INDIANAPOLIS—When it comes to worldwide missions, Southern Baptists have shattered baptism, church-planting and giving records in the past decade, said International Mission Board president Jerry Rankin.
Southern Baptists exceeded the 2007 $150 million goal for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions by more than $400,000. But with the current declining value of the dollar, that amount means a reduction of $18 million in spending power.
“The American dollar has declined more than 12 percent relative to other global currencies,” he said. “We face a dilemma of whether our giving will reflect the priority of what it means to fulfill our mission.
“Your prayers and gifts to the Cooperative Program enable us to send and support a growing missionary force coming out of your churches, and to expand our witness and impact a lost world like never before.”
Noting the growth over the past decade, Rankin said 3,352 new churches were planted in 1997 and 25,497 were planted in 2007 with a total of 132,980 planted overseas from 1997 to 2007.
Baptisms almost doubled from 1997 to 2007 with 308,398 and 609,968 respectively, he said, adding that IMB registered 4.7 million baptisms from 1997 to 2007.
And missionary appointments increased, as well, with a total of 7,311 missionaries appointed from 1997 to 2007.
But even with these increases, a “massive” lostness remains in the world, Rankin said. “Multitudes continue to enter eternity never knowing a Savior died for them. … What about the next generation? Will they have an opportunity to know the story of Jesus?”
So as one avenue of advancing the gospel, the IMB is tapping into the “phenomenal” resource of a young generation passionate about impacting the world, he said.
“We are challenging college students to take a semester or a year out from their studies for the hands-on experience of touching a hurting world,” Rankin said.
In addition, growing numbers of graduates find their hearts are stirred toward the two-year Journeyman program, like Bobby Lane’s was toward the Extreme Team in Peru.
Lane’s Extreme Team “packed light” and hiked to remote villages, relying on the people they met for food and lodging.
“We want to be able to depend on the people—if they’re hungry, we’re hungry,” he said.
As a result of the team’s faith, villagers learned to put their trust in a God who provides.
Sylvia was one of those villagers.
She was four months pregnant when she met Extreme Team missionary Melissa Smith and shared with her that doctors were recommending an abortion. She had a lemon-sized tumor growing in her abdomen in addition to her baby.
“She believed God would hear our prayers on her behalf,” Smith said.
And he did. By the time Sylvia gave birth, the tumor had disappeared. She gave her life to Christ “because of churches just like yours who had committed to partner with us in prayer,” Smith said.
“She began to share the same stories that we had shared with her. There is now a whole group of people who are going to spend eternity with Jesus because you prayed.”
Go & tell
But there are many more left to hear, she added. “Who will go tell?” she asked.
Rankin said it’s up to Southern Baptists.
“We can’t wait while multitudes enter eternity without Christ,” he said. “We have to mobilize members so the world will know Christ died for them. I pray we as Southern Baptists will not only be found faithful and obedient, but we’ll challenge the next generation to be faithful in fulfilling our missions task.”