By Marilyn Stewart, Regional Reporter
NEW ORLEANS – In a moving service focused on God’s faithfulness in a world dangerous and desperate without Christ, thirty-five International Mission Board missionary candidates were commissioned by IMB trustees at First Baptist Church, New Orleans, Nov. 8.
The event came at the end of the annual IMB board of trustees meeting held this year on the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary campus and coincided with the annual NOBTS Global Missions Week. During the week, IMB personnel spoke in the NOBTS chapel, classes, and in focused breakout sessions.
John Edie, IMB board of trustees chairman and member of Second Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo., introduced to the near-capacity crowd the “next wave” of Southern Baptist missionaries and noted the board’s unanimous approval of their appointments. He then turned to the appointees.
“What I never cease to be amazed at is the look in your eye when you tell me you are going to the farthest, most remote, most difficult places in the world. And there’s no fear,” Edie said. “The reason is because of the One we serve, the One who’s still in charge.”
Addressing the appointees’ family members in attendance, Edie said, “I assure you that in the will of God is the safest place for them to be.”
Gibbie McMillan, an IMB trustee and Louisiana Baptist Convention Strategist for Men’s Ministry and Disaster Relief, said the appointees demonstrated a sense of following God’s will without hesitation.
“What impressed me the most was the absolute surrender of the God-called followers of Jesus to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the unreached peoples of East Asia, Southeast Asia and North Africa,” McMillan said. “They identified their fears, but it was nothing compared to their commitment.”
According to IMB material, there are more than 6,800 “unreached” people groups in the world where less than two percent of the population are evangelical Christians.
Central Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and North Africa were the regions mentioned most as appointees stood and, using first names only, gave a one-minute testimony.
“Reading about the struggles of women and children around the world and their lack of access to medical care, God gave me compassion for them,” said Stephanie, appointee. “Knowing the darkness they live in, God has called me to go. I’m going to declare God’s glory to the Muslim people.”
One couple, Josh and Micah, told of the impact of spending two months sharing the gospel in villages in South Asia prior to their appointment. Josh said, “As I looked over the map with a South Asian pastor and saw all the villages where the Gospel had never reached, I knew where God had called us.”
Micah added, “As I sat and shared the Gospel with South Asian women who had never heard the name of Christ, I knew there would be nothing more satisfying than committing my life to sharing the Gospel among the unreached.”
David Platt, IMB president, drew from Revelation 5:14 to “give comfort” to appointees and their families and “to compel” all to heed God’s call.
“He holds your lives; He holds your children; He holds your family in the palm of His hand,” Platt said. “Take comfort, whatever lies ahead. In the dark and difficult days that will inevitably come, do not forget our sovereign God holds the destiny of the world in the palm of his hand.”
Platt called on listeners to remember that God knows best for their lives and that He can be trusted completely. Platt also reminded the audience that serving a sovereign God means that believers “surrender the right to determine the direction of your life.”
“When you realize who He is, you realize the most foolish thing that you can do is to put conditions on your obedience to Him…” Platt said. “Wherever you go, God is sovereign over all. Terrorists are not sovereign. Kings… are not sovereign. Ultimately, God reigns over all.”
Platt said more than 2.8 billion people have not heard the name of Jesus and that believers are called to share the gospel no matter the cost.
“We have someone who’s worth losing everything for,” Platt said. “His name is Jesus Christ.”
Mike Edens, NOBTS graduate dean with 26 years IMB experience in the Middle East, described the service and the preceding week as moving.
“This past week, especially the commissioning service, brought us into stark realization that the Creator God, the redeeming God looks at a dangerous world and says, ‘The greatest danger is people not knowing Jesus,’” Edens said. “So he breaks the heart of his people and causes some of our best to say, ‘I’m going to join God in making Christ known.’”