This past Saturday we had our annual Associational Meeting. For those of you not familiar with the way Baptists do things "Associations" are local groups of Baptist churches that cooperate together to do mission work in their area and many times beyond. The treat this year was having Dr. Jerry Rankin, President of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board (IMB)as our key speaker. First I would like to say that I felt in everything he said and did that he is a man of integrity and humility. I appreciate that so much.
He began with a statement which, after making it, he could have sat down and let an invitation be given. He said, "Jesus did not give the Great Commission to the IMB to do on behalf of Southern Baptists." He was identifying a common sin in our churches of thinking that once we give our money for missions we have done all we need to do. We do not see the need to go ourselves.
He went on to speak of how the various crisis around the world are opportunities for God to work. He says he has seen God do more in the last 10 years than during his entire missionary life which included 23 years as a church planter in Indonesia and now 14 years as head of the IMB. He suspects that baptisms of new Christians through our work may well top 600,000 this year. We have been used of God to reach 100 new people groups in the last 8 years.
One of the powerful illustrations of the need for more people to "go" and do missions is found in a contrast of the effects of hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the Tsunami that hit Sri Lanka and India a couple of years ago. He pointed out that the twin sisters of destruction had destroyed over 600 church buildings. The tsunami on the other hand killed over 250,000 people in a brief moment of time and destroyed zero evangelical churches. It destroyed no churches because there were none there to destroy.
Of course he gave some examples of the work before us. There are three hundred people groups in Central Asia who have no Good News witness. 1.3 billion people live in isolated geographic or culturally separated areas with no Good News witness.
He used Psalm 67 as an example of how we read verse 1 and ask God to bless us. That verse is often used as a blessing at the end of a worship service. He noted we rarely follow that up with verse 2: "...that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations." Ouch.
He told a funny story of starting as President of the IMB and knowing next to nothing about computers. He did, however, learn of the spell check feature. His program did not recognize the word "unreached". When he clicked on the suggested spellings it offered "unrelated". He applied this to unreached people being unrelated to God. Our task is to help "relate" them.
Somewhere near the end he noted Jesus' perspective on missions from Luke 24:46-47: He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations,..."
His message was especially on target for me in a week when God had already spoken of a need for me and for our church to identify and try to reach an unreached people across the globe.
I wrote down a side note as he was preaching. I remembered that Avery Willis, author of MasterLife discipleship and my seminary professor in church growth, Ebbie Smith and the past two presidents of the IMB, Keith Parks and Jerry Rankin all served in Indonesia. Coincidence?