Life on mission with passion celebrated at Send Conference

 
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By Joe Conway 

NASHVILLE – A sold-out crowd of 13,000 from all 50 states and four Canadian provinces flooded into Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena to celebrate the call of Jesus and the response of life on mission at the 2015 Send North America Conference Monday.

Illusionist and host Harris III opened the gathering by taking the stage with a seemingly empty white box representing a life lived on mission. He described the contents of the box as a “mystery” before, piece by piece, removing items that signified unique lives lived on mission, explaining, “You don’t have a mystery to solve. You have a ministry to serve.”

North American Mission Board president, Kevin Ezell, and IMB president, David Platt, welcomed the assembly and led in a time of prayer to kick off the conference. Platt challenged attendees to entreat God to move in big ways.

“This is where I want to call 13,000 plus people in this arena, from the beginning [of the conference], to put a blank check of our lives on the table for God—no strings attached,” said Platt, challenging attendees to serve wherever God calls them.

“We need pastors, students, men and women to rise up,” said Ezell. “We want this to be more than a conference you attend, we want it to be a life-altering experience.

The mission entity leaders were joined on the platform by Southern Baptist Convention president Ronnie Floyd, Tennessee Baptist Convention executive director Randy Davis and others who helped lead prayer.

Opening session keynote speaker J.D. Greear told attendees they have a call to leverage their talents and lives for the Great Commission.

“True growth only comes through scattering and gain only comes by losing,” said Greear, sending church pastor of Summit Church in Raleigh, N.C. “It’s counterintuitive, but it’s true. Jesus’ promises about the greatness of the church were always tied to sending. He always focused on leaders being raised up and sent out, not an audience being gathered in and counted.”

A dozen breakout sessions at three venues presented participants with topics on living missions in everyday life. Panelist Danae Herndon, who ministers against relational poverty in her Colorado Springs neighborhood, said, “(My husband and I) decided we don’t want to wait to be on mission for someone to fund us. We promised God that we would be on mission today. So we started praying, ‘God, whose life can we breathe into? Who can we be in relationship with? Who can we impact?’ And it always went back to our local community.”

Video interviews, including one with Tysons Foods CEO Donnie Smith, were presented at main sessions in the Bridgestone Center. Smith said, “People don’t mind Christians living Christian lives in the workplace. They hate hypocrites.” He said faithfulness is key to maintaining an effective witness in the corporate world.

The evening sessions keynote speaker, Louie Giglio, told attendees they were celebrating the gospel–and a name.

“The gospel is not that sin made us bad,” said Giglio, pastor of Atlanta’s Passion City Church. “It is worse than that. Sin made us dead. But Jesus stepped into our dilemma. He did not leave His throne to make us good people. He came to make us not dead.”

Giglio said the resurrection of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit set in motion the plan of God, outlined in the Book of Acts, setting in motion a Church that would send its people.

“Sin leads to in. It always turns the focus on me,” said Giglio. “The first two letters of gospel are g-o. The Spirit says go. It takes the propulsion of the Spirit to overcome the inward pull of the flesh. It is all about the name of Jesus. That is what God has given us to celebrate–His name.”

The night concluded with a concert by David Crowder 

Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board. NAMB writer K. Faith Morgan and IMB writer Anne Harman contributed to this article. 

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J.D. Greear shares counterintuitive message of a countercultural God

 
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“True growth only comes through scattering and gain only comes by losing. It’s counterintuitive, but it’s true,” said sending church pastor J.D. Greear of Summit Church in Raleigh, N.C., keynote speaker for the opening session of the 2015 Send North America Conference. “Jesus’ promises about the greatness of the church were always tied to sending. He always focused on leaders being raised up and sent out, not an audience being gathered in and counted.”

It’s a strange message, Greear said,—become empty to be filled, die to live. But the blank check, the empty box, the life on mission, they’re all things that are available to be filled in by something—or Someone—greater.

“The call to leverage your talents and life for the Great Commission is included in the Great Commandment,” said Greear. “Why not get a job in a place that is strategic?”

The Summit Church saw 153 members leave last year to launch their 24th and 25th domestic church plants. Another 210 of their members live overseas working with church plants.

“I was honestly scared to give away too much from our church,” said Greear, who used John 12:20-25 to emphasize his points. “True growth only comes by scattering. Jesus’ promises of the greatness of the kingdom are always about sending, not gathering.

“Jesus’ promises are nothing short of staggering. It is to your advantage that I leave. Can you imagine? … The Spirit of God filling every believer is an advantage over Jesus remaining. The greater works that Jesus promised are realized when ordinary believers are sent out and multiply.

“’So called’ ordinary people who live on mission–they are the tip of the gospel spear.”

Greear concluded with three obstacles that keep churches from practicing the principles of sending:

  • Our personal ambitions
    “How dare we compete with Jesus for the loyalty of the Church? Pastors, before He called us to a platform, He called us to an altar
  • False measurement of success.
    “This might be the weakness of the Southern Baptist Convention–it is the lack of raising up leaders. When we get good at making disciples again sending will take care of itself.”
  •  Fear
    "The world is changed by people with the same characteristic. They attempt great things for God because they believe great things of God.”

By Faith Morgan, a writer for the North American Mission Board.  

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Excitement contagious among Send Conference attendees, volunteers

 
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By Joe Conway 

NASHVILLE – Less than 24 hours before the start of the sold out 2015 Send North America (SNA) Conference, Esther Fasolino had one word for why she was attending, “Missions!”

“We’ve come to learn,” said Fasolino, a member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Toronto. “The breakout topics are fantastic.” Fellow Toronto resident Ivonne Anlar said their group of 12 would spread out among the diverse breakout session offerings to maximize their coverage.

“We want to share the experience with as many people as we can,” said Anlar.

The conference, hosted at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, Aug. 3-4, is sponsored by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the International Mission Board (IMB). The number of participants plus volunteers was expected to top 14,000.

Among those picking up their registration packets Sunday were the Alvir family from Morehead City, N.C. Merari Alvir is a church planter launching a bilingual church in the Outer Banks community. He and wife, Jessica, brought their two oldest daughters, Jessari and Helen, to experience the gathering.

“We’ve been involved in ministry 20 years,” said Alvir, a native of Guatemala. “We came to be prepared to do missions. We want to plant a bilingual church and were struck with the need for Hispanic church plants in the United States.”

Alvir said the family just returned from their annual mission trip to Guatemala. He and his wife, a daughter of missionaries, strive to broaden their daughters’ call to mission and to keep up their language skills.

“We expect to be revitalized by the conference,” said Alvir. “We expect to embrace the calling of mission on our lives. We want to make disciples and plant churches and want that in the DNA of the churches we plant. We want it in our daughters’ DNA.”

Just a block away from early registration, hundreds of volunteers were gathering in preparation for hosting attendees at the event.

“We want to help people find their mission,” said 18-year-old volunteer Kaden Davis, a member of First Baptist Church, Waynesboro, Tenn. “God has called us and we are to be on mission. We want to help people be on mission, too. We expect to see God’s Spirit move among the people here. It is exciting.”

At a Sunday briefing, SNA Conference executive director Aaron Coe reminded event volunteers that just five short years ago a missions gathering like the Send Conference was only a dream. Coe said approximately 280 pastors are registered bringing some 8,200 members from their congregations.

“This conference is about aligning our lives behind God’s plan to advance His kingdom,” said Coe. “We want to change the conversation and help people understand they are the ministers. God wants to use each one of these people to share the gospel with their neighbors and friends. I can’t wait to see what God will do.”

The conference has drawn church members and leaders from all 50 states and four Canadian provinces. The main sessions will be held in the Bridgestone Arena. Breakout sessions will be hosted in the Music City Center and the Renaissance and Omni Nashville hotels.

There will be three stations for next steps in the venues where participants can respond to missions callings. A 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.

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 www.imb.org.

Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.   

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