SBTS celebrates Great Commission Week

Communications Staff — November 4, 2008

Two Southern Baptist Convention leaders exhorted students at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to follow Scripture’s missionary call in spite of the geographical, cultural, financial, and spiritual obstacles that they might encounter during Great Commission Week activities, Oct. 20-24.

Chapel guests Jerry Rankin and Tom Elliff reminded hearers of the prominent role that international missions play in the Southern Baptist Convention’s work, and a number of International Mission Board missionaries spoke in classes and special meetings.

Rankin, President of the International Mission Board, discussed recent changes in denominational mission strategies and encouraged students to see the Great Commission as central to true Christian discipleship during a chapel service interview, Oct 21. Chuck Lawless, Dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth, conducted the interview.

“We have seen more advance in fulfilling the Great Commission in the 21st century than we have in my entire lifetime,” Rankin said. “He informed attendees that the IMB has sent missionaries to over 1000 previously unreached people groups since 1997.”

In order to ensure continued success, Rankin recently reorganized the IMB’s outreach efforts, replacing a geographically-organized scheme for a new plan that focuses on people groups. “Geographical boundaries are not relevant in our world today,” Rankin said. He closed the service by calling all students to participate in gospel work abroad. “I think it’s tragic,” he said, “for any student to get a degree from seminary and not have exposure in an overseas mission setting during that course of study.”

Elliff, Vice President of the International Mission Board, charged hearers to look upon a lost world with the eyes of Christ at the following chapel service, Oct 23.

Preaching from Matthew 9:35-38, he sought to answer the question, “what’s the least the Lord expects of every person in this room who claims His name?”

According to Elliff, Jesus’ actions in this passage present Christians with a “mission minimum.” First, all followers of Christ should observe their surroundings.

“He really expects you and me to take a look at this world in which we live,” said Elliff. When we do so, Elliff suggested, our attention will be drawn to our “distressed, dispirited, and desperate” neighbors.

Next, Elliff said, “there’s something we ought to feel: compassion.” When we feel compassion, we respond lovingly to lost people by sharing the Gospel with them.

In closing, Elliff remarked, “there’s something Jesus wants us to know. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” In response to this problem, he invited students to pursue international ministry opportunities.

Lawless encourages students who were challenged by Great Commission Week to “pray about going on one of the mission trips that the Great Commission Center is sponsoring this year.” He sees these trips as opportunities for students to heed President Mohler’s call to “live dangerously” this year. “Accepting that challenge might well mean taking the Gospel to dangerous places.”

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