Reaching New Heights and Hearts
Born as a follow-up to Urbana, the Perspectives course continues its world view tranformation.
With graduates from the Perspectives course fast approaching the 50,000 mark, the course is experiencing a new phase of growth and enthusiasm. A number of the spring classes have been surprised (but blessed) by attendance that was unexpectedly large. One class in Redlands, California was prepared for 30 studentsbut gladly went in search of a new facility when 75 showed up. Bethlehem Baptist Church in the Minneapolis area is pushing the limits on class sizewith 225 students attending. Jonathan Dawn described "awe and God's presence" after his first class. He's coordinating a class held at Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C., Canada. With over 100 in attendance, the students responded with amazement, expressing how they weren't expecting such a "phenomenal impact."
"It looks like our enrollment will exceed 4,200 this semesterwhich would be a 30 percent increase over last spring's numbers," says Steve Halley, Director of Perspectives.
Origins at Urbana
The precursor to Perspectives originated in 1974 as Ralph Winter recognized the need to give Urbana-attending students more exhaustive information that would aid them in their decision making process. Co-editor of Perspectives, Steve Hawthorne recalls one of Winter's oft-repeated refrains: "God cannot lead you on the basis of facts you do not know."
So, in an effort get the facts out, the Summer Institute of International Studies created what is now known as Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.
Hawthorne's personal involvement came as a result of his attendance of Urbana '76. A fervent admirer of John Stott, Hawthorne actually snuck into the conference to hear some solid Bible exposition from Evangelicalism's British statesman. "I had nothing against missions, but I sure knew that it wasn't anything I would ever do," Hawthorne recalls.
He has fixed in his memory the details that followed. It was 10:15 on the morning of December 28, 1976 when Stott took the stage. With his large, deep, British accent, Stott announced that "the living God is a missionary God."
"I expected good exposition," Hawthorne recalls, "but I did not expect an integrated focal point. I found there was purposesome singular focus of God's purpose throughout all of Scripture."
Though 25 years have passed, Chapter one of Perspectives bears witness to that day and theme: "The Living God is a Missionary God," by John Stott.
Lee Purgason, Executive Director of the U.S. Center for World Mission saw the centrality of the mission theme come clear as a result of the tandem influences of Urbana and Perspectives. After attending Urbana '79 Purgason recalls how he "sensed that mission was not just for a subset of those eager to follow God, but a core Biblical theme of God's purpose for all His people."
With 107 classes currently operating throughout the country, Hawthorne sees some similarities with the growth of the Perspectives movement and the worship he experienced at Urbana. At Urbana, he got a taste of praise with a diverse crowd of believers. "I said these are my people, I belong here, now I know what church I'm a part of." In Perspectives, he notes that the classes that are growing are those classes that are similarly diverse. A class that he had just spoken at had people from over 15 different churches. The diversity brings energy and a recognition that "this is really a perspective on the world Christian movement. It's not a personal, Christian, life significance seminar."
One seasoned traveler and current student of a southern California class expressed great pleasure at how the course distilled the core message of truth. "Never in my days of existence have I heard such profundity concerning the true essence of the Gospel message," he says.
Having felt imprisoned to programs and problems, this student (who happens to be African American) says he's "free at last, free at last, thank God almighty ...."
Check out latest class listings at: www.perspectives.org