GREENSBORO–Missions took center stage Monday night at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina annual meeting, with an emphasis that included state, national and international efforts.
Thirty-eight International Mission Board appointees were commissioned, including 15 from North Carolina before a crowd of about 1,400, larger than a typical Monday night audience. Because all the North Carolina appointees are going to serve in areas where missionaries are not welcomed, they cannot be named or pictured for their safety.
BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Missionaries gather on stage Nov. 10 at the Greensboro Coliseum with flagbearers scattered around the coliseum floor. The International Mission Board service was the first at a BSC annual meeting.
Fifty-four percent of IMB missionaries now serve in such areas.
The North Carolinians include six beginning careers as missionaries; six Journeyman who are on shorter term assignment; one couple with International Service Corps and one on a short term assignment in the master’s program for person’s over age 50.
Hundreds of people responded to a call at the end of the service to indicate their willingness to take the next step in world missions, no matter what that might be. Tom Elliff, senior vice president for nurture and church relations at the IMB, listed several “minimums” which are “the least that God expects from every person in this room.”
He said God expects every Christian to “see something,” such as the multitudes that need Christ; to “feel something,” such as Jesus’ gut wrenching emotion when He saw the multitudes; to “know something,” such as the miniscule number of Southern Baptists directly involved in world evangelization; and to “do something,” to send missionaries or to be sent.
“It ought to be to someone’s advantage that that we’re living, sucking up oxygen and sunshine,” said Elliff, a former missionary, Southern Baptist Convention president and mega-church pastor in Oklahoma. “There is no guarantee someone will get saved because you’re here, but it ought to give someone a boost.”
Elliff said the IMB has about 5,500 missionaries but it still takes eight Southern Baptist churches to produce one missionary.
"One point seven billion will die without hearing the name Jesus unless something radical happens," he said.
Richard Brunson, executive director of North Carolina Baptist Men, detailed the extensive outreach and impact of North Carolina Baptists at home and abroad.
Testimonies from the commissioned missionaries showed that most had their call to missions initiated or confirmed while they were on short term mission trips of the kind coordinated by N.C. Baptist Men.
“God will use short term mission trips to make us the people we need to be,” Brunson said. “Thank you North Carolina Baptists for praying, giving and going to the ends of the earth.”
Walter Mickels represented the North American Mission Board and thanked N.C. Baptists for their support.
The international portion of the service started with a procession of flags from nations around the world, carried by volunteers as the missionaries walked took positions on the stage.
Ruby Fulbright, executive director of the Woman's Missionary Union of North Carolina, read scripture from Isaiah, 1 Corinthians and 2 Timothy and led prayer.
"God's heart for the nations runs like a thread through Scripture," he said.
George Robinson, who works with the IMB's International Service Corps and is an assistant professor of missions and evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said God uses ordinary individuals.
"Our God is a missionary God and His people are to be a missionary people," he said.
The missionaries being commissioned have joined God on His mission, Robinson said.
"This world will never be the same because you are sending them out," he said.
Al Gilbert, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, challenged people attending the convention to do more than just give money to missions. He urged N.C. Baptists to become "prayer partners" and to “hook your heart” with missionaries.
“You’re either a sent one or a sender,” Gilbert said.
After missionaries gave brief testimonies, Allan Blume, president of the BSC's Board of Directors, came to the podium to lead prayer for them.
"These are your partners in the gospel," he said. "Have you been blessed?"
The crowd answered with a standing ovation for the missionaries.