Staying Connected

Posted on October 3, 2011 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Down Home in Mississippi

This post is not a commentary on proliferating social networking though that is a mind-boggling phenomenon. I resisted even getting a cell phone until recent years as I did not want to be accessible anytime anywhere after a long day of constant interaction with staff and the public. Many have given up land lines and rely entirely on mobile devices. iPads in everyoneʼs hands have replaced blackberries in the hands of business elites. Texting is replacing e-mails and phone calls while Facebook and Twitter provide instant connection with oneʼs social and professional networks.

Okay, so I have succumbed to Twitter (follow me “@rankinonmission”) and blogging in order to stay in touch with hundreds of family, friends, acquaintances and former colleagues I would never hear from again if we had to rely on letters or email. However, what I am referring to here is staying connected with our calling. Though retired from a position as president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, there was never any intention of retiring from our missionary calling.

I donʼt think I ever met a retired person who did not say that they were busier than ever. Iʼm not sure that is really true; however, most peopleʼs working lives are locked into a set routine of office, home, travel and other limited activities. In retirement options for filling oneʼs time does proliferate with the freedom from punching a time clock. We are anticipating and relishing the potential of an overseas assignment sometime in the future, but meanwhile our mission calling continues to be fulfilled.

Last week I attended the North American Mission Leaders annual conference in Phoenix and returned in time to speak at the Global Impact Celebration of our home church, Morrison Heights in Clinton. We are blessed to be in a church that gives a high priority to missions and provides an abundance of opportunities for mission involvement locally, in partnership projects across North America from Kentucky to Montana and overseas. Several teams go each year to Haiti and Honduras and the missions committee is exploring the adoption of an unreached people group as well as strategic involvement with the REAP projects in Peru.

Practically every weekend on my calendar through the end of the year and into 2012 is scheduled in local church mission conferences as we continue to mobilize churches and advocate praying, giving and going, something we have been doing for years.

Besides weekend mission conferences, it is gratifying to stay connected with the larger Great Commission network of mission agencies. We have been asked to continue to coordinate and convene an annual retreat for mission executives of the largest evangelical missionary sending agencies in North America. It has been a privilege to provide consultation for leadership of several agencies such as Wycliffe, African Inland Mission, Association of Baptists for World Evangelization, and next week to speaking at the annual leadership conference of Wycliffeʼs The Seed Company.

The conference in Phoenix was an annual gathering of mission leaders representing more than 200 organizations. It is sponsored by The Mission Exchange (formerly Evangelical Fellowship of Mission Agencies) and Cross Global Link (IFMA). The meeting is combined with the annual gathering of the Evangelical Missiological Society and is packed with stimulating speakers, valuable break-out discussions and connecting with network partners. Pictured is Greg Livingstone leading a break-out session on church planting among Muslims.

Livingstone, who was one of the founders of Operation Mobilization and later started Frontiers, was awarded the Lifetime Service recognition at this yearʼs conference. Frontiers was organized to be a mission exclusively targeting the Muslim world and has gained significant prominence in impacting this formidable challenge to our mission efforts. Interacting with such visionary and innovative leaders inspired all of us to continue to run the race with diligence until the gospel has been proclaimed among all peoples.

Yes, we are as busy as ever, but as I often say, we are now busy with what we choose to do rather than what we have to do do! And that is fun and fulfilling as we continue to stay connected with our mission calling.

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