Jerry Rankin, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board, spoke to The Christian Post last week about his new book with missiologist Ed Stetzer called Spiritual Warfare and Missions.
In the interview, Rankin explained what Satan’s most effective strategy is to stop the expansion of the Kingdom of God and why missions is not the ultimate goal of the church.
The following are excerpts from the interview.
CP: Why did you and Ed write this book? What need did you see in the Christian community that you hope this book would meet?
Rankin: I have been training our missionaries on spiritual warfare for well over 20 years both on the field and since I’ve been here [in the United States]. Our missionaries they are venturing into Satan’s territory and they are going to encounter opposition, resistance and be blindsided if they are not prepared for it.
The whole point [of the book] is not to deal with demon possession, territorial spirits and generational bondage, but to recognize the battle within our own heart of lies and how Satan seeks to defeat us and deter us from the missions task.
Satan is jealous of God’s glory and is seeking to deprive God of being glorified in our lives. So that is what my book Spiritual Warfare: The Battle for God’s Glory, published about year ago, is about.
This [book] is a sequel, Spiritual Warfare and Missions. Just as God desires to be glorified in our lives His ultimate desire is to be exalted and glorified among the nations and peoples of the world.
Satan tries to deter mission efforts. Satan recognizes the authority of Jesus and he knows that the end times is when he and all his demons will be cast into hell and Jesus will win the ultimate victory. But Jesus says that is not going to happen until the gospel is proclaimed and witnessed among all people.
So the premise of this book is to expose Satan’s strategies for deterring and inhibiting global evangelization and the advancement of the kingdom of God.
CP: What is Satan’s most effective strategy today in stopping God from being glorified by the nations?
Rankin: There are many strategies. One is keeping nations closed to Christian witness using atheistic, communist, totalitarian governments. But that strategy is not working and we talk about how God is moving in the world today and is penetrating every nation.
The next chapter is about keeping people groups hidden from our awareness. Earlier we had always felt that sending missionaries to a country is evangelizing that country. But only with Ralph Winter and Donald McGraven did we begin to understand that ethnic-linguistic people of the world is the objective of the Great Commission. Now people groups are systematically engaged by evangelical mission agencies. So even though that strategy had worked for 2,000 years it is no longer working.
A third approach then is Satan’s effort to bring persecution on believers and the church. But the reality is where there has been persecution and martyrdom there is growth of the church. So that strategy is not working.
Now all of this is a setup for the basic theme of this book. The strategy that is working is Satan deceiving the church to be ingrown and self-centered, which is characteristic of our churches today. Satan has led us to selectively interpret the scripture to erode the authority of God’s word and therefore lose any impetus for our global evangelism task.
The strategy distorts in the minds of believers that the call to missions is only for an elite segment that is called to be missionaries rather than recognizing that it is a mandate to the church and the people of God.
So this is basically the thrust of the book – to recognize that spiritual warfare is not just that which is evil and immoral but how he is deceiving the church and seeking through his strategies to deprive God of glory.
Satan’s most effective strategy is to convince Christians that missions is optional and lay Christians to be self-centered and neglect the task of declaring God’s glory among the nations.
CP: Based on your experience as a missionary and as head of the IMB, do you see that Satan uses different strategies in different parts of the world? I’m curious to know if some strategies are more effective with certain people than others.
Rankin: One of Satan’s strategies that is effective all over the world is distorting the religious worldview so that it is contrary to the truth in the scripture. So if it does not lead to evangelical faith in knowing Jesus Christ and exalting Him to advance His kingdom then the conclusion is that it has to be attributed to Satan who is the adversary of God’s kingdom. So that is applied in different places and different religion around the world.
What we are attacking in this book is how we the American churches have been exploited by Satan to keep God’s missions from being fulfilled.
CP: Why do you say missions is not the ultimate goal of the church?
Rankin: We go back to [John] Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad!. He says missions is not the main thing but worship is. We do missions so all people will worship and glorify God. It is all about God’s glory.
CP: What do you mean that we Christians can neglect God’s mission because of ethnic pride or prejudice?
Rankin: We are just self-centered. Most of our churches are seeking to build their own church program for their own kind of people. Here the people of the world are swarming into our cities – the immigrants, Muslims, the South Asians, Hispanics – and what do our churches do? They abandon where these peoples are and move out to the suburbs so they can continue to build their programs and fellowship among their own kind of people and neglect the lostness of the people of the world in their own city and neighborhood.
So who is causing us to do that? Is the Holy Spirit doing that or is Satan using our self-centerness and prejudice to create that kind of church?
CP: Is there anything you want to add?
Rankin: My whole life is involved in missions and just seeing the barriers to the gospel reaching the whole world after 2,000 years I recognize that we have an enemy. The word devil means adversary. In exposing Satan and bringing his strategies to light it is our hope that we can resist and not succumb to those subtle and devious methods diverting us from fulfilling God’s mission.