47th Annual Missions Conference: "Christ Voices: Gospel Expressions in Today’s Language”
The world doesn’t need more religion, and attending a missions conference doesn’t make someone a missionary.
So were told nearly 200 college students from across the West at the 47th annual missions conference at the Northern California campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. The theme of the Feb. 15-17 conference was “Christ Voices: Gospel Expressions in Today’s Language.”
Bruce,* an International Mission Board strategist in Southeast Asia, challenged the students that the world “does not need more religion, more mosques, more temples, more church buildings. They don’t need another god who does nothing for them; they need a God of power.”
Bruce, who received both his master of divinity and doctor of ministry from Golden Gate Seminary, related how he learned this lesson in seeking God’s power in ministry. His Buddhist neighbors began to visit because they felt a peace in his house – but he couldn’t feel it himself.
“I began to realize I didn’t have anything to teach my Buddhist neighbors,” Bruce recalled. “I was discipled by curriculum. I grew up in a Christian home nurtured by a Christian culture and got to this place where people were more spiritual than me, and I increasingly felt like I had nothing to offer.”
He pointed out that Acts 1:8 said the disciples would receive “not the latest church planting methodologies, but power.”
Once he sought God and implored him for his power, Bruce said, the ministry began to bear fruit – in two years, every person in 52 villages in his country had made a profession of faith.
“God doesn’t need you or me to reach the world,” he told the students. “Nor does he need the governments of the world. So why does he invite us? Because he knows we need to know the joy of being in his work, of sharing him.”
“Bruce challenged my paradigm on reaching students in American culture,” said Wendy Liddell, a student minister from Crossover Church, Spokane, Wash.
Inyoung Lee, one of a dozen people who came from Life Harvest Baptist Church in Southern California, agreed. “The speaker was honest, didn’t try to make things sound easy or comfortable, and I appreciated that.”
Or as Stan Hruza of San Diego, who came with a group of about 20 students from the University of Utah, put it, “They were messages you normally wouldn’t hear at church.”
Allan Karr, a Golden Gate professor and the director of the church planting program Nehemiah Project, echoed this issue of power in his Sunday morning message.
“I have served the Lord all my adult life, and I could mark in decades the times I really saw God show up, in a way that couldn’t be anyone else,” he said. “We live most of the time as if we have no power.”
Two years ago, however, Karr and his mentor began to pray together daily, asking God to empower them with the Holy Spirit.
“God started showing up so often I had to keep track on my computer,” Karr said. “It’s nearly every day now!”
Karr encouraged the students to be like the neighbor in the parable in Luke 11, and ask God regularly for “bread.”
“You don’t become a missionary because you go to a missions conference, get training, go overseas,” he said. “You become a missionary when you ask God for bread and he gives you bread to share.”
In addition to four worship sessions, the missions conference included two seminar opportunities on topics such as “voice lessons in theology,” Christ and pop culture, spiritual formation and the arts, and developing indigenous worship. Students also were invited to take a Saturday afternoon walk through Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and look for opportunities to share their faith with people.
There were also two special elements to the conference: an art show with works from Golden Gate Seminary students and student participants, and an interactive prayer room that included music, tools for creating art, and specific spaces set aside for confession, petition, and a focus on evangelism.
Jared Jenkins, student minister at the University of Utah and also a Golden Gate student, was attending his fourth annual missions conference. “Bruce did three of the best sermons I’ve ever heard, and the students really like the evangelism in Golden Gate Park. Every year it does something for me and my students – keeps us focused, exposes them to ideas about missions.”
*name has been changed for security purposes