For three years the International Mission Board has been focusing the attention of Southern Baptists on "The Unfinished Task." Our Lord commissioned us with the task — to disciple the nations — almost 2,000 years ago.
The rather slow, incremental expansion of the gospel throughout history has begun to accelerate in recent years. But the task of evangelizing a lost world remains unfinished. Mission efforts have encountered walls of religious resistance. Government restrictions have inhibited the free flow of Christian witness. Many people groups are still without a church and access to the good news of God's love.
Our theme two years ago was "Loving the Lost." That's where the motivation for our commitment to go, to give, and to pray must begin — loving the lost as God loves them. Last year the focus was "Dispelling the Darkness," a powerful reminder that Jesus is the Light of the world and that the light of the gospel, once it is made known, overwhelms the spiritual darkness so prevalent among the nations.
What does it mean to "Plant with Passion"? Is it just a neat alliterated theme? Planting the seeds of the gospel in foreign soil will happen only when we have a passion to be on mission with God. Only when the passion of our lives is a heart for God can we hope to complete "The Unfinished Task."
Finishing the task means that churches must be planted as a result of our witness and ministry. With 5,000 missionaries, we now have one couple, family, or single missionary for every 4 million people around the world. Even diligent witnessing by so few among so many will not get the job done.
But when churches result, a nucleus of witness and ministry remains that goes beyond the missionary. And when those churches are not dependent on funding, buildings, and leadership from abroad, nothing can inhibit them from multiplying and reproducing into a church-planting movement. The goal is a network of multiplying, indigenous churches that will ensure that everyone in the world will have access to the gospel.
But there must be someone to plant the church. That is why we must plant our lives in response to God's call. Why would anyone leave the comforts and security of an American home and community to go to a foreign country, learn another language, and risk disease, loneliness, and rejection? Only because of a passion to plant one's life among the lost so that they too might know Jesus.
At this season of international mission emphasis your investment in the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering plants the resources and support needed to win a lost world. Will you give out of habit, faithfulness to a tradition, and what you feel you can afford in view of pending holiday expenses? Or will you give with a passion for a lost world without Christ?
Will you plant the resources that will support missionaries and their efforts to proclaim the gospel? Will you give generously so that additional people groups can be penetrated with the gospel? It is only when we plant the gospel, our lives, and our gifts with a passion for God and for the Great Commission He has given us that we can finish "The Unfinished Task."
Jerry Rankin is president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.