DALLAS, Texas -- That's a bold statement since in my over half a century on this globe I've been part of my fair share of conferences. However this one was different and the best as I'm trying to outline below.
Reason#1: Great focus-Penetrate lostness.
That's it. This was the whole focus. It was not to learn to build your church and make a name for yourself or how to improve your leadership skills or learning the 7 ways to love your mother in law etc but to penetrate lostness. It was all about the people that are not YET in the kingdom. That's how it should be in our endeavor to reach a lost world especially our own continent on who's strength thousands of global missionaries depend for prayer and financial support. If we are weak at home will be a weak support of missions. Reaching lost people is what is all about.
Reason#2: Great objective-God's glory.
Interestingly enough, even though this was a denominational conference (The North American Mission Board, the sponsor of this conference is the domestic mission agency of the Southern Baptist Convention) it was not about building a great denomination but building the kingdom of God for God's glory. I'm not suggesting that believers shouldn't be working part of a denomination as every denomination has its own distinctiveness and approach but it was refreshing to see that the focus of the conference was God's glory. That's how it should be for we exist for His glory and His glory alone.
Reason#3: Great commission-Making disciples.
Yes, the Great Commission is great because it was give by a Great Savior who's a Great Lord who's commands we should obey. Obedience is key. The Lord said "and teach them to OBEY" not to KNOW all that I have commanded you. Most of discipleship training these days is focused on "knowing" his commandments rather than "obeying" His commandments. If we are to make disciples the way Jesus made disciples we have to focus on the obedience since Jesus' disciples died for the cause of Christ, that's obedience to the point of sacrifice. This conference was focus on making disciples as one of my friends that I've invited to attend said "making disciples is the game". Yes it is. Lets do it together fulfilling the Great Commission.
Reason#4: Great geographical representation-All regions US/CA
I've met people from Vancouver Canada and Miami Fla. New York City and Brownsville Texas, San Diego Cal and Montreal Québec. Yes, they came from all over the continent. It was great to see friends from far and near coming for the purpose of learning how to penetrate lostness, making disciples for the glory of God. I have heard that a group of people came from Germany just to be at the conference. I've met with a group of leaders who drove all the way from Ohio picking up leaders on the way arriving just in time for the conference driving over 18 hours just to be part of this movement and seize the moment. Wow! Praise the Lord.
Reason#5: Great generational participation-Young and old.
No doubt this conference was catered more towards the younger people and rightly so for they are the leaders of upcoming generation. I paid special attention at this one because in the last few years mission gatherings were mainly attended by people over 40's and 50's. Not this one! As a matter of fact even infants were present. I've spoken to their parents asking them if their young are "missionaries in training". Without hesitation they replied Yes!! What a great legacy a parent can give to their children by taking them to mission conferences like Send where the focus is reaching lost people and making disciples for God's glory. Also I met older people and many of them. I don't consider myself old since I only passed the half a century milestone but many people were much older than me and many of them. I spoke to a retired (in his 80's) PhD psychology major who after making an obscure remark and me picking up on it paid me the unfounded compliment of being quick and smart. He came to Send conference for he was interested in reaching the lost in our continent with the gospel. Yes, they came, young and old, babies and children. They came to seize the moment.
Reason#6: Great diversity-4 out of ten non-Anglo (multiethnic)
Hispanic, African American, Korean, Chinese, Iraqis, Iranian, Burmese, Nepalese, Jewish, Asian Indian, Pakistani, Filipino, Russian, Romanian, Ukrainian and many others from multiple background came to be part of this conference. According to Send conference registration, over 1,500 people registered were from non-Anglo background, the multiethnic community representing about 35.7% of the total registration. That's very encouraging since this is reflective of the reality of the mission field population. We are still a long way to go in reaching the increasing number of multiethnic people in our neighborhoods but this is an encouraging sign that the ethnic participation in the mission force that is focusing on making disciples and reaching people for the glory of God is growing.
Reason#7: Great crowd-over 4200 people.
To be precise a total of 4,275 people registered for the conference and came to be trained how to reach lost people and making disciples, fulfilling the Great Commission for the glory of God. To reach millions of lost people and plant thousands of new churches there is a need of a great number of partner churches and leaders who are not afraid of this challenge but march forward into the darkness with the torch of the gospel for the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes, to the Jew first and also to the Gentiles.
Mark Hobafcovich, serves at the North American Mission Board (NAMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). NAMB is the domestic mission agency of SBC with mission responsibility in the United States and Canada with headquarters in suburban Atlanta, Georgia. Mark can be reached at: email: firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter: @JohnMarkGlobal