[SLIDESHOW=40747]NASHVILLE (BP) — The 22 students from The Church at Lifepark had no idea they would be the first of thousands. Student minister Paul Coleman registered his Mount Pleasant, S.C., group for the 2015 Send North America Conference when online reservations opened last year. More than 13,000 people have followed their lead.
The conference, to be hosted at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, Aug. 3-4, is sponsored by the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board.
“This may sound crazy, but I’m bringing 22 high school students to the SNA Conference because I believe that these future leaders will be the ones that start a movement in our church and city,” Coleman said. “I’m asking God to grip these 22 students and to ignite in them something that will be trailblazing and powerful.”
NAMB president Kevin Ezell said he is “thrilled with the response.”
“We’re praying it will be a turning point for a lot of Christians and churches who will go home and make an impact for Christ like never before,” he said.
Church members and leaders from all 50 states and four Canadian provinces will be in attendance. The main sessions will be held in the Bridgestone Arena, the first beginning at 12:45 p.m., Aug. 3. Breakout sessions will be hosted in the Music City Center and the Renaissance and Omni Nashville hotels on both Monday and Tuesday.
On the opposite end of the age spectrum from the Lifepark group, First Baptist Church Lawrenceville, Ga., is bringing 30 senior adults. The group takes an annual excursion to exercise hospitality and share the Gospel as they fellowship and travel. Their 2015 trip is to the Send conference.
Organizers say the two-day gathering is more than a missions conference. It will challenge Christians to live on mission in every aspect of life and provide an environment for intentional networking among church leaders and church planters. Platform speakers include Louie Giglio, J. D. Greear, Eric Mason, Russell Moore, David Platt and more. Breakout session leaders include Jennie Allen, H.B. Charles Jr., Ronnie Floyd, Johnny Hunt, R. Albert Mohler Jr., Thom Rainer, Ed Stetzer and Bryant Wright among many others. Worship will be led by Casting Crowns, David Crowder, Passion Band, featuring Kristian Stanfill, and Shane and Shane.
The gathering has generated much social media attention, like this tweet from church planter Brent Williams:
“We’re bringing 22 Alaskans to the @sendnetwork Conference in August. Thank you @kevezell for your leadership. We love @NAMB_SBC.”
Williams is the founding pastor of True North Church, launched in 2010. What began as a Bible study in his home with 15 college students is now the third largest church in the Alaska Baptist Convention.
Next steps are also built into the conference. There will be three stations for next steps in the venues where participants can connect with church planters, adopt unreached people groups and commit to ongoing missions efforts through both mission boards. An intentional, six-week, next steps Bible study will launch through the Send North America Network on Monday, Aug. 10. The Bible study will be supported with videos and blog posts.
“We have designed the conference to help every Christian live their life in a more intentional, missional way,” said Dustin Willis, team leader for Events and Promotion at NAMB. “Many pastors and church planters are attending — but what’s even more exciting is that most attendees are everyday Christians — the people who can have the most impact on our world if they have an on-mission focus.”
Platt, IMB president, said, “I am exhilarated when I think of the possibilities we have to mobilize Christians and equip churches for mission in North America and the nations together, and this conference is a reflection of that reality.”
Anticipation and expectations among participants appear to be running high. Coleman’s group may be leading in that area, too.
“This group of students is coming to the conference hungry for more in their lives and they want to be challenged,” Coleman said. “I expect that as a result of the gathering they will be greatly encouraged with the direction of the church and that they will choose to be leaders in God’s next great spiritual awakening. I expect that because of our gathering in Nashville, these 22 students will never be the same again.”
Learn more about the Send North American Conference at sendconference.com. To explore missions and church planting through NAMB, visit www.namb.net/mobilize-me. Discover more about global missions at imb.org.