Missions urgency sounded at seminary

Baptist Press
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Posted: Dec 10, 2009 5:30 PM
NEW ORLEANS (BP)--"I'm asking you to lay your 'yes' on the altar."

Gordon Fort, International Mission Board vice president of global strategy, speaking during New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary's Global Missions Week, continued: "In other words, , 'God, anytime, anywhere, any place you want to use me for the sake of Your Kingdom. Before You ask me, I just want You to know, I've already decided that whatever it is, my answer is yes.'"

In addition to Fort and IMB President Jerry Rankin, the missions week included missionaries sharing in classes and breakout conferences.

Fort, drawing his message from Romans 1:14-16, noted that the Apostle Paul noted that an obligation to share the Gospel was a driving force in Paul's life -- an obligation that all Christians likewise share.

Fort, who grew up in Zimbabwe where his parents were missionaries, shared a childhood story about motivation.

When Fort was a young boy, workers dug a ditch to bring running water to his family's home. He watched as his older brother jumped the ditch then challenged him to jump over.

Fort accepted the challenge. As he ran toward the ditch, he noticed cobra slithering out of the ditch. Scared, Fort jumped higher and farther than he thought was possible.

"Not only did I beat him, I beat him by three inches," Fort said. "What was the difference? Motivation....

"We can make excuses for not doing what we know we should do, but the truth is, we do what we are motivated to do," Fort said.

Paul knew what it meant to be lost and to be an enemy of the Gospel, Fort said, and was motivated by the memory of his lostness and the grace he received from God. All believers, Fort said, share in this debt to carry the Gospel throughout the world -- to every nation and people.

Fort told of an experience he had while serving as a missionary in Botswana. As he and an African friend walked through the bush to visit a tribal leader, Fort noticed a woman milking a cow in a muddy pen. Fort wanted to share the Gospel with her, but his friend hesitated and gave several reasons for not stopping, including his thought that the woman was an uneducated peasant who would not understand the Gospel.

The two men continued on their way and again Fort felt prompted to share with the woman. Again his friend protested and once again they continued on the road to visit the tribal leader. Yet again, Fort was compelled to stop and share and this time he convinced his friend.

The men approached the cow pen and began to share the Gospel in native languages. To their surprise, the woman understood and accepted the Gospel. After she prayed to receive Christ, she spoke to Fort in fluent English.

The woman explained that she was the chief instructor at the local teacher's training college and had earned a master's degree from an American university. She told Fort that she knew he and his friend would think she was a peasant, yet she knew that the men had something important to say when they took time to talk with her.

"That lady became a leading worker in our Baptist work in the country of Botswana," Fort said.

Fort encouraged anyone who is serious about their "yes" to God's call to get a passport and put it in a prominent place.

"Put it where you see it every day and let it be a symbolic expression in your life that you are ready to go at any time, any place if God says there is an opportunity for you," Fort said.

RANKIN: SILENCE NOT AN OPTION

"God is using global events to turn the hearts of people to a search for spiritual answers that only Jesus can provide," Rankin said message during the NOBTS missions conference, held in early November. "We have never seen such an accelerating time of harvest. Yet in the midst of what God is doing in our world, there remain vast pockets of lostness."

In traveling recently in a region where the Gospel has yet to take root, Rankin recounted that the thought weighed heavily on his heart of the day when people will stand before God's throne of judgment, and those who did not hear the Gospel in this life will learn that Jesus is the only way.

"That's going to be bad news for those who never had a chance to know it," Rankin said. "There is no other standard. Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation."

Rankin said the word "gospel" literally means "good news."

"And for us, it is good news," Rankin said. "It is good news that we who are unable to be saved and redeemed by our own works of righteousness can be redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ who died and paid the penalty of sins for us. What better news is there than the grace of God that has provided redemption for those of us who believe?"

Rankin noted the temptation to believe that the lost will be given a second chance to believe in Jesus. But, this is not the teaching of Scripture, he said.

"They are going to be sorely disillusioned to find there is no second chance," Rankin said. "The opportunity that God gives us is in this life."

Rankin pointed to Paul's words in Romans 10 that those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. "How can they call on Him of whom they have not heard believed and how can they believe on Him of whom they have not heard?" Rankin quoted from the passage.

The responsibility to share the Good News of the Gospel, Rankin said, falls on all believers.

Jesus said in Matthew 24:14 that the Gospel will be preached in the whole world and to every nation before He returns, Rankin said.

"God has allowed us to live in a generation when that prophecy is being fulfilled and the Gospel is penetrating every nation," Rankin said. "But that doesn't mean they will all be saved."

Some people equate those who have not heard with children under "the age of accountability," Rankin continued; they believe a loving God would not condemn the unevangelized.

"God doesn't condemn them," Rankin said. "They are condemned by their sin. For the Bible says, 'here is none righteous, no not one. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God and the wages of sin is death.'"

Silence is not a biblical option, Rankin said of a type of practical universalism that silences the Gospel. The pages of Scripture command believers to go throughout the world preaching the Gospel and making disciples, he said.

Urging the NOBTS audience to follow the command to go to the ends of the earth with the Gospel, Rankin expressed the urgency of the message by sharing a quote from the late theologian Carl F.H. Henry: "The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time."

Also during the week, Brad Bessent, pastor of Beulah Baptist Church in Hopkins, S.C., told of how his church was transformed from a mission-minded church to a mission-going church when he led the small congregation, which averages 150 each Sunday, to adopt an unreached people group in Mali.

Beulah Baptist Church now sends mission teams to Mali every six weeks. During the past two years, the church has taken 12 mission trips and has seen 100 people profess faith in Christ.

The experience on the mission field in Mali has helped his church learn to reach more people in Hopkins, S.C., Bessent said.

The church is profiled in "Touch you world and reach the world," a DVD resource available from the International Mission Board. The DVD includes a video about Beulah's work in Mali and information on how churches can partner with IMB in reaching a people group. Visit resources.imb.org or call 1-800-999-3113 to obtain a copy.

Gary Myers is director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

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