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SBTS sees increase in summer missionaries

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s annual Great Commission Week included the commissioning of one its largest groups for summer missions.

Chuck Lawless, dean of the seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth, reported that 118 students will serve across the globe this summer and a total of 140 students were commissioned for missions service during the 2006-07 academic year.

“We commissioned more students this year than in years past and there are several factors,” Lawless said.

“There are more incoming students who are interested in missions in general; more incoming students who come to Southern Seminary and the Billy Graham School because of our commitment to missions; more faculty members taking an interest in missions and then leading trips; more Southern graduates on the field who invite our assistance; stronger Great Commission weeks: for example, we had Southern graduates on stateside assignment here [during the week].”

The seminary devoted two chapel services to missions and sponsored numerous other missions-related events, including a day of focused prayer for the persecuted church, during the April 16-20 emphasis.

One of the chapel speakers, David Sitton, founder of To Every Tribes Ministries and a missionary to Papua New Guinea, said he is praying that God would call out those who are willing to lay down their lives to proclaim the Gospel to unreached people groups.

“We are praying that you will be dislodged, that you will become released from lesser commitments, that you will become dissatisfied with priorities, that God will help us to rearrange our priorities around the Great Commission, and that many of you will be compelled by the Spirit to redeploy to the front line,” Sitton said.

Preaching from Luke 10:1-3, Sitton said missionaries are to serve as lambs willing to be slaughtered by wolves for the spread of the Gospel. Missionaries from the West, because of their affluent cultural background, often are the first to flee from the field when danger arises, Sitton observed. Flight from life-threatening Gospel work is contrary to the words of Christ in the New Testament, he said.

“We need new missionaries who are willing to die for Christ and the Gospel. We need lambs who are not afraid of wolves.”

The other chapel speaker, Darrell Cook, a missionary serving in Johannesburg, South Africa, with Southern Baptists’ International Mission Board, said some Christians need to consider serving God as missionaries rather than limiting their missions activities to giving and praying.

“We need to give. We need to pray. Many of you are pastors, and you need to preach about missions,” Cook said. “But for some of us, it might mean going.”

Cook recounted how God called him into international missions when he was over 60 years old. Those considering missions do not need to determine what God wants them to do long-term but simply must obey the commands God gives in the present, he said.

“The Lord doesn’t have to tell us what we’ll be doing down the road,” Cook said. “But He’s usually very clear on what He wants us to do today. Let me encourage you that whatever He’s telling you today, you do that. Tomorrow He will give your marching orders for the next assignment.”

Lawless, noting that Southern Seminary is “committed to preparing students to do the Great Commission,” said such preparation includes both classroom and on-the-field experience. “My prayer is that every Southern Seminary student would take at least one mission trip during his or her time on our campus,” Lawless said.

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