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Rankin: New missionaries are ‘champions of Southern Baptists’

LEXINGTON, Ky. (BP)–Gesturing toward the Kentucky Wildcats’ seven basketball national championship banners hanging in Rupp Arena, Jerry Rankin noted that the 67 new missionaries seated on the stage “are the champions of Southern Baptists.”

“They are the ones who have been willing to focus on that purpose — to do whatever it takes to take the Gospel of Christ to a lost world,” said Rankin, president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.

And Rankin wasn’t the only one comparing mission service to basketball during the Nov. 11 missionary appointment service held in conjunction with the Kentucky Baptist Convention annual meeting.

Coach Tubby Smith, who guided the Wildcats to their most recent championship in 1998, welcomed the crowd of 3,500 people to Lexington’s Rupp Arena.

Comparing missions service to “making that pass to the open man or helping out on defense,” Smith said, “That’s what missionaries are doing; it is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Urging the new missionaries to maintain their focus and integrity, he affirmed their efforts to “bring the Gospel to all parts of the world.”

Noting that the missionaries “can’t do it alone,” Smith reminded the crowd, “You’ve got to have someone who supports you in everything you do. … This is inspiring for me. We’ll be praying. God bless you all.”

In addition to the 67 missionaries who were being appointed, Rankin said there were two new missionaries in the audience “who are going to places so sensitive in a restrictive country that they cannot be identified publicly.” The crowd responded by giving the anonymous missionaries a standing ovation.

During his challenge to the missionaries, Rankin said, “How impressive it is that these 67 are going in obedience to the command of our Lord to share the Gospel of Christ. They have a unique calling and sense of God’s leadership to the places they are called to serve.”

Rankin asked, however, “What are 67 among so many? What are 67 among the multitudes and lost of the world who have never heard of Jesus?”

Citing Jesus’ statement in Matthew 22:14 that “many are called, but few are chosen,” he added, “It’s obvious in the parable of the feast that those who were chosen are those who responded to the invitation.”

The missionaries being commissioned “are the ones God has chosen to go out at this time,” Rankin said.

Citing recent budget shortfalls that have led the IMB to put other appointments on hold, he added, “There are 100 others who would love to be sitting where they are sitting. They’re waiting for Southern Baptists to provide the support so they may join this host and go out and proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth.”

Even amid financial limitations, “once again we must ask: ‘Why so few among so many?'” Rankin reiterated. “Only a few are willing to lay their life on the altar and surrender to God’s will.”

Noting Isaiah’s response to God’s call, he said, “It was a generic call. He heard the voice of God saying, ‘Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?’ He heard it as a call to his life and his heart and he responded, ‘Here am I, Lord; send me.’

“Why did Isaiah hear that heart cry of God when many of us have never heard that burden and cry of people who never knew that Jesus died for them?” Rankin asked. “He saw God in all of His holiness. He recognized the Lordship of God and that He had every right and claim on his life.

“We’ll never hear that call of God until we see God in all of His exaltation and sovereignty and Lordship,” Rankin emphasized. “God doesn’t call the worthy, the adequate, the equipped. He equips the called ones.”

Inviting listeners to respond publicly to God’s call, Rankin said, “God is still waiting for you to lay your life on the altar and say, ‘Here am I; send me.’ You can never be sure you’re in the center of God’s will until you say, ‘Lord, wherever you lead, I’ll go.'”

Approximately 40 people responded to the public invitation, making their way to the front of the arena platform to kneel and pray.

“God desires the nations to know Him,” Rankin concluded, “but He has chosen to carry that message through you and me.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: THE CHOSEN FEW, RESPONDING IN PRAYER, TUBBY’S SUPPORT and CROWD OF ENCOURAGEMENT.

    About the Author

  • Trennis Henderson

    Trennis Henderson is the national correspondent for WMU (Woman’s Missionary Union). A Baptist journalist for more than 35 years, Henderson is a former editor of the Western Recorder of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Arkansas Baptist News state convention newsjournal.

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