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Rankin: God sets the records; SBC must keep burden for lost

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Chart-busting missionary appointments, record missions offerings and all-time-high numbers of new churches and preaching points overseas are God’s work, not the International Mission Board’s, IMB President Jerry Rankin told a chapel audience Jan. 7 at the board’s Richmond, Va., headquarters.
In fact, Southern Baptists must beware of spiritual pride and capture God’s heart for the world’s lost billions if they want God to use them to their full potential, he said.
Southern Baptists sent 885 new missionaries overseas in 1998 — a 33.4 percent increase over 1997. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions passed $100 million in 1997. Gifts through the Southern Baptist Convention’s unified giving plan — the Cooperative Program — continue to surge.
In 1998, Southern Baptist missionaries and their overseas partners reported 4,223 new churches and 31,567 preaching points — increases of 25.4 percent and 41.7 percent respectively.
“We must not take pride in what we are doing but realize we are taking part in what God is doing,” Rankin told the assembly. “God has simply given us the privilege of helping him finish the unfinished task: evangelizing a lost world.
“If we ever lose our burden for a world in darkness, we have lost the motivation that will bring glory to God in our service.”
During the chapel service, Rankin unveiled a new three-year emphasis on “the Unfinished Task,” which will be the overall theme for both the International Mission Study and the Week of Prayer for International Missions. The 1999 emphasis — “Loving the Lost” — challenges Southern Baptists to capture God’s burden for more than 2,000 ethnic people groups with virtually no chance to hear the gospel. The two subsequent years will focus on “Dispelling the Darkness” and “Planting with Passion.”
The SBC Executive Committee recently agreed to merge the annual International Mission Study with the Week of Prayer for International Missions and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. The 1999 Week of Prayer is set for Nov. 28-Dec. 5.
A large banner draped across the front of the chapel proclaimed the theme, while board staff members cut cakes decorated with the new logo. The celebration reflected a renewed IMB commitment to doing “Whatever It Takes” to take the gospel to every last ethnic people group in the world.
“One day the task will be finished,” Rankin said. “Jesus said the gospel will be preached in all the world as a witness to every nation.
“I don’t know when that will be, but we must keep pushing forward. We must not stop short of all God has for us to experience.”

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  • Mark Kelly