MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BP)–Jerry Rankin issued a challenge to “WIGTAKE” in an address at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary’s annual Missionary Day.
Rankin, president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, told the students and faculty that some missionaries use the acronym as a way of describing their commitment — “Whatever it’s going to take” — to reach the world.
When a country in the Caribbean Basin became dangerous enough for the State Department to issue an advisory for all non-essential personnel to leave, one family called their missionary children to ask if they were coming home, Rankin recounted.
The missionaries replied, “We are essential personnel!”
Commenting on the three missionaries who were martyred in Yemen in late 2003, Rankin said, “That gunman did not take their lives from them when he killed them Dec. 30th because he could not take from them what they had already given. Every day they died to self.”
Later, as the chapel congregation sang, “Wherever He Leads, I’ll Go,” Rankin told of the funeral of Martha Myers, one of the missionaries killed by a lone gunman. “One of her friends stood and said, ‘When we were growing up in church, we sang, Wherever He Leads, I’ll Go. I sang it, but Martha did it.'”
In place of morning classes, students at the Memphis, Tenn., campus spent time in guided prayer led by career missionaries on stateside assignment. Following corporate prayer led by Mid-America President Michael Spradlin, the students rotated through eight prayer rooms praying specifically for nations around the world.
Rankin, in drawing his Feb. 11 message from Romans 15:18-21, said, “[The Apostle] Paul’s mission was consistent with God’s purpose, characterized by God’s power, and compelled by God’s passion.”
Paul never forgot that his calling was to bring about “obedience to the faith among all nations” (Romans 1:5). Challenging local pastors in attendance, Rankin reminded them they are to bring their churches into consistency with God’s Kingdom purpose of reaching the nations.
“Why should God choose to bless and favor our ministries?” Rankin asked, and then answered from Psalm 67:2, “So that Thy way may be made known upon the earth, Thy salvation among the nations.”
Urging students to seek a mission characterized by God’s power, Rankin said, “We must never forget that the Great Commission is framed by two verses — ‘All power is given unto Me in heaven and on earth’ and ‘Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'”
Missionaries who are successfully planting new churches agree, Rankin said, that, “Yes, we had a strategy … but that didn’t produce the results. It’s the power of Jesus Christ in the message of the Gospel.'”
Rankin reminisced about visiting a previously unreached people group in North Africa that had seen miraculous growth in the number of believers and churches. The leaders of the group told him they had become believers when they heard the Word of God read on the radio. “That Word has power,” Rankin declared.
He then told of a policeman in another country who was assigned to keep watch at the local police station where confiscated Bibles were locked away in a room. “What is it about this Book,” the man wondered, “that is so dangerous that our government will not allow our people to read it?” After he began to read it, he sought out a missionary and asked, “Who is this Jesus that I’ve been reading about?”
Rankin concluded by telling of meeting with a thousand missionaries and Christian workers in an Asian country. As they heard various testimonies of torture and death for the faith, Rankin felt led to issue a challenge to the gathering: “How many of you, if God so chose in His providence, in order for your people to enter the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, would be willing to see that happen at the cost of your life? Would you please stand?”
Expecting a handful, Rankin was overwhelmed to see the whole room stand up. “I fell across the pulpit and wept,” he said.
“Paul did not do what he did because there was a need or because God met him on that Damascus road with a very personal Great Commission call,” Rankin said, “but rather by a sense of abandonment to God’s passion for the nations. …
“Our world continues to die,” Rankin said, “for lack of someone willing to go and give his life for Jesus Christ.”