RICHMOND, Va. (BP) – International Mission Board trustees moved toward the future while honoring the past during their July 20-21 meeting in Richmond, Va. Trustees formally recognized Jerry Rankin for 40 years of service, and voted unanimously to recommend modifying the IMB’s primary ministry assignment to reach people groups globally, including North America.
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.
At the meeting, 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,” Fort said. “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?”
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.