SBC Life Articles

No Better Time

The following are edited excerpts from the report by Dr. Jerry Rankin, president of the SBC International Mission Board, to the Executive Committee during their September meeting.

God is continuing to bless as we move forward with the seventh consecutive year of record missionary appointments. Our missionary personnel office, who is now nurturing over 3,000 candidates committed to missionary appointment, have predicted that we will come very close to a thousand new missionaries sent out and commissioned in 1999.

We're seeing unprecedented growth in journeymen as college students finish their education and give two years to reaching our world for Jesus Christ. God is blessing as He continues to call out Southern Baptists in unprecedented numbers.

Of course, this is creating a problem in itself. We have already exceeded the capacity of our Missionary Learning Center. We have had to shorten orientation sessions, go off site, at great expense, to have special orientation and furlough conferences. Our Board of Trustees are meeting to recommend a doubling of our size and facilities in order to train and equip the missionaries that God continues to call out.

Last year we rejoiced that Bold Mission Thrust goals of 10,000 volunteers were actually doubled as we surpassed 20,000 Southern Baptists working in short-term volunteer projects overseas. How grateful we are for the involvement of Southern Baptists, God's heart for the nations that is permeating our churches and our people.

Partners in the Harvest could not come at a better time. And how grateful we are that it's because of those unprecedented record-setting years of Cooperative Program receipts that we have been able to continue to send out those whom God is calling. But unless we meet the goals of Partners in the Harvest, we are seriously facing the consequences of having to restrict the flow of missionaries. That would be absolutely tragic because what is happening today – the accelerating harvest and reaching the last frontier – is not a result of our mission strategy and record numbers of missionaries. God is at work and He is calling us in faithfulness and obedience to join Him in what He is doing. We dare not be unfaithful and remiss in responding with the resources with which God has blessed us as Southern Baptists.

Last year we rejoiced to report 348,000 baptisms on mission fields where our personnel are serving. That's almost 1,000 baptisms a day. Four thousand two hundred and twenty-three new churches were started.

Not only is God accelerating the harvest, when we read of violence and natural disasters such as in Kosovo, our missionaries were there to minister and witness and find a response that is unprecedented among a Muslim community. When you hear of the earthquake in Istanbul, our missionaries were there.

What is exciting to us who monitor the status of global evangelization, are those inroads that God is making into the last frontier. One of the most memorable experiences of this past year was the summer tour of three countries where very few of our personnel as Southern Baptist have ever gone. In one of those countries our personnel, who have found creative ways to gain access and plant their lives in an incarnational witness, told of the number of baptisms in the first six months of this year being three times as many as the last three years put together. They spoke humorously of the situation of pressing these new believers into a few inches of water and down into the sand that they might be immersed in the waters of baptism secretly. Our regional leader was challenging our missionary personnel and saying that in the day in which we live as we move into the new millennium, God has placed in our hands an unprecedented opportunity of advance that is cleverly disguised as an impossible task.

Isaiah saw that task from God's perspective. And I was touched as I read in the thirty-fifth chapter of that book on that trip and the prophet said, "the wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad and the desert shall rejoice, and it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the excellency of our God" (Isaiah 35:1-2). And it is coming to pass in our day.

For Partners in the Harvest information, call your state Cooperative Program Office or 1-800-722-9407.



Note: Dr. Paige Patterson, President of the Southern Baptist Convention and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary made the following remarks to the Executive Committee in response to Dr. Jerry Rankin's report.

Dr. Rankin has said that if we're not very careful we will restrict the flow of missionaries. Can you imagine any turn of events that would be as serious, debilitating, and awful as that scenario, that we wouldn't have enough money to send the missionaries that are volunteering to go? That's what makes the 75th anniversary of our Cooperative Program and all of the effort we're putting into Partners in the Harvest so critically important. We can't let that happen. I tell you it is a reality because I talk to my fellow seminary presidents out there, I know the number of missionaries that are going through our seminaries right now, headed for international missions. And to think that we'd promised them we'll send them and we won't have the money to do it – I know that's not going to happen because we're going to get that whole $750 million. I promise you we're going to do it.

    About the Author

  • Jerry Rankin