by Don Yang
The nations around the world will discover praise songs when Christians recover theirs by laying down their "lives on the altar of sacrifice and are the ones willing to go and share the gospel," said Jerry Rankin at a Global Missions Day chapel service at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
"What music is all about is missions," said Rankin, who is the president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. God's desire, he continued, is that the hearts of Christians would spontaneously flow with praise, glory, honor and worship to him.
However, this spontaneous flow, is not just for Christians' own benefit and enjoyment, he quickly added. God's purpose is that Christians would "tell of his wonders among the nations, that all the ends of the earth and all the peoples would praise Him."
Rankin's message was based on Psalm 117, the shortest chapter in the Bible, which he said contains the central message of the Bible: "Praise the Lord all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord."
One day Christians will worship their Lord for all eternity, and missions will cease, Rankin said. "The only reason we do missions is because worship does not exist among the peoples of the world. Missions is not the main thing," Rankin said, quoting from John Piper's book Let the Nations Be Glad.
"When you sing ‘O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing,' it's not talking about a mega-church service with a thousand worshipers; it's talking about a thousand languages praising our Lord," he added.
However, most of the nations, languages and peoples of the world are not worshiping Him with songs of praise, Rankin said. Muslims lack the "kind of concept of God that elicits praise from their lips, and Buddhists and Hindus know nothing of God's grace that elicits songs of joy and praise."
The speaker shared a testimony from American missionaries in Cambodia who were ministering to Buddhist monks. The missionaries sang praises choruses to them and then asked the monks to sing some of their songs, he recounted. The monks gathered together and began a dissonant chant, but they realized how it sounded and after just a few lines the sound faded away. Then one of them said, "We don't have any songs in our religion."
Then Rankin turned his guns on the church: While Christians have the great privilege of singing, many don't sing because they have lost their song and sense of praise in their hearts. They have lost the song because they are holding on to those things that are meaningless and valuable to them: comfort, wealth, recognition, and success, he said.
Some, he said-including seminary students-lose the song when their attitude is, "I'll serve the Lord if you can give me an affluent pastorate somewhere where I can drive a Buick LeSabre and have a comfortable lifestyle." He also noted that others have lost their song during discouraging predicaments, such as illness, conflicts and failures.
When the song is lost, "life that is reflecting a praise and relationship with God doesn't have a very effective witness," Rankin said, adding that Christians who lose the song lack the motivation to share with the lost world.
"How do you recover the song? How will the nations discover the song and praise our Lord?" Rankin asked. "When the sacrifice is laid on the altar and when we bring our lives in surrender and dedication and yielded to him and are willing to go and to share the gospel with the lost world," he answered.
In 2 Chronicles 29:27, Hezekiah gave the order to sacrifice the burnt offering on the altar, and "when the sacrifice began, the song of the Lord also began," Rankin noted.
The song will not start "until you die to yourself, until you are willing to give up your personal aspirations," he said.
He warned the listeners that Satan's strategy is to "convince Christians that missions is optional." Satan's appeal is to our selfish nature and "he can feed that until you are totally focused on the flesh," Rankin said.
"But when you lay [your life] on the altar in sacrifice, he is totally disarmed because there's no appeal he can make," Rankin said. "This is the victory over the spiritual warfare and the enemy, that God might be glorified among the nations."
When Christians no longer follow their fleshly desires, he said, and no longer put geographical restrictions on God's call, "the unreached people groups [will] sing hallelujahs to the Lamb."