“I wasn’t called to a place. I was called to Him. To obey was my objective, to suffer was expected, His glory was my reward.”
North American Mission Board photo
Trip Lee urged attendees of Send Conference to talk about Jesus in everyday conversations, willing to deconstruct people’s misunderstandings about Him. “The real Jesus that we see in scripture is somebody worth believing,” Lee said.
Karen Watson, an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary who was killed in 2004 while serving in the Middle East, penned those words in a letter that was only to be read in the event of her death. The letter would later inspire California-based worship leader and artist Hector Gabriel to write the song “Peoples Praise.” Gabriel performed it May 19-20 at the Send Conference in Frisco, Texas.
In the Dr. Pepper Arena, more than 4,000 church leaders, missionaries, students and families sang along, declaring, “We will go, we will go.” The song reflected the purpose of the conference, sponsored by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and IMB.
This year’s theme, “Redefine,” called attendees to grasp a clear understanding of what it means to live on mission, whether God calls them to do so at home or overseas.
Four main session speakers conveyed different aspects of what it means to redefine a life on mission. Speakers included D.A. Horton, pastor of Reach Fellowship in North Long Beach, Calif.; David Platt, IMB president; Trip Lee, hip-hop artist and pastor at Cornerstone Church in Atlanta, Ga.; and Vance Pitman, national mobilizer for NAMB.
Attendees had numerous options for breakout sessions that featured, among others, Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.; Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; Jen Wilkin, Dallas-based author and Bible teacher; and Nik Ripken, missionary and author of The Insanity of God.
Leaving and leveraging
Horton set the conference’s tone by drawing attendees’ gaze to Christ as the example of obedience. Expounding on John 17, he pointed to Jesus as the pattern for submitting to God; the only pathway to God; and the personification of God’s glory.
North American Mission Board photo
More than 4,000 church leaders, students and families came from across the country to be equipped to live on mission.
Jesus’ confidence and assurance came from engaging the accomplishment of His Father’s will, Horton explained.
“I rob myself of this confidence when I look to circumstances … taking my eyes off the Father,” he said. “Assurance in victory in Christ flees away because I have chosen to walk in disobedience, submitting myself to the sin of fear.
“The only way for us to recalibrate our hearts to be obedient to the mission that we are called to live by our Savior, is to put our eyes back on Jesus.”
Horton said the Greek word for ‘example’ means “Jesus is the one Christians are called to trace. As He suffered and endured while living on mission, we are called to trace His every move.”
Recounting the biblical story of Esther, Platt addressed a common critique of the book bearing her name. Some scholars throughout history have questioned Esther’s inclusion in the Old Testament because the book doesn’t mention God.
“The fingerprints of God are all over this book,” he said. “It’s like a divine drama with cosmic coincidences at every single turn. … You cannot write a better script than that. Do you see what the book of Esther is teaching us about history? God has got the whole thing rigged. He’s rigged it for a reason. God has a purpose: to save His people for the sake of His praise among all the peoples in the world.”
Esther’s story, Platt said, reveals that God is sovereignly orchestrating all of history for the accomplishment of His purpose, and He is sovereignly orchestrating every person’s life for the accomplishment of His purpose.
Platt emphasized that while the mission field includes front yards, workplaces and schools, God calls some to leave their jobs and go to the nations, or to leverage their jobs to go to the nations. He encouraged students not to merely quit school and go overseas, but to take their education seriously and “work hard in ways that open up doors for the spread of the gospel through your life, through your profession.” He implored retirees to “spend the last years of your life before you see your Savior’s face … introducing His name to people who’ve never even heard.”
Speaking from Romans 10, Lee urged attendees simply to talk about Jesus. “If you say something, God may save someone,” he said.
Some people may reject Jesus because they have only heard false things about Him, Lee said.
“Some people think of an easy-going Jesus who doesn’t really care about our sins, or a hateful Jesus who they think the only thing He cares about is condemning our sins,” Lee said. “The real Jesus that we see in scripture is somebody worth believing.
“Sometimes it takes conversations with people to deconstruct their understanding of who they think Jesus is, because the Jesus that they’re rejecting is not even the real Jesus. This means some of us will have to think about the misunderstandings we have about Him.”
Concluding the conference, Pitman reiterated Platt’s charge to take God’s mission personally – at work, school, home, wherever. He echoed Lee’s call to have gospel conversations within and across cultures. Pitman further reminded attendees that their lives on mission will only be empowered by the Holy Spirit, and that God can use anyone’s life to inspire and motivate others.
“When you examine the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, almost everywhere you read of somebody being used greatly for the Kingdom of God, you always find this phrase: ‘The hand of the Lord, the power of the Lord, the presence of the Lord was with them.’”
People tend to commend leaders based on their skills and expertise, Pitman said, but God empowers ordinary Christians like the church in Antioch as described in Acts 11 – people never referred to by name, but only as “them.”
“You know what we desperately need in the church of North America? We need some of ‘them’ with just the hand of God on them.”
Austin Stone Worship of Austin, Texas, led worship throughout the weekend, with Thomas Eugene Keys, III and Crowder also ministering through music.
The conference was the second of three events held in different regions around the United States. The first was in Long Beach, Calif., on Feb. 3-4. The final Send Conference this year will be July 25-26 in Orlando, Fla.