[SLIDESHOW=40821]NASHVILLE (BP) — As thousands of 2015 Send North America Conference attendees returned to their everyday lives, leaders of the event said the real longterm impact will be measured in the next steps participants take to live out their faith daily.
“This is not about a conference,” North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell told attendees at the close of the gathering Tuesday (Aug.4). “It’s about God starting a movement. This is something we are committed to for the rest of our lives.”
As the two-day event drew to a close, the 13,607 participants were encouraged to find their place in the everyday mission of God, and commit to next steps.
Registered nurse Madison Roaton decided to tag along for a visit to Nashville when she heard her friends discussing a road trip. She had never heard of the Send Conference. But after the first day she was ready to explore her next steps in missions.
“I’ve been involved in medical missions with my church,” said Roaton of New Albany, Miss. She traveled to Ecuador earlier this year and Greece last year on mission. The idea of a life on mission resonated with her. “This has me thinking about connecting what I do with my mission.”
Others were encouraged by reminders that they are part of a network — a family — as they serve on the mission field.
“I came because of the camaraderie of all the church planters,” said Gabe Dodd. Dodd, a church planter in Dahlonega, Ga., who launched The Branch Church last year, came with his sending church, First Baptist Church, Alpharetta, Ga.
“I came because of the church planting mentality, and the desire to advance the Gospel in America. It just helped me know that I am not alone. Being able to worship with my brothers and sisters who are doing everything we can to advance the Gospel was exhilarating,” Dodd said.
Vance Pitman, pastor of Hope Church in Las Vegas, reminded the audience Tuesday morning that ordinary people in the book of Acts witnessed God do extraordinary things through godly obedience.
“If you were picking teams, you would not have picked them,” Pitman said of the early church. “They were former prostitutes. They were cheating tax collectors. They were salty former fishermen. They had no creativity. They had no strategy. They had no education. They had no formal training. They had no seminary degrees, and none of them had preached sermons. They weren’t professional ministers. They had no influence. They had no relevance. They had no money. They had no power. They had no facilities.
“Within 40 years [after Pentecost], the Gospel had reached every part of the known world,” Pitman said. “What if within 40 years of this moment, there were no unreached peoples left?”
Other Send Conference attendees pitched in, too. Nearly 600 volunteers served in every capacity at the four host venues required for the two-day event.
Anita Fore, a senior tax manager in Abingdon, Va., decided to attend the conference after seeing an ad for the event. She had no idea there would be volunteer opportunities, but she did not want to attend without being part of the prayer team.
“I knew I had to be on that team, even if it meant I might not hear anything at the conference,” said Fore, who arrived on Monday (Aug. 3) and joined in praying over the entire arena. Fore and the rest of the intercessory teams took three-hour shifts throughout the conference to pray.
On Tuesday, International Mission Board President David Platt challenged attendees to make disciples.
“One of the things I’m most excited about in partnering with the North American Mission Board is the potential it represents,” Platt said. “The stronger churches are in North America, the better our missionaries will be around the world.”
The final session of the conference opened with a video overview of Global Hunger Relief, the Southern Baptist Convention’s primary mercy ministry funding avenue. The video, available for church use, features Ezell, Platt and Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore.
“Southern Baptists immediately respond to crisis like an earthquake in Nepal,” said Moore in a later panel discussion with Ezell. “The heart of Southern Baptists is to serve. They are the first in and last out in disasters, and as they are doing that they are sharing the Gospel.”
During the two days of the Send Conference, more than 30 breakout sessions, some with thousands in attendance, challenged participants to consider practical next steps coming out of the experience. Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd led a Sending Church panel with church planter pastors Pitman, J. D. Greear of Summit Church, Alex Himaya of theChurch.at, and Bryant Wright of Johnson Ferry Church.
“We tell our people we have a mandate,” Himaya said. “We are a sent church. It is not an option. We teach people to abide in Christ. Their priority must be to make disciples. It is not a strategy — it is essential for a healthy church.”
Attendee Josh Mars, a member of Peine Ridge Church’s Credence Campus in Troy, Mo., left with a renewed vision for reaching those around him.
“This week has really convicted me of the opportunities God has given me, and my church to engage the community around us. Just seeing that God has opened up a lot of doors and opportunities that we don’t always walk through.”
Mars’ next steps include his present training to be an elder at his church, and praying through the possibility of being a church planter. “There are a lot of practical next steps like better engaging my neighbors and setting an example to people in my small group and encouraging others to live their lives on mission,” Mars said.
Gabe Dodd, like so many others in the gathering, was encouraged by the sheer volume of believers in one place worshipping as one.
“Even though I am the only Southern Baptist church plant in my town, and only one of two or three Southern Baptist churches in the town, being able to worship with 13,000 people is super encouraging,” Dodd said. “The biggest practical takeaway is really the kingdom focus from this week and identifying what the kingdom is. If Jesus says, ‘Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,’ what does that mean here? That has been the most impactful takeaway for me.”
More than 1,100 participants had already responded by Wednesday, primarily through the Send Conference app, requesting information or assistance for next steps in a life on mission.
If you are ready to explore church planting, chaplaincy, disaster relief or any other avenues for next steps through NAMB, visit [http://mobilizeme.sendnetwork.com/]mobilizeme.sendnetwork.com[/URL]. To explore a connection with one of 32 Send North America cities, consider a Catch the Vision Tour and go to namb.net/catch-the-vision. For the latest on next steps with the Send North America Strategy and NAMB from Kevin Ezell, consider attending a Sending Church Lab. Learn more at sendnetwork.com/sending-church-lab. For information about connecting with IMB opportunities, visit www.imb.org.
Beginning Aug. 10, a set of life on mission next steps resources will be available, including a six-week Bible study by church planter Matt Rogers with corresponding videos, blog posts and other items released on a weekly basis. Visit sendnetwork.com/lifeonmission for more details.