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« on: December 24, 2004, 12:56:08 PM »

So. Baptist Leader Urges Increased Support for International Missions

by Allie Martin
December 23, 2004

(AgapePress) - The largest evangelical denomination in the United States reported a record number of overseas baptisms last year, and its missions board is setting its sights even higher for the future in the ongoing effort to fulfill the Great Commission.

The annual report from the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention reports that 607,000 new believers were baptized in 2003. Although that number set a record for the denomination, Dr. Jerry Rankin, the president of the IMB, said there is much more work to be done.

Although SBC missionaries and their overseas Baptist partners engaged more than 100 unreached people groups with the gospel, Rankin says the IMB database reveals "literally thousands of ethnic-linguistic people groups with their own culture and language that are isolated culturally and geographically, where missionaries have never been allowed, there's no church in their midst to bear witness, and no scripture in their language."

The progress that has been made through Christian missions outreach cannot be discounted, the head of the IMB says. "And it's thrilling to see that, just last year alone, in one year, 132 of these people groups who were previously unreached are now hearing the gospel," he says.

Currently there are more than 5,000 Southern Baptist missionaries worldwide. If the number of people carrying the gospel to remote areas could be increased, the SBC's mission board believes it would be possible to penetrate even the most culturally and geographically isolated parts of the world.

"From a practical standpoint," Rankin notes, "we've done some figuring and believe that we could possibly reach every unreached people group if we were to increase to, say 8,500 missionaries. And it's not just the work of our missionaries -- there are a lot of national believers and local Christians who are joining in the effort and are multiplying it."

IMB reported incredible growth in God's kingdom throughout the world last year, with more than 420,000 new believers engaged in discipleship training and 192 new people groups hearing the gospel for the first time. Considering current statistics and projections, Rankin says the Southern Baptist Convention must increase its recruitment and deployment of missionaries, as well as funding for international missions.

The president of the International Missions Board is challenging Southern Baptists and other believers to give generously to support international missions. On the IMB website, he notes that record giving will sustain missionaries currently in the field and will also help fund the training and equipping of the record numbers of new missionaries that God is going to call.


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