MILL VALLEY, Calif (BP)–The world doesn’t need more religion and attending a missions conference doesn’t make someone a missionary.
Nearly 200 collegians from across the West heard these and other pointers during the 47th annual missions conference at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary’s Northern California campus in Mill Valley.
Bruce*, an International Mission Board strategist in Southeast Asia who received both his master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from Golden Gate, told the students that the world does not need more mosques or temples or more church buildings. “They don’t need another god who does nothing for them; they need a God of power.”
Bruce recounted how he learned this lesson through seeking God’s power for ministry. His Buddhist neighbors began to visit because they felt a peace in his house -– but he couldn’t feel it himself.
“I began to realize I didn’t have anything to teach my Buddhist neighbors,” Bruce said. “I was discipled by curriculum. I grew up in a Christian home nurtured by a Christian culture…. And I increasingly felt like I had nothing to offer.”
In Acts 1:8, Bruce noticed that Jesus told the disciples they would receive “not the latest church planting methodologies, but power.”
Once he sought God and implored Him for His power, Bruce said his ministry began to bear fruit -– in two years, people in 52 villages in his country had made a profession of faith.
“God doesn’t need you or me to reach the world,” Bruce told the students. “Nor does He need the governments of the world. So why does He invite us? Because He knows we need to know the joy of being in His work, of sharing Him.”
Allan Karr, a Golden Gate professor and the director of the seminary’s Nehemiah Project church planting program, echoed the idea of power in his Sunday morning message at the conference.
“I have served the Lord all my adult life, and I could mark in decades [between] the times I really saw God show up in a way that couldn’t be anyone else,” he said. “We live most of the time as if we have no power.”
Two years ago, however, Karr and his mentor began to pray together daily, asking God to empower them with the Holy Spirit.
“God started showing up so often I had to keep track on my computer,” Karr said. “It’s nearly every day now.
Karr encouraged the students to be like the neighbor in the parable in Luke 11 and ask God regularly for “bread.”
“You don’t become a missionary because you go to a missions conference, get training, go overseas,” Karr said. “You become a missionary when you ask God for bread and He gives you bread to share.”
The Feb. 15-17 missions conference, with the theme of “Christ Voices: Gospel Expressions in Today’s Language,” included sessions on such topics as Christ and pop culture, spiritual formation and the arts and developing indigenous worship. An interactive prayer room included music, tools for creating art and specific spaces set aside for confession, petition and a focus on evangelism. The collegians also were invited to take a Saturday afternoon walk through San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park to look for opportunities to share their faith.
Jared Jenkins, student minister at the University of Utah and also a Golden Gate student, was attending his fourth annual missions conference. “Bruce did three of the best sermons I’ve ever heard, and the students really like the evangelism in Golden Gate Park. Every year it does something for me and my students –- keeps us focused, exposes them to ideas about missions.”
*Name changed for security purposes. Amanda Phifer is a writer for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.