“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hand,and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” Revelation 7:9-10
Matt List wasn’t even supposed to be at the kickoff tour of REV7:9, a missions movement for 18- to 25-year-olds organized by the International Mission Board. The Virginia Tech student was spending his spring break in Louisiana volunteering at the Baptist Campus Ministries (BCM) at Nicholls State University.
“I’m not technically supposed to be here,” the college junior reiterated, emotion apparent in his voice immediately after the event ended. He was standing with Sara, a student mobilizer for the IMB. He’d just heard her share her testimony of how God led her to spend a summer as a Hands On missionary, an international semester missions opportunity for students and young adults.
He came to the event exhausted from his week of volunteering, but as Jon Reddick and band led worship, List felt energized. Then Sara stepped on stage and began to share her testimony, along with two other former IMB missionaries – one who served for three years as a Journeyman and one for 11 years as a career missionary – demonstrating to the students that a calling to missions can take many forms.
As List heard Sara share how she was ending her junior year confused about what to do next and wondering why she hadn’t committed to an internship or something, it hit him. “I’m sitting here thinking, ‘I’m doing the exact same thing.’”
He’d been worried about how he needed to work on his resume so he could apply for some internships in Boston. But in his heart, it just didn’t feel right.
As the sermon continued, he thought of other times over the last few months he felt God moving in his heart – at another conference, at his BCM, and just in general.
“He’s been working and growing me in ways I’ve never grown before,” List said. As the night ended, he filled out a Next Steps card, giving his information and areas of interest to a student mobilizer for follow up. He will soon begin the process to serve as a Hands On missionary over the summer.
“Going somewhere crazy, doing something some people would call stupid, something that some people would call a step of faith, I’d call it the natural culmination of what I feel like God has been working in me,” List said.
List was one of more than 400 students who attended the kickoff of REV7:9 at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary March 11 in conjunction with the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s Proclaim collegiate evangelism conference. REV7:9’s goal is to create a community of people who are committed to seeing the vision that God laid out in Revelation 7:9 realized.
Joel Bullis remembers his mom telling him stories about the time she spent overseas through the Journeyman program, a two- to three-year missionary term through the IMB for college graduates under age 30. He’d always figured the program didn’t exist anymore until his brother became a Journeyman as well.
When his brother asked him to come visit while he was in the last part of his term, he saw the difference it had made in his life.
“Maybe there’s a space for me here,” Bullis thought as he returned home. He felt called to apply to the program.
He spent 2012-2015 as a Journeyman in Asia and now says his time overseas was pivotal to his discipleship process. “I thought I got it before, but I really get it now,” he said.
Through the program, he saw his “own concerns mold more toward Christ’s,” Bullis said. He ended his term with a much bigger vision and calling to get the Gospel to all peoples and all nations than he’d ever had before. He earnestly thought about spiritual conversations with everybody, and his passion for evangelism was strengthened. He learned to think strategically about his own life and learned to recognize how God was working in the lives of others around him.
As a Journeyman, “God grew me out of the cultural aspect of my Christianity to become more in tune to the heart of God,” Bullis said.
Now, he and his wife Amanda – also a former Journeyman – live intentionally in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., so that they can be involved in Story Church, an evangelism-, missions- and church planting-minded congregation there. Joel works an IT job, and Amanda works at the church as director of kids’ ministries.
The Bullises were two of the former Journeymen who shared their testimonies at REV7:9. A video from Amanda’s time as a Journeyman in South America was featured at the event. The video was followed up with a Q&A session led by Jason Thomas, the IMB’s African American church mobilization strategist, where she shared vulnerably about some of the victories and challenges of her time as a Journeyman.
Considering the cost of disobedience
Chip Luter, senior associate pastor at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, encouraged the students to have “obedience in the unseen” during the keynote sermon. Referencing Hebrews 11:6-7, he pointed to the impact of Noah’s obedience in the unseen.
“What if Noah had been disobedient?” Luter asked. “Notice the lives it would have cost. He would have forfeited the favor of the Lord.” Luter asked the students to consider the cost of their disobedience if they do not go wherever and whenever God is calling.
Pointing to how God has moved in his own ministry in unseen ways, Luter told the audience he now has the confidence that, “Wherever God sends me, He’s going to blow my mind.”
“Obedience in the unseen happens when our faith in God is based on who He is rather than what we can do,” he said.
This generation key to solving world’s greatest problem
The big picture of REV7:9 is “to inspire the next generation as we steward the vision given to us by God in Revelation 7:9,” said Andy Pettigrew, student mobilization team leader for the IMB. The vision of REV7:9 is also practical.
“We want to expose the next generation of missionaries to real live projects where they can serve in real life alongside missionaries,” he said. “This event comes with an opportunity to catch this vision and learn practically from the IMB how we might join in God’s movement to make His name great among every nation, tribe, people and language.”
The IMB celebrates the work that God is doing around the world. In the past year, 679,494 people heard the Gospel, and IMB missionaries report more than 144,000 new believers. Still, there are 115,473 people dying daily without Christ. That’s two people every second.
Conference organizers believe that this generation is the key to reducing that number. God wants to use this generation to answer the greatest problem that exists in the world today – lostness.
Every believer is needed in reaching the nations with the Gospel, and REV7:9 is intended to help students discover practical next steps in how to pray, give and go to the nations.
“There are places and projects literally all over the world for teenagers, college students and young adults to spend their lives not only to advance the mission of God but learn alongside experienced missionaries,” Pettigrew said.
More tours coming soon
Friday night’s launch in New Orleans was one of three spring tour stops. Young adults and leaders can join the IMB at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., on April 9 and in Orlando on May 7. A previously promoted December event will reschedule to a later time, but more tour stops will be launched throughout the country this summer and fall.
“We believe that this [tour] will increase our capacity to inspire and equip a greater number of students, campuses, and churches in stewarding the Revelation 7:9 vision,” Pettigrew said. “Our hope is to share the amazing work of what God is doing around the world and the amazing ways that the next generation can be a part of it.”
He added: “Church planting, refugee ministry, reaching lost people in global cities, university ministry and more are all possibilities for ways to serve. We want to come tell you how to make that a reality.”