LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (BP)–Driving the overseas revitalization approved by Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board trustees is a twofold vision:
— that God is at work around the world in new and exciting ways.
— that the Foreign Mission board must rapidly restructure itself to keep pace with these divine initiatives.
Board President Jerry Rankin and Senior Vice President for Overseas Operations Avery Willis articulated that dual vision during the FMB trustee meeting April 7-9 in Little Rock, Ark. It’s the same message both have been preaching since assuming leadership at the board almost four years ago.
“God is accelerating a movement toward fulfilling his purpose of bringing a lost world to redemption,” Rankin told trustees. “We are in the greatest era of mission opportunity in history, and we must be willing to make whatever changes are necessary to keep pace with what God is doing.”
Rankin said Southern Baptists can take pride in their past missionary accomplishments, but if they rest on how God has used them in history, they will miss even greater opportunities unfolding for the future.
“What we’ve got to do is keep up with what God is doing today,” Willis said.
He said the Foreign Mission Board can no longer “measure ourselves by ourselves and commend ourselves by ourselves” but instead must see its ministry in the context of all that God is doing through and with national Christians worldwide as well as through stateside FMB global partners.
One of Willis’ illustrations focused on new “harvest” fields where Baptist partners in some countries are seeing extraordinary growth in numbers of baptisms — as high as 25 to 28 baptisms for each 100 church members, or nearly quadruple FMB averages, which themselves are triple stateside SBC averages.
FMB trustees approved the following fivefold rationale for the agency’s revitalization:
“A. God is accelerating the redemption of all the lost people of the world. We are in the midst of the greatest mission opportunity in history. We must make whatever changes necessary to keep pace with what God is doing to complete the unfinished task.
“B. At this unprecedented moment in Christian history, our missionary advance does not seem to be keeping pace with the opportunities or with what God is doing through others.
“C. Our organization and culture must be flexible, responsive, change-oriented and innovative to meet the challenge of continuous rapid change.
“D. To facilitate the ownership and responsibility of each missionary to maximize his or her potential and to fulfill his or her God given call.
“E. To provide administration and leadership that will function efficiently, eliminate overlap and create synergistic effectiveness.”
Though trustees and administrators agreed on massive structural changes to revitalize the 152-year-old board, Rankin said “the real evidence of change will come when the following characteristics are reflected:
— “A passion to know Christ and make him known with a total abandonment that supersedes concerns of finances, family and personal fulfillment.
— “A desire to focus on our own ministry and calling rather than demanding the right to be consulted in every mission decision whether it involves us or not.
— “A confidence and willingness to follow the wisdom and guidance of God-appointed leadership whether we necessarily understand or agree.
— “A recognition that the FMB provides the best, most equitable support possible, within available resources, and letters about cost of living become a thing of the past.
— “A passion to share at home what God is doing and mobilize support for missions so there is no consideration of what counts as a furlough obligation or not.
— “An identification with God’s global agenda that moves us beyond petty provincialism of concern for one’s own mission and area of the world.”