By Lauren Crane
Preaching on the “bad news of the gospel,” Jerry Rankin, President of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, compelled believers to go to share the salvific message of Christ Jesus to those who have not heard it, lest the good news become bad news to those who die without hearing the gospel message.
Rankin spoke to those gathered for the Commissioning Service at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary on April 21.The service, which ended with a time of prayer for those who are preparing to head into the mission field on assignment, is a annual chapel time to focus on the need for more students and families to commit to serving wherever the Lord calls them.
This year’s overseas deployment includes 16 units, consisting of 14 couples and two singles. The group, which is being sent out as part of Southeastern’s Master’s of Divinity with International Church Planting program (2+2), is being mainly deployed to Central Asia, with some going to South Asia, North Africa and East Asia.
“The thing I love about Southeastern,” Rankin said, “is that there is no classroom, no student on campus who is not passionately devoted to the fulfilling of the Great Commission.”
However, Rankin said being passionate about the Great Commission should lead more people to live it out, taking the message of the gospel into the world so the good news does not become bad news for those who never heard it. Although Rankin said there has been more of an advance of the kingdom of Jesus Christ in the 21st century than many have seen before, groups of unreached peoples still exist all over the world.
“He is using wars and troubles to bring people to Jesus Christ,” Rankin said. “However, there are still pockets in the world who have not heard the gospel of Jesus.”
Those pockets of people are the ones Rankin said who will one day “find that access to heaven is not through suicide bombings or accumulated karma but through one mediator – Jesus Christ.”
In the Scriptures, Rankin said the term used to describe people who have never heard is “walking in darkness.
“If darkness is the absence of light, and Jesus is the light of the world, then this is an apt description. For these, people walking in darkness, the gospel is bad news.”
Whenever he is confronted with the argument that people who have not heard the gospel will not be held accountable for it, Rankin said, “I agree and tell them God does not condemn them. Their sin condemns them. It’s an illusion that there are those who are sinless because they’ve never encountered the gospel.
“So let’s pretend that in their sincerity of heart, even if they have never heard the gospel, that God in his mercy would save them. If that was the case, our most effective strategy would be, ‘Shhh. Let’s never speak the word of God.’ That’s not what Scripture teaches. There will come a day when all will be judged on one criterion: their relationship to Christ. Jesus Christ is the only way, so it is bad news for those who have never heard.”
Too often, Rankin said he uses Paul’s proclamation in Philippians 2 that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” as an excuse that he does not need to share the gospel message.
However, he said the majority of people will not confess Christ until it is too late and they stand before the throne of God. “For most of those people (who confess Christ as Lord), it will be too late. It will be undeniable who is Lord of Lords and King of Kings and they will see their mistake.
“How tragic it will be for people who have never heard the gospel message to come face to face with the one who gives access and hear him say, ‘Depart from me. I never knew you.’ Oh, how that should compel us to tell the name of Jesus.”