67 new IMB missionaries challenged to ‘fear the Lord’
CAPE GIRARDEAU (BP) – One new Southern Baptist missionary knows the fears and anxiety of being in a foreign land, unable to speak the language.
“My discomfort and feeling of helplessness gave me a taste of God’s power and glory in my weakness,” said the man from Tampa, Fla., who remembers his first volunteer mission trip to Bulgaria in 2001. He and his wife overcame their fears and are headed to an undisclosed location in the Pacific Rim region.
They were two of 67 new Southern Baptist missionaries appointed Oct. 31 at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau. The event, which drew a crowd of about 2,000, brings the total number of International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries to nearly 5,200. It was part of Missouri Baptist Convention’s annual meeting and the IMB’s trustee meeting held in St. Louis.
Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Frank Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., spoke briefly during the service. He challenged the missionaries to “remember who you are.” It’s a challenge Page said he often gave his children as they left the house.
“You’re a Jesus missionary first and foremost,” he told the crowd. “Remember who you belong to, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”
One new missionary, who grew up in Alaska, recalled how the Lord revealed her missionary destiny at the age of 16 while reading in a tent in Madagascar during a summer-long mission trip.
“The Lord used a missionary biography to call me to join Him in proclaiming the hope of Christ to the nations,” said the 27-year-old woman who will be going to the Ukraine. “Now after 11 years of a lot of waiting, I’m ready and thrilled to join Him in what He is doing.”
Another woman remembered the voices of Ukrainian women, a Burmese girl confessing Christ and a Muslim woman questioning her faith – memories from past volunteer mission trips helped fuel her decision to become a missionary in Southeast Asia.
“God has called and confirmed my work in international missions,” she said. “I can’t wait to hear the sound of women in Southeast Asia proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord.”
One of the missionaries shared how her life was influenced by the sudden death years ago of a young missionary who was a wife and mother of four.
“I cried out to God and questioned Him, ‘Why did this happen?’” she said as her voice cracked. “His reply came in a still, small voice, ‘What keeps you from going?’ I knew then it was time for us to go wherever He wanted us to go, even to the ends of the earth.”
As the new missionaries prepare to serve around the globe, IMB President Jerry Rankin sympathized with the anxiety and concern they might be feeling.
This is all normal, Rankin explained. But the only One to be feared is the Lord, he told them. Using Psalm 25:12-14 as reference, Rankin explained how fearing the Lord is the solution to overcoming life’s challenges and anxiety.
“It’s kind of strange to talk about the fear of the Lord,” he said. “That’s not our concept of God. We see Him as a loving father so ready to bestow grace and mercy upon us.”
The best way to explain it, he said, is through looking at a relationship between parents and their children. He shared how he enjoyed his relationship with his parents by being obedient and pleasing them.
Believers in Christ should seek to please the Lord through “awe, respect and a worshipful submission,” Rankin said.
“We will all stand accountable before God for what we do in our life,” he added. “But that’s not what the fear of God means. It means an awe-filled reverence to His lordship and recognition of His authority and lordship over our life.”
Most in today’s society have lost their fear of God, he said. Even in today’s churches, many have lost the fear of God.
“I dare say there would be many more than just these 67 [new missionaries] giving of their lives to go in obedience to God’s call to a lost world if we walked in the fear of God,” Rankin said. “If there were that heart-convicting, life-controlling, vision-driven fear of God, there would be no option but to lay our lives on the altar and give them for His glory.”
The fear of the Lord, Rankin noted, accomplishes three things: It puts a person into a proper relationship with God; it becomes a channel for God to act in a person’s life; and it becomes the single, driving passion of one’s life.
Despite all the successes of mission work around the globe, there is “another side to that picture,” Rankin said. Last year’s Annual Statistical Report showed “unprecedented church growth” around the globe. He cited nearly a half-million new believers baptized and more than 100 new people groups engaged with the Gospel.
“[There are] 1.7 billion people who have yet to hear the name of Jesus,” Rankin said. “Thousands of unreached groups where there is yet to be a church, where there is yet to be a missionary assigned, where there is yet to be believers worshipping and giving glory to our Lord.”
Rankin asked who would be willing to say, “I’ll lay my life on the altar. I’ll be willing to go and be the one.”
“God may want you right here … but you can never know you’re in the center of God’s will until you’ve come to the place of saying, ‘Wherever You lead, I’ll go.’”