Student Missions Urbana ‘84:
Biggest & Best Yet!
The 14th triennial student mission conference sponsored by Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) was clearly the best yet. It had the best program, by far the best prepared and motivated young people, the largest attendance, and the largest response of any Urbana conference to date.
Eighteen thousand one hundred people, mostly young, and eager to please God, gathered for the last five days of 1984 at the University of Illinois, Champaign Urbana to talk about missions.
The pre conference fact sheet stated: The purpose qjr Urbana '84 is to bring students and others to a clearer understanding of their privilege and responsibility in taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.
The theme of the conference was Faithful in Christ Jesus. The focus: unreached peoples. Unreached peoples and the final frontiers of Gospel wilness were mentioned over and over again.
The very first morning, InterVarsity's Twenty-One-Hundred
Productions presented an audio visual called "Complete the Task!" which stressed the need for missions 10 unreached peoples.
Immediately following was a panel discussion of unreached peoples. Sam Wilson from Missions Advanced Research and Communication (MARC), Warren Webster of the Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society, Greg Livingstone of Frontiers, Inc., and Ralph Winter, U.S. Center for World Mission, were panel members.
Conferees were told that their number roughly approximated the number of peoples to whom the Gospel yet needs to be preached.
But despite the proportions of the task, Dr. Winter stressed the feasibility of seeing the job completed. He said, "There are about two and a half million Christian congregations in the world today. That's an average of almost 150 congregations per unreached people group!" Billy Graham closed the program with a call to action. Almost 15,000 commitment cards were collected.
The quality of the audience was noted when, in marked contrast to previous years, scarcely 300 people said they were making a first time commitment to Jesus Christ.
By the time Urbana was over, almost every delegate had been personally challenged by what he or she had heard, 10,153 expressed openness to God's leading toward mission work and would pray toward that end; 4,683 felt called to missionary service; and 4,857 were interested in supporting missionaries.
Even more surprising and gratifying to those of us who have been pushing for the unreached peoples emphasis in mission circles, were the students' responses to a pre.conference questionnaire.
Before students were exposed to any of the conference speakers, before any of the media presentations, before the seminars and small group discussions, they were asked so indicate their longterm vocational preferences.
In the past, the largest number of students have said they intended to be Registered Nurses. This year, "Registered Nurses" ranked Number Two behind "Unteached Peoples."
Close to 900 students said they wanted to work with unreached peoples; about 650 said they planned to become nurses. One wonders what the numbers and ratios would have been following the conference!
Mysteriously, although most of the 18,000 Urbana conferees came from secular campuses, somehow, some where, hundreds maybe even thousands had already heard about unreached peoples before they arrived! Think what that reveals about America today!
Many of the students came to the conference already committed to following Jesus, no matter where He would lead. They were not only ready to be missionaries, they were asking for the hard places, where the gospel has yet to be preached for the first time.
Think what that means for the mission agencies!
John Kyle, Director of IV Missions and the Program Director for Urbana '84, openly expresses his hope that by the end of 1986 IVCF will have helped 5000 young people become full time, career missionaries.
His goal is none too small! A large part of the current missionary force is approaching retirement age. The young people are needed.
At the same time, these new applicants may turn out to be very different from the missionaries who are retiring. Raymond Baker, Personnel Secretary for the Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society CBFMS), wrote in the February issue of the CBFMS news magazine;
Committed young people are asking some very incisive and knowledgeable questions about missions these days:
How many hidden peoples (tribes) are you working with around the world?What plans do you have far entering new areas where the gospel has not been preached?
Are you committed to sending teans of missionaries and working abroad?
Imagine that you were the personnel director of a mission board and were being asked these questions. How would you respond? What kinds of changes would occur in your mission's policies over the course of a few years as more and mote potential candidates asked you these questions at the very beginning of the application process?!
One application, however, does not a missionary make. There is still the Christian Mission (in which Christians of all six continents will spend them selves) is dawning. We can at least set a good example for other concenu ations of believers to follow.
Even in the lands where the Gospel has long been present, the true power of the Gospel is not wanting. After 67 years of suffering, the church in the Soviet Union is probably spiritually and perhaps even numerically stronger than ever. Certainty in China, despite 34 years of suffering, the Christian movement is unimaginably larger and stronger.
Now is the time to move forward. Let us 'furiously" organize frontier missionary societies in every congregation of every denomination in North America. And other nations will follow.
The first Christians to serve in China, Korea and India weren't allowed in as missionaries. But we've relied so tong on "missionary" visas that many agencies have forgotten that a mission say visa is unnecessary. Them are other ways of going.
New candidates, as a result, are flocking to agencies that have already figured out how to get them in and how to nurture them when they can't get letters from their home churches and mission boards. A number of forwardlooking agencies are growing at remarkable rates. New agencies are springing tip and may soon become as well 'known as their older forbears.
And then there is the problem of pre field training. Are the current programs adequate for these new pioneers? Today many seminaries and Bible colleges have courses on church growth and how to plant a church where there is already a Christian movement.
But what about courses in how to plant a church among Muslims in Saudi Arabia? Or among the Sikhs in India? The large unreached blocs of mankind are stilt unreached because they require special strategies. Where can the agencies send these student candidates to team these strategies?
Urbana '84 also has implications for local churches. Five thousand new missionaries can probably he absorbed. But Trinity Seminary's Walter Kaiser, Jr. is praying and planning for 50,000 seminary graduates in missions by 1992, the bicentennial of William Carey's arrival in India.
If God answers his prayer and raises up 50,000 new laborers for the harvest, will the churches be ready to support them?
Someone must educate and mobilize local churches so they can provide the guidance, the training, the prayers and financial backing that this large army will require. Churches must not be left sitting in the bleachers while their young people play ball. A team effort is required.
If Urbana is for real, if Kyle and those who spoke at Urbana are not just playing games with our young people, then we must gear up for an avalanche. God's spirit is obviously moving in the student world. The fields are ripe unto harvest. Are we ready? An aroused Christian conscience on the world level is all it will take for the peoples and nations that are already "blessed" to fulfill the Biblical mandate, "to be a blessing to all the peoples of the earth (Gen 12;2,3)'.
(Dear fellow believer; Has your heal been stirred as you have read this amazing proposal by this elderly mission statesman? Would you like to know more about what others are plan ing 10 do in response to it? Would you yourself like to be counted in this new movement of mission renewal? You may write to U.S. Center for World Mission, 1605 Elizabeth Street, Pasadena CA 91104, U.S.A.)