News Articles

Rankin, Elliff convey God’s call to New Orleans seminarians

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Throughout Global Missions Week at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, all of the activities and sermons were leading to one moment –- a chance for the next generation of missionaries to respond to God’s call.

When International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin offered that opportunity, a number of students responded by committing their lives to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Rankin did not mince words in his message: He assured the audience that a call to global missions is no easy task.

“God is not primarily concerned about your safety and your comfort and your security,” Rankin said. “God’s primary concern is His glory among the nations.”

Rankin noted the paradox facing missionaries today: In a world of increasing turmoil, God is bringing about a great harvest.

“We are living in a time of probably the greatest mission advance in history, but our news is just filled with chaos, disaster, warfare, violence [and] political upheaval,” he said. “It’s a time when God is moving as never before.”

Since the turn of the new century, Rankin said, IMB missionaries have reported an average of more than 1,000 new believers per day who are being saved and baptized. This year, IMB missionaries already have baptized nearly a half-million new believers, he said, and more than 100 unreached people groups have been engaged with the Gospel for the first time.

“That didn’t happen because of our vision and our strategies,” Rankin said. “It’s the power and providence of God moving to fulfill His mission.”

During the last decade, opposition to the Gospel also has become more fierce, with Rankin noting that in the past four years alone, eight IMB missionaries have died in violent attacks. Three were murdered in a hospital in Yemen, a church planter in the Philippines died during a terrorist bombing and more recently, four workers were killed in Iraq.

Rankin called the missionaries who lost their lives “those of whom the world was not worthy” -– echoing the words of Hebrews 11:38.

“The ones that God chooses to use in establishing His Kingdom, in extending His Gospel to the ends the earth are only those who are willing to give themselves in total abandonment to our Lord Jesus Christ,” Rankin said.

He said that “those of whom the world is not worthy” focus on eternal things, follow where God leads and turn their backs on comfort to identify with hurting people.

Earlier during the Oct. 24-26 missions emphasis, Tom Eliff, the IMB’s vice president for spiritual nurture and church growth, challenged the seminarians with a message from Matthew 9. In this passage about the great harvest and few workers, he pointed out four bare “minimums” required for mission service.

Christians must see something, feel something, know something and do something based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 9, Elliff said.

“The Bible says here that ‘Jesus saw the multitude …,’” Eliff said. “When He saw them, here was His impression –- ‘these folks are desperate.’”

Jesus compared the people to sheep without a shepherd. Eliff explained that “sheep without a shepherd” are helpless -– as good as dead.

“Take a look at your world, because everyone without Christ is literally dead in trespasses and sins,” he said. “Anyone without Jesus is not just desperate, but is dead.”

Eliff, in noting that Christians must feel something, said, “Jesus was moved with compassion when He saw the multitudes. This was a visceral response. It stirred Him. It hurt Him in His heart to see the condition of the people.”

Christians must know that the harvest is plentiful, Elliff continued.

Eliff shared a list of staggering statistics. Six and a half billion people are living today, with the world’s population growing by 100 million per year. Of those 6.5 billion, 1.7 billion people have no access to the Gospel, he said. Another 2 billion have only limited access to the Gospel, while more than half the world’s people have little or no access to the Gospel.

And, noting that believers must do something, Elliff pointed to verse 38, saying that the first task is to pray that God would raise up workers to send into the harvest. With that prayer, each believer must consider his or her role in the harvest, Elliff said, closing his message by asking students, professors and staff members to consider what else God would have them do about global missions.

After his message, Elliff hosted a luncheon for local pastors to encourage them to support international missions through their churches.

Throughout the week IMB representative met with students exploring God’s call to missions. IMB missionaries gave testimonies in classrooms and in chapel, and mission displays from around the world dotted the Hardin Student Center.