Scriptures in their language. And yet 2,000 years ago, our Lord sent us to disciple the nations and peoples of the world.
“We rejoice in six consecutive years of record missionary appointments,” Rankin continued. “In fact, if we continue at just last year’s level of appointments, we will reach 5,000 missionaries by the end of next year. But they spread pretty thin around a lost world with 1.7 billion people who have yet to hear the name of Jesus.
“The question we need to be concerned with today is, ‘Why so few when the need is so massive and so great?'” Rankin stated.
Referring to the wedding feast parable in Matthew 22, Rankin said of verse 14, “The emphasis I want you to understand today is the fact that many never received an invitation. And today Jesus is saying to go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in, to declare that message that Jesus saves, that they might be among the chosen ones.
“God’s desire is that whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. But we are confronted with the question, `How can they call on him of whom they have not believed?’ and `How can they believe on him of whom they have not heard?'”
Rankin continued, “And when God desires that his name be exalted among the nations, that none should perish, why is it that so many are called but so few are chosen to go? Jesus told his disciples they were the chosen ones. But why so few chosen relative to the needs of a lost world?
“Is it within God’s will that only one in every 2.8 million go and declare the good news of Christ?” Rankin asked. “Why is it that approximately 100,000 Southern Baptists would respond to God’s call to ministry to serve as pastors, church staff and in denominational entities and we think it is great that we would approach 5,000 who would go to reach the 95 percent of the world who have never heard of Jesus?”
Rankin spoke of a church in Richmond, Va., receiving more than 100 resumes from ministers interested in serving as their pastor. “However, in spite of record appointments [to the mission field], less than 20 percent of the personnel requests from around the world will be filled each year.
“Is it in God’s economy and stewardship his will that many would be called to serve here in America and so few would be chosen to go overseas?” challenged Rankin. “Or could it be that God is calling us to go to the nations and the peoples of the world? Why is it that so few are chosen? God is calling out the laborers but the laborers are not responding because of a closed mind, a calloused heart or a reluctant will.”
Rankin explained a closed mind is often the result of assuming a geographic limitation as to where God can use a believer. A calloused heart is often the result of the hardening which comes after viewing so much of the world’s suffering on a remote-controlled television from the comfort of the American lifestyle, he said. And a reluctant will is just being unwilling to surrender and trust God and follow him wherever he leads.
Using Isaiah’s call in Isaiah 6:8 as an example, Rankin said, “Isaiah’s call was not a personal call. It was a generic call. God said, `Whom shall I send? Who will go?’ Isaiah heard it as a personal call. Isaiah had come into a relationship with God in which he saw God high and lifted up and exalted. God had every right to lay claim on his life.
“God did not call Isaiah,” Rankin noted. “Isaiah came to God inviting God to send him. Maybe that is why many are called but few are chosen. God is calling many to go, but who are the chosen ones? They are the ones who have opened their ears to that still small voice to hear the heart cry of God.
“Those who are chosen by God are not those who are experienced and skilled and gifted,” said Rankin, focusing on availability, not ability. “God calls us not so much to a place, but to himself, and when you respond to that call, it really doesn’t matter where you are.”
In a closing reference to the Great Commission, Rankin said, “I am still struggling with the theology that would take a command and mandate from our Lord and say that it does not apply until he calls us to be obedient to that command.”
In that case, Rankin said the real problem is “our hearts and our ears,” urging all present to respond with a commitment to missions.

    About the Author

  • Larry B. Elrod