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Rankin: 21st century opportunities abound for reaching the lost world
--By Louis Moore
    ATLANTA, June 15--With the dawn of the 21st century, Christians have the greatest opportunity ever to advance the message of Jesus Christ throughout the entire world, International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin told the Southern Baptist Pastors' Conference in Atlanta June 14.
    "We are not approaching a Y2K catastrophe," Rankin said. "We are approaching the greatest opportunity that God has ever given his people to fulfill his mission."
    That opportunity will not come because of man's abilities but because of God's passion for reaching all people everywhere with his message of love and redemption, Rankin said.
    "This will not happen through program promotion," he said. "It is not about promoting the International Mission Board. It will only come through a spiritual motivation of knowing God and God's heart for the nations.
    "The only thing we have to share is a message that Jesus died, rose from the dead and is coming again. It's the gospel of Jesus Christ, that sin-conquering, redeeming message that Jesus saves; that's what empowers us for our mission and our task.
    "It will not come through generic support of missions but only through [such actions as] personalized involvement, adopting unreached people groups and working alongside strategy coordinators," he said.
    Rankin said Southern Baptists "must be compelled and driven by a vision, the same vision that John saw in Revelation 7:9 of a multitude that no man could count, from every tribe and people and tongue and nation gathered around the throne and worshiping our Lord.
    "If we are to be compelled by that vision, if we are going to be empowered by that message, if we are going to be empowered for tomorrow, we cannot limit our international missions work to the organizational potential of the IMB," he said.
    He pointed out the IMB has one missionary unit for every 2.8 million people overseas, then contrasted that with the 2.7 million people of his native state of Mississippi.
    "What if there was only one pastor, only one family, to share the gospel with that entire state?" he asked. "We simply cannot do it with the potential of the IMB. We must mobilize the resources of our entire denomination and involve every church and every denominational entity in fulfilling the Great Commission.
    "And if we are going to be empowered for God's mission tomorrow, we can no longer be satisfied with incremental growth," he said. "We must be satisfied with nothing less than a global impact of all the nations knowing Jesus Christ.
    "As Southern Baptists, we are good at measuring ourselves by ourselves and commending ourselves by ourselves," he said. "As long as we can report a few more new churches than last year, a few more baptisms than last year, appoint a few more missionaries than last year, we pat ourselves on the back and are so happy with incremental growth.
    "When the IMB attains the Bold Mission Thrust goal of 5,000 missionaries by September 2000, that will be only .03 of 1 percent of Southern Baptists," Rankin said. "That's not even one-tenth of 1 percent.
    "We cannot be satisfied with incremental growth, but with nothing less than a global impact," he said. "And if we are to be empowered for tomorrow, we cannot be confined to man-sized goals but a God-sized vision.
    "The psalmist said, 'All the ends of the earth shall turn to the Lord, and all the families of nations shall worship him.' That's the goal. That's the vision, to have such a passion in our relationship with God [that it becomes] a compulsion that all the world would know him and worship him."

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