NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Every believer has a responsibility to reach the nations for Jesus Christ, Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board, told students at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary during a global missions chapel service.
Most Southern Baptists are familiar with the Great Commission, but many think it is a special call for an elite few who have had a burning bush type of experience, Rankin said.
“How readily we dismiss any sense of responsibility and fail to find the motivation that would lead us to lay our lives on the altar, making them available to fulfill the Great Commission.”
Rankin, in a Nov. 27 message, noted that the first command Jesus gave His disciples after “follow me” was “look” — to lift their eyes toward the fields that were white unto harvest.
Believers must see a lost world as God sees it -– a world of people groups without Christ, Rankin said.
“I think Jesus realized that until we looked and saw a lost world as God sees it, that we would not find the motivation or the compelling thrust to go into that world, to be His witnesses or to make disciples.”
Rankin shared several stories from an emeritus missionary celebration at Ridgecrest, N.C., in September in noting how God is at work in the world bringing people to Jesus. One of the 1,000-plus retired missionaries, who was appointed in 1950, noted that the then-Foreign Mission Board had around 60 missionaries in 27 different countries at the time. Now, there are now more than 5,300 missionaries working with more than 1,100 people groups in 184 countries.
“Last year over 100 unreached people groups were engaged with the Gospel for the first time hearing of the love of God,” Rankin said, noting, “God is using the turmoil and chaos and warfare and natural disasters and political upheaval to draw people to spiritual answers that only Jesus can provide.”
Rankin asked, “Do we not see that God has brought us into the Kingdom for such a time as this? Will we not open our eyes and see the opportunity as it has never existed before to take the Gospel literally to the very ends of the earth?”
Since 2001, the number of overseas churches planted has escalated from around 4,000 a year until last year when there were 25,000-plus new churches started. For the last eight years, IMB missionaries have reported an average of more than 1,000 new believers a day being baptized around the world, with 600,000 new believers baptized last year alone.
Jesus not only told believers to look at the world, Rankin said, but He has commanded them to love. “Someone has correctly said that the great commandment and the Great Commission are inextricably linked,” he said. “For you see, it is love that makes possible the phenomenon of sacrifice because sacrifice is others-centered.”
Rankin concluded, “It is not a matter of who is called to go and who is permitted to stay, but He calls us all to look and to love and then to live out that faith wherever He places us.”
NOBTS President Chuck Kelley also challenged seminary faculty, students and staff during the global missions service to determine their personal missionary responsibility.
“The truth of the matter is if Christ is the King, then we must acknowledge His authority to send us wherever He wants us to go -– into danger or into safety, into the unfamiliar or into the familiar,” Kelley said. “It could be your struggles to learn Greek and Hebrew are God’s way of preparing you to learn another language to preach Jesus in a different tongue or to be the first person who will speak of Jesus to a lost people group of the world.”
Katie Nalls is a writer for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.