“Do not underestimate for a second what God can do in and through your life,” said David Platt, keynote speaker of the SEND North America Experience Tour and president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board (IMB). With his characteristic vocal swings from mobilizing enthusiasm to God-fearing whisper, Platt revealed a radical vision for missions that begins with what he called “ordinary people.”
The tour kicked off September 2014 and runs until mid-April 2015 at 29 sites scattered across the U.S., including one in Vancouver, B.C. After a March 16 event in Winston-Salem, the nationwide tour stopped at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest on March 17 before going on to the final four locations in other states.
The intent of the tour is to be “a gathering for the church that challenges you to leverage your life in a way that counts for the kingdom,” according to its website, sendconference.com.
It featured two breakout sessions in the afternoon, including the LoveLoud Lab led by the North American Mission Board’s evangelism team and a church leadership and revitalization lab called “Leading for Change,” led by Johnny Hunt, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and longtime pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga.
Labs offered at other tour locations are “A Worship Conversation” led by Shane and Shane and “Multiplying Urban Leaders with the gospel” led by Rebuild Network.
The event also included a dinner and panel discussion called The Church & the Mission of God with Platt, Tony Merida and J.D. Greear. Matt Capps, brand manager of The Gospel Project and teaching pastor at The Fellowship, Nashville, Tenn., interviewed the panel about how local churches – as collective bodies of individual Christians – can engage the mission of God.
Passion Band, fronted by Kristian Stanfill, led musical worship at the evening service and Harris III, illusionist and communicator, introduced the program with a live, interactive, multiscreen, digital presentation that was half TED talk and half infographic.
The presentation showed on a timeline the rising population of the U.S. compared to the plateaued rate of growth for new church plants from 1900-2015.
Platt then introduced statistics about the number of people globally that have never heard the name of Jesus – over 2 billion.
The numbers are enough to overwhelm the average Christian that sincerely wants to obey God’s command to make disciples of all nations, according to Platt. How could one person, of average gifts and talents, begin to comprehend how he or she might play a part in taking the gospel across the globe? “If that thought is anywhere near your mind,” said Platt, “then I want to speak specifically to you.”
Platt preached from Acts 7:54-8:8 as he progressively revealed a multipart statement about how God intends to make His gospel known among all the nations of the earth.
“God’s design starts with ordinary people,” said Platt. He noted how unnamed, ordinary Jews started the church in Antioch that became one of the greatest missionary sending churches in all of history.
He added to his initial statement that God offers extraordinary power to His people through the Holy Spirit, that prayer is essential to the work of missions, that material generosity enables missionaries to go forth and that many of those sent to the nations will suffer for Jesus’ sake. “Our suffering may be inevitable,” Platt said, “but, brothers and sisters, our mission is unstoppable.”
The SEND North America Experience Tour leads to a national conference Aug. 3-4 in Nashville, Tenn.