Jerry Rankin announces retirement plans
Michael Logan, Baptist Press
September 16, 2009

Jerry Rankin announces retirement plans

Jerry Rankin announces retirement plans
Michael Logan, Baptist Press
September 16, 2009

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — International Mission Board (IMB)

President Jerry Rankin announced today he will retire July 31, 2010, ending a

17-year tenure marked by sweeping organizational changes and a steady personal


“Everything I have done has been driven by an unequivocal

sense of a call to missions, to make my life count and to make the greatest

impact possible on reaching a lost world for Jesus Christ,” Rankin said.

Rankin told IMB (International Mission Board) trustees

during his report at their Sept. 15-16 meeting in Jacksonville, Fla., that his

presidency should not be judged for the accomplishments of the organization

under his leadership but for how the organization is poised for the future.

“For the second time in my tenure we are implementing a

radical paradigm shift in organization and strategy,” he said. “This is not

because of past failure and ineffectiveness but a vision of the changes needed

to ensure relevance and effectiveness in the future.”

BP file photo

Jerry Rankin

Such sentiments are consistent to Rankin’s approach in

leading the 163-year-old organization. Early in his administration Rankin began

placing a greater emphasis on the work remaining in world evangelization rather

than on what had been accomplished.

“It’s not … our size or annual statistical report that

should drive us,” he said. “We need to be driven by a vision to bring all

peoples to a saving faith in Christ and what it takes to get there.”

Yet there has always been a need to track progress. When

Rankin took over leadership of the IMB in 1993, the Southern Baptist mission

organization saw nearly 4,000 missionaries help start more than 2,000 churches

in 142 countries. Last year more than 5,500 IMB missionaries helped plant

nearly 27,000 churches and engage 101 new people groups for a total of 1,190

engaged people groups.

The move from tracking countries to focusing on people

groups reveals another area where Rankin worked to change the IMB. Country

counts faded during the past 10 years as the organization shifted to finding

the best ways to engage new people groups and population centers.

“I think moving us to a people group focus helped us learn

to innovate,” he said. “But probably the most radical innovation of all has

been the process of moving us to a mobilization perspective.”

Such a shift has not been easy. He has pursued it almost his

entire tenure.

“To mobilize and involve churches and Southern Baptists

rather than our doing missions on behalf of Southern Baptists is an innovation

that we have been pursuing for the past 12 years. The whole mobilization

perspective is where we are going. That’s the hope of the future of missions,”

he concluded.

Rankin has not always been so confident of the future. He

was surprised and overwhelmed when a 15-member trustee search committee asked

him to become the IMB’s next leader in 1993.

“I felt so inadequate to the task. And I certainly didn’t

come with a vision of ‘Here’s my agenda. Here’s how we are going to reach the

whole world.’ But it was one of, ‘OK, Lord, I’m your servant. I’m available.

What do you want to do through the IMB?’”

Rankin and his wife, the former Bobbye Simmons, were

appointed missionaries to Indonesia in June 1970. They studied language in

Bandung, Indonesia, and he served as a general evangelist in two other

Indonesian locations.

Rankin also consulted in evangelism and church growth in

India, served as associate to the area director for South and Southeast Asia,

and then as administrator for mission work in India. He became area director

for Southern Asia and the Pacific where he oversaw the work of 480 missionaries

in 15 countries.

“I never anticipated that I would move beyond a niche where

God had called us to serve as missionaries in Indonesia,” Rankin said.

“It made no sense for a field missionary who had been

overseas for 23 years,” Rankin told the trustees, “to be selected over others

who were far more qualified and at a peak of controversy regarding control of

leadership roles among Southern Baptist Convention entities.

“I had not even attended a Southern Baptist Convention

annual meeting until the year prior to my election.

“I reluctantly accepted the role (as president), not out of

any desire for status or reputation and certainly not for a denominational

administration role, but only to make the greatest impact on reaching a lost

world that my life could make. The motivation for accepting this was only that

same missionary call that carried us to Indonesia.”

Rankin said that he sees that same sense of call uniting the

organization’s leadership teams as well as in the emerging young leaders within

the IMB’s staff and missionary force. He said the same spirit of unity rests

within the current body of trustees.

“Never in my experience have we had a board of trustees so

unified, supportive and sensitive to the spiritual nature of our task,” he said

in his report.

Rankin said this common vision is vital as the organization

moves into the next phase of its history.

“We have always been a missionary-sending agency with

unlimited capacity to send and support the missionaries being called out of our

Southern Baptist churches. That is no longer the case as appointments are being

restricted and strategies must be changed to more effectively deploy and utilize

limited numbers of personnel.

“The next president must deal with economic realities that

will not permit us to presume upon unlimited financial resources as we have in

the past. Southern Baptists are at a point of crisis in deciding whether to

continue a bureaucratic legacy, supporting a comprehensive plethora of

ministries and programs, or focus resources on fulfilling the Great


Rankin added that the IMB stands on the verge of

unprecedented opportunities to complete the task of engaging every nation,

people and language with the Gospel.

“We need a leader who can identify with the next generation,

one who has credibility to mobilize Southern Baptists, creative vision to

implement new strategies and faith to provide the spiritual leadership that

will keep us aligned with the mission of a sovereign God.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Logan writes for IMB.)