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IMB moves on GCR recommendations, honors Rankin
Don Graham, Baptist Press
July 26, 2010
7 MIN READ TIME

IMB moves on GCR recommendations, honors Rankin

IMB moves on GCR recommendations, honors Rankin
Don Graham, Baptist Press
July 26, 2010

RICHMOND, Va. — International

Mission Board (IMB) trustees moved toward the future while honoring the past during

their July 20-21 meeting in Richmond, Va.

BP photo

Jerry and Bobbye Rankin chat with North Carolina trustee Rick Byrd during the July 20-21 board meeting in Richmond, Va. This was Rankin’s final board meeting as IMB president.

Trustees voted unanimously to

recommend modifying the IMB’s primary ministry assignment to reach people

groups globally, including North America, and formally recognized Jerry Rankin

for 40 years of service.

This was Rankin’s final board meeting as IMB president.

Trustees awarded Rankin the title of president emeritus and paid tribute to his

23 years on the mission field and 17 years as IMB president during a banquet in

his honor.

Special guests included O.S. Hawkins, president and CEO of

GuideStone Financial Resources; Frank Page, president-elect of the Southern

Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Executive Committee; R. Philip Roberts, president of

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; former missionaries and trustees as

well as the Rankins’ two children and their spouses, grandchildren and other

family members.

Al Gilbert, a former assistant to Rankin who now is pastor of Calvary Baptist

Church in Winston-Salem, described Rankin as a man of vision and passionate prayer,

intensely focused on the singular goal of making Christ’s name known among all

peoples.

“You’ve poured out your life. It’s been a sweet aroma to heaven’s throne, and I’m

glad I could be nearby and watch you do it,” Gilbert said.

Rankin, who will retire July 31, was joined by his wife Bobbye in expressing

gratitude for those with whom they’ve served.

“It’s not about a job, a title or responsibility — it’s all about relationships

and what each of you has invested in who we are,” Rankin said.

“Recently I returned from some extended travel and walked in through the (IMB)

lobby and one of our maintenance staff followed me into my office … and said,

‘Welcome back Dr. Rankin. How can I pray for you today?’ That’s the kind of

people we work with…. (Leaving) wouldn’t hurt so badly if we hadn’t loved so

deeply.”

Rankin shared how God had called him to faith in Christ and to missions at age

10 during a Billy Graham crusade in Jackson, Miss.

“I remembered thinking, ‘I

wish everyone in the world could know Jesus.’ And ever since I’ve thought that,

there was within our call to salvation a call to missions to tell a lost world

about Jesus Christ,” Rankin said.

BP photo

Al Gilbert, former assistant to Jerry Rankin, thanks the Jerry and Bobbye Rankin for their 40 years of service to the International Mission Board at a retirement banquet trustees held in their honor July 20 in Richmond, Va. Gilbert now serves as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.

He added that one of his greatest

disappointments as president was leaving the IMB without bringing gospel access

to all of the world’s people groups — a task he’d hoped to see achieved by the

end of his tenure.

“That’s the goal we’re striving for,” Rankin said. “We’re not there yet, but as

I leave the future is in your hands, and I pray that you would maintain that

focus and be found faithful in the task.”

Trustee Rick Byrd, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Greensboro, N.C.,

recalled seeing the depth of Rankin’s missions heart during a 2009 trustee

meeting when a global recession and giving shortfall forced the IMB to limit

missionary appointments.

“I looked up on the platform and there was Dr. Rankin with tears streaming down

his face,” Byrd said. “It was a telling moment about the heart of our

president. He was crushed.

“Dr. Rankin, Southern Baptists owe you a debt of gratitude for your faithful

leadership, for your heartfelt passion for missions, for your abiding love for

missionaries and your deep compassion for the lost of the world,” Byrd

continued.

“Henry Blackaby said, ‘History is largely the tale of how God used ordinary men

to accomplish His extraordinary purposes throughout time.’ Many years ago God

used some ordinary people to greatly impact world missions. People like William

Carey and Lottie Moon. … Today and in the years ahead, our children and our

children’s children will learn about another ordinary man who helped shape

modern missionary strategy. … That ordinary man is Jerry Rankin.”

Great Commission Resurgence action

In addition to honoring Rankin, trustees took action on recommendations from

the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (GCRTF) report, which was approved

by messengers at the SBC annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., in June.

Trustees voted unanimously to recommend that the SBC’s Executive Committee

modify the IMB’s primary ministry assignment, removing wording that excludes

the organization from working with people groups in North America.

“The world continues to change, and unreached people groups aren’t defined by

geographic boundaries,” said Gordon Fort, IMB vice president for global

strategy.

“Our strategies and structures must also change if we want to

maintain an effective gospel witness. Historically, there’s been a clear

distinction between home and foreign missions, but those lines are blurring.”

Fort added that the IMB already is beginning to flesh out the practical

possibilities that come with the trustees’ adoption of the GCRTF’s

recommendations, but he cautioned this does not mean the IMB will begin

deploying missionaries inside the United States.

“The truth is this: When it comes to deployment, we’re already undermanned

overseas,” Fort said. “So if anyone thinks we’re going to start putting a lot

of missionaries in America, that’s just not true — or strategic. Why would we

put more people in America when there are 46,000 churches that can do that?

“The biggest piece that I think we’ll start focusing on are the

first-generation ethnic and immigrant populations in North America. What about

really impacting Asians? What about really impacting some of the North African,

West African and Middle Eastern cultures? What are the strategic opportunities

for IMB to help equip churches to engage those peoples?”

Presidential search

Clyde Meador, IMB executive vice president, will step into his new role as

interim president Aug. 1 as trustees serving on the presidential search

committee continue their work.

Trustee chairman Jimmy Pritchard, who leads the

search committee, said progress is being made.

“God will make His man known to us at the right time,” said Pritchard, pastor

of First Baptist Church in Forney, Texas.

“We have a good heart, our committee

is together and committed to finding God’s man. We’re just not quite there yet.”

The next trustee meeting will be Sept. 14-15 in Tampa, Fla., in conjunction

with a missionary appointment service Wednesday evening, Sept. 15, at Bell

Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Graham is a writer for the International Mission Board.)