Missionaries commissioned; teens urged to answer God's call
GATLINBURG, Tenn. (BP)--More than 700 Challengers from across the country - along with about 400 guests from the community -- joined in a commissioning celebration for 59 new North American Mission Board missionaries Feb. 7 at the Gatlinburg (Tenn.) Convention Center.
For the first time ever, the celebration was held in conjunction with the annual National Challengers Rally, a weekend event designed to encourage and mobilize high school boys who participate in the church mission education organization. Challengers is sponsored by the North American Mission Board.
Among the NAMB missionaries being commissioned were church planters, church planter strategists, inner-city ministry center directors, associational missionaries and collegiate evangelism specialists.
The focus of the event, however, was as much on encouraging the audience to respond to the call of God on their own lives as it was on lifting up the missionaries who had already made that commitment. Before the service, the missionaries joined other ministries at booths in a "marketplace" designed to allow the young men to consider where God might be calling them to serve.
Through commitment cards and an invitation at the close of the service, 68 people committed to either short-term or fulltime missions service through NAMB. Eighty-eight committed to "be on mission where I live," 145 said they would pray for NAMB missionaries, 30 rededicated themselves to follow Jesus as Lord, and six made professions of faith in Christ. The next morning, additional commitments included 11 who said they had been called to serve as a missionary or pastor.
Paul Gotthardt, a church starter in Las Vegas, shared how God gave him a passion for ministry and people when he was called in 1995.
"Some of you today might be in a similar situation where you're starting to feel the tug and the pull of God possibly towards ministry," he said, later adding, "Don't rush the call, but when God does [call] respond passionately with all your heart. I guarantee you it will be the ride of a lifetime. Enjoy the joys of the journey."
Heather McIver, who works in campus ministry in Syracuse, N.Y., noted that Jesus never promised it would be easy -- but it would be worth it.
"It might cost you something to go and follow God with your whole heart, but the rewards you gain are just incredible," she said.
Randy Singer, special assistant and chief counsel for the North American Mission Board, told the Challengers that if God was calling them to ministry they had a lot in common with the prophet Jeremiah.
"Most scholars believe Jeremiah was about 16 [when he was called]," Singer said. "If you've been called tonight to be a preacher ... don't insult God by saying, 'I can't do it.' He's knows you can't do it. That's why He's called you. You can do it by the power of the Holy Spirit, and that way God gets the glory."
God has a unique purpose in mind for every man and woman, Singer said, a point he illustrated humorously by demonstrating a Spirooli -- a fruit and vegetable slicer he discovered through a television infomercial.
"This is a machine that's designed," he said to laughs from the crowd. "It's got a destiny. It's got a destiny peeling apples."
Similarly, he said, a "melon baller" is only good at making melon balls, while an ice cream scoop makes embarrassingly large melon balls but terrific scoops of ice cream.
"All of these things are designed for a particular purpose. Here's what I want you to understand. God designed you for a particular purpose," Singer said. "You are unique. You are a masterpiece. You have a destiny. You have all the things necessary to get the job done. You have everything necessary to answer this call, and no one else can do it as well as you can."
Singer challenged the audience to keep in mind what's important. Even society's most troubling issues and problems fade when compared to what Christ has done for mankind.
"If the tomb's still empty, we win in the end," Singer said to cheers from the audience. "Tell His story, not only about the suffering of Christ but about the victory of Christ. And be ready to live it out in your experience."
"You are called to change the world right where you live," Singer added.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: MISSIONS MARKETPLACE, MISSIONARY COMMISSIONING, A PASSION FOR MINISTRY and A UNIQUE CALLING.