He and wife Bobbye are among the 4,000 participants at the congress.
Rankin has been the featured speaker at hundreds of mission conferences in recent years, but most of the Christians from 198 countries at the Cape Town International Convention Center are unaware of the visionary mission leader who was at the IMB helm for 17 years.
Rankin's attendance at the invitation-only Lausanne Congress was already locked in before he retired Aug. 1. "I hope to gain some insights to share with IMB leadership and others," Rankin said. "There is so much happening globally that we need to be aware of."
Southern Baptists need representation at Lausanne, Rankin said.
"The real advantage is broadening our understanding of what is going on among Christians worldwide," Rankin said. "Networking and joining others in what they are doing is also important.... Southern Baptists are firmly grounded in the fundamentals of faith; we should contribute to these global gatherings.
"God is raising up a great Kingdom people," Rankin added. "If we are truly committed to the Great Commission, we need to know what God is doing through others."
The concept "hidden peoples" was first introduced by missiologist Ralph Winter at the original Lausanne congress in 1974, Rankin recalled. Reaching those hidden people -- now referred to as unreached people groups -- is central to Southern Baptists' international missions strategy.
Rankin also observed that organizers of the Cape Town congress, in their attempt to attain diversity of participation, failed to invite "some of the key minds and mission leaders to the table."
Of the congress' 4,000 participants, 1,000 are from the host continent of Africa. Forty percent are in their 20s, 30s and 40s. One-third are women in leadership roles. There are 2,400 pastors, missionaries and church leaders, 1,200 scholars and academics and 600 professionals from business, government, medicine and the media.
There are only 400 participants from U.S. churches and organizations, including about a half-dozen International Mission Board workers.
Rankin expressed a personal hope for Cape Town 2010: "I want to have my own vision enlarged." His involvement in Southern Baptist mission endeavors has been so consuming that it has not allowed much opportunity for him to attend conferences such as this, to listen and learn what other groups are doing.
But Rankin also is interested in learning about future ministry possibilities, even though he is already scheduled months in advance with speaking engagements and is authoring another book.
Bobbye Rankin -- in addition to participating with her husband in the plenary sessions, table group discussions and other optional sessions -- found time to slip away to the Women's Tea Room and participate in a prayer focus on Latin America. "I am enjoying gaining a broader understanding of what other groups are doing," she said.
Wendy Lee is a freelance writer from Asia.
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