Embracing the Nations

Posted on October 12, 2011 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Rankin Connecting

The fact that many peoples of the world have yet to hear the gospel is absolutely unacceptable. More than two thousand years ago our Lord sent out His followers to make disciples of all nations. The word He used did not refer to geo-political countries on our map but the multitudinous ethnic-linguistic races and cultures that populate our globe–more than 11,000 distinct people groups.

How can it be that 3,800 of these peoples, some with a population in the millions, have yet to be engaged with a Christian witness? Obviously there are factors such as rugged, isolated terrain in desert and mountainous regions that defy accessibility. Many represent places closed to foreigners or where there are government restrictions and even hostility that would endanger the lives of those daring to propagate the Christian faith.

But none of these barriers are so formidable as to inhibit an innovative and deliberate strategy to penetrate them with the gospel. In a modern age of technology and communication, geographic isolation is no longer a factor. The globalization of our world is opening doors through marketplace ministries that did not previously exist. The pervasive turmoil and chaos of political disruption and social upheaval are creating an environment in which people are searching for hope and security that only the gospel will provide.

The reason many have yet to hear the gospel is primarily due to our own self- centeredness and lack of commitment to the task. It is tragic that multitudes continue to die and enter a Christless eternity, not because they have rejected the Christian message but because they have never heard it. When God has blessed our churches so richly in numbers and resources how can we justify denying all the peoples of the world an opportunity to at least hear and respond to the gospel.

Mission boards used to color the map when a missionary was assigned to a new country, but strategies had to change when awareness emerged of the Great Commission in terms of reaching all peoples. The International Mission Board realized we would have to double the number of missionaries just to have one person assigned to each people group. It is obvious that it will be a long time until the financial resources make that possible.

But the reality is that the Great Commission was given to every church and every believer. It is not the responsibility of mission boards to fulfill the mission of the church. If 45,000 Southern Baptist churches could be mobilized and equipped for global missions, the task is doable. God has blessed us, not in order to be a great denomination but to be His instrument to reach a lost world.

We are at a critical time of unprecedented opportunity. Churches are being challenged to embrace the nations by taking responsibility for strategically engaging an unreached people group. Dr. Tom Elliff, IMB president, has challenged churches to adopt one of those people groups where there is no missionary and become the virtual missionary. Already more than 700 have responded. Last month 500 people from 200 churches participated in an “Embrace” training conference at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia. Three more training conferences are currently scheduled:

October 27–Hillcrest Baptist Church, Cedar Hill, Texas

November 4–Applewood Baptist Church, Denver, Colorado

March 24–Immanuel Baptist Church, Highlands, California

What can a local church do? It begins with a commitment to pray. Prayer then leads to explore, equip and engage. Explore the options through affinity people group web sites, participate in the equipping provided by the IMB as they mentor and coach a church through the process and then find the channels for engagement. Can you imagine the gratification of a people group being represented at the throne of God because of what you and your church did?

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