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Articles by Jerry Rankin

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Missionaries who raise their own support are often called "faith" missionaries in contrast with those sent out by denominational agencies such as the International Mission Board (IMB), which provides support and benefits.

However, the IMB does not generate income to support the more than 5,300 missionaries overseas receiving financial support. We are totally dependent on the gifts of Southern Baptists.

It takes faith to believe God will provide $170 million through a once-a-year missions offering named after a 19th-century missionary. It takes faith to trust Southern Baptists to have a mission heart and allocate a percentage of their church gifts to the Cooperative Program.

Last year, the International Mission Board sent out 841 new missionaries — none were delayed in leaving for their field of assignment because they couldn't raise funds. They followed God's will, confident God would provide for their needs through our churches.

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I grew up during the Cold War era, when political tensions between the United States and the former Soviet Union dominated global diplomacy. Missile silos and bomb shelters reflected the paranoia of a massive military conflict between the communist bloc and the free world.

I remember praying for people behind the Iron Curtain, isolated and barred from religious freedom. We heard stories of persecution, secret believers, and accounts of Bible smuggling. No one living at the time can forget the amazement and elation when the Berlin Wall came down, and a short time later, the megalithic USSR disintegrated into fifteen autonomous republics.

The new openness to the West enabled Southern Baptists and other Christians to flood into this formerly restricted part of the world. We were delighted to find far more believers than we had dared to imagine. They persevered in their faith and welcomed Christians from abroad to partner with them in proclaiming the Gospel, training leaders, a...

I will never forget the horrible realization three years ago: we would have to defer missionary appointments due to lack of financial resources. After all, we are a missionary-sending agency of the largest evangelical denomination in the world with unlimited potential resources.

Each of the previous two years more than one thousand new missionaries had been sent around the world, and more candidates were in the process of appointment than ever before. The critical nature of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering became evident as never before. It is not just providing additional support beyond the Cooperative Program to underwrite the budget of the International Mission Board. It is the means for supporting God-called missionaries to take the Gospel to a lost world.

We, in America, tend to ...

Historians identify William Carey's departure for India in 1793 as launching the modern missionary movement. But most would acknowledge that more has been accomplished in global missions following World War II than in the previous one hundred and fifty years.

However, with the disintegration of the communist power block in the last decade of the 20th century — along with advances in communication, travel, and technology — progress toward fulfillment of the Great Commission has accelerated more in the first five years of the 21st century than the last 212 years combined!

Chaos, conflicts, and political upheaval have combined to create an openness to spiritual answers that only the gospel can provide. A focus beyond nations to evangelize every people group has made the good news accessi...

I am still overwhelmed with joy and praise to God as I think of Southern Baptists giving $136.2 million to the 2003 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. It represents the largest dollar increase in the offering's 115-year history. But more importantly, it enabled the International Mission Board to appoint more missionaries to impact a lost world with the gospel. Thank you, Southern Baptists! You felt God's desire for every soul to know Him and give Him the honor He is due. You were distressed that qualified missionaries were being held back for lack of finances. And you responded with a vision and passion only God's Spirit can inspire! We are especially grateful to Woman's Missionary Union for their wholehearted partnership in encouraging Southern Baptists to step up to this tremendous challenge.

Last year, International Mission Board personnel initiated work among 146 new people groups identified as "unreached." Multitudes gained access to the gospel for the first time.

Church-planting movements are taking off in China, Latin America, and even Northern Africa. So many people came to Christ in one African city that mosques had to close. One strategy coordinator reached his four-year goal of 200 churches among his assigned people group in just six months. It is not unusual to hear testimonies of God's miraculous power manifested in signs and wonders when people are confronted with the claims of Christ.

I am often asked why we don't see such things happening in America. Why do American Christians, with thousands of churches and a history of Christian witness, seem to make so little impact on our society? We expect to be confronted with the tragic consequences of spiritual darkness in cultures where the gospel is not known. How do we explain it in ou...

Occasionally someone has asked me, "What is the passion of your life?" I could readily articulate my sense of purpose or what I perceived to be God's will for my life. I could talk about my personal desires, dreams and visions, but this question gave me pause.

I am passionate about my family. Occasionally I have been quite passionate in rooting for a favorite team at a sporting event. I have been known to express passion for our missions task, but does this represent the passion of my life?

Is there a compelling force, filled with emotion, driving my decisions, focusing my attention, energizing my actions, motivating my behavior toward a desired accomplishment? Or do I just live life as it comes, accepting whatever may result?

God's passion is that all the peoples of the earth would know Him and praise Him. It is expressed in the book of Revelation when those without number from every tribe, people, tongue and nation would worship Him, for He ...

The Unfinished Task: Planting With Passion

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 gospe...

Darkness Turns to Dawning

Jesus made the contrast clear. There is no equivocation in distinguishing the truth found in Him alone from that claimed by all other religious and cultural traditions. He could not have affirmed it more strongly as His argument with the Pharisees reached a peak of confrontation.

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, 'I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life' (John 8:12, NKJV).

He put the global, eternal purpose of His mission to redeem a lost world into perspective when He quoted the prophet Isaiah: The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned (Matt. 4:16, NKJV).

That light began its unquenchable illumination when the dawning of the resurrection morning overpowered the darkness that had enveloped the cross. As Paul spread the gospel from Jerusalem as far as Illyricum and to the regions beyo...

A Partners in the Harvest Challenge

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 orientat...