When Jerry Rankin announced his retirement after 17 years as president of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, I was serving as trustee chairman of the IMB. Consequently, I was left with the task of appointing and serving on a search committee to find his replacement. As I reflected upon the nature of the role, I quickly began to feel the weight of that assignment.
The IMB is the largest international missionary sending agency in the history of Christianity. Convinced that making known among the nations what God has done is the single most important endeavor on the planet, I believe that serving as the IMB president may be the most eternally strategic job on the planet. Thus, filling that job was, in itself, an important job.
Although I appointed the search committee and served with them for a season, my time on the trustee board expired before a candidate was selected. Yet, the search committee chairman, Jimmy Pritchard, was gracious enough to call and ask my opinion before the committee announced its decision. When he informed me the candidate to be announced was Tom Elliff, I rejoiced in God’s graciousness. I was convinced then, and remain convinced today, that Elliff is the man of God’s choosing for the most eternally strategic job on the planet.
An immediate confirmation of the wisdom of the committee’s selection was the vision and challenge Elliff presented to Southern Baptists soon after his appointment. With 3,800 people groups in the world still unreached for Christ and even unengaged by missionaries, Elliff has challenged Southern Baptists to embrace the task of taking the gospel to each of these people groups. That challenge has been announced and celebrated but, for the most part, remains unembraced, as do thousands of people groups with a combined population of over 1 billion lost souls.
On February 8, Kentucky Baptists will have an opportunity to learn how we can engage the unengaged. The Kentucky Baptist Convention is hosting the IMB Embrace Conference in Louisville on the campus of Southern Seminary. Information and registration is available at www.kybaptist.org/embrace. Registration closes at noon on Friday, Feb. 1.
With 2,400 churches in our state convention, we could deal a significant blow to the enemy’s strongholds among the nations by our willingness to embrace the peoples without a witness. I am praying for a great turnout for the Embrace Conference and an even better turnout of Great Commission witnesses who will take the gospel from the Bluegrass to the ends of the earth. Will you embrace?