KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The president of the International Mission Board announced a mobilization strategy to help Christians experience the thrill of firsthand missions involvement, during a trustee meeting in Knoxville, Tenn. Encouraging a “radical shift” from “promoting programs” to “encouraging passion,” Jerry Rankin, president of the Southern Baptist sponsored missions network, proposed a re-engineering of the IMB’s relation to its congregations.
"It is absolutely phenomenal for three times as many people groups to be hearing the gospel and being confronted with the claims of Christ than just five years ago," Rankin said. "Truly God is glorified as more than a thousand new believers a day are being baptized. The 42 percent increase in churches started last year represents 8,369 new local congregations -- along with 43,000 outreach points -- each becoming a multiplying, indigenous nucleus of ministry and witness, vastly expanding access to the gospel.
"But the task of the International Mission Board is not only about what happens overseas," Rankin said. "As a denominational missions agency, we have a responsibility to our Southern Baptist constituency to lead and assist them in fulfilling God's mission.
"What is being done overseas represents only a miniscule portion of Southern Baptist potential in personnel and resources. It is our vision to see the massive resources with which God has blessed Southern Baptists to be channeled to impact a lost world."
"Mobilizing Southern Baptists will not happen by continuing our traditional program promotions but by creating a passion for God and his heart for the nations. It will happen only as we personalize missions through opportunities for direct involvement and ownership of the task. And it must take the form of partnership with Southern Baptists at every level rather than trying to maintain exclusive control that restricts and alienates."
According to Rankin, a congregation must be filled with a passion for God’s mission in order to move into a new dimension of strategic partnership and support for missions; God’s heart must be involved through direct personal experience.
Rankin hopes the IMB could serve merely as the bridge between the congregant and the chance to serve in missions.
"We know that churches are no longer interested in channeling their money through a middle man without direct ownership in where it goes and what it does," he said. "We know that churches and other partners want personalized, customized attention and service focused on their needs, their desires and their agenda."
The challenge requires us to evaluate what we are currently doing and re-engineer how we relate to our constituency and communicate our message," he said.
Rankin said a five year IMB research showed the board a better idea of how to service the churches, associations, state conventions and others who want to be more involved in completing God's mission overseas.
"We must enable our missionaries to build relationships and create accountability with churches," he said. "They need to enlist prayer support, develop covenant relationships of adoption and accountability and involve churches in growing partnerships and support."
Rankin also suggested training members to answer direct calls to the board. People do not like “phone mail junk,” said Rankin.
"We receive more than 1 million phone calls a year, plus millions of e-mail messages and Internet contacts. These inquiries come to dozens of different points in our organization," Rankin said. "It is not uncommon for calls to be misdirected or for a caller to be unable to connect with a live voice. We are migrating these services to a contact center, where trained experts will be able to handle any and every question."
Board leaders hope God can work through the Southern Baptist ministries in expediting his kingdom.
"Our passion is the glory of God among the nations, and our only desire is penetrating the lostness of our world in bringing all the peoples to saving faith in Jesus Christ. We want to see every Southern Baptist and every Southern Baptist church rise up and play their part in fulfilling Christ's command to make disciples of all the peoples."
By Pauline J.