By Joe Conway and Anne Harman
NASHVILLE – “We are going to send until the whole world hears,” said Kevin Ezell, concluding the final session of the 2015 Send North America Conference. “This is not about a conference. This is about a movement. We are going to send and motivate people to send.”
Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, and David Platt, president of the International Mission Board, shared the stage at the end of the evening, much as they had at key moments throughout the two-day missions gathering.
“It is pure joy to think about the pastors and churches represented in this room,” said Platt. “It is amazing to say we want to do this together. Let’s trust the good hand of God to do this.”
Platt was the final keynote speaker for the event that drew more than 13,600 to the Bridgestone Arena. Speaking from Nehemiah 1-2, Platt shared several things God would say to those gathered.
“God is telling us to open our eyes and see a world in great need,” Platt said—to see like Nehemiah saw. In the Scripture passage, Nehemiah is weeping. The remnant is in trouble.
“When was the last time you wept over people in need?” Platt asked, noting it’s dangerous to become cold and calloused when overwhelmed by a world in need. He said the world’s needs are not only physical, but eternal, spiritual needs: people are going to hell without ever hearing the good news of how they can be saved.
“This cannot be tolerable to us,” Platt insisted. “God help us to weep for them.”
Second, Platt said, God would tell attendees: “Believe that I deserve greater glory.” Third, God is saying, “Seek My face,” Platt said. Nehemiah spent approximately four months praying and fasting to seek God before he did anything else. Similarly, Platt said Christians must realize they cannot make disciples or plant churches in their own power, but only in the power of God.
In Tuesday’s opening session, Vance Pitman, pastor of Hope Church in Las Vegas, shared characteristics of the ordinary people in the Book of Acts who helped launch the Church.
“They had a faith that produced obedience,” said Pitman. “They trusted God and did what God said. They clearly heard Jesus speak and simply did what He said. To see God move you have to have faith that leads to obedience.”
It was a message that resonated with attendees.
“It is time for the church to get back to the main thing,” said Becky Thomas of New Albany, Miss. “We need to do what Jesus told us to do. Vance Pitman did a good job explaining it and making it clear. This has been great.”
Breakout sessions, a dozen each in the morning and the afternoon, were sandwiched between three main sessions in the Bridgestone Arena.
Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy shared by video how life on mission principles came to him at an early age.
“My number one influence in life started with my parents,” said Dungy. “What my mom instilled was driven home my rookie year with the Pittsburgh Steelers by Donnie Shell, the first Christian athlete I encountered who lived his faith. He showed me how to live–you can’t separate your faith. Success is uncommon, but significance is even more uncommon. Being able to point people to Christ means more than winning a Super Bowl.”
Dungy said to live a life on mission people need only to start where they are.
“Start at home first, work second,” said Dungy. “Look at areas where I can direct my children first. Then at work–do people see Christ in my life? My hope would be that we would do what Jesus asked us to–be salt and light in the world.”
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore addressed a Christian’s responsibility as a citizen of the kingdom of God. Moore later moderated a presidential candidate forum with former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (See related story).
“We are held accountable for a system of government where Romans 13 shows we are the people who hold the sword. Act justly. How will we wield the sword of justice? Avoid the temptation of retreating into our sub culture or disengaging the gospel from social responsibility. Over all flags there is a cross. We are Americans best when we are not Americans first.”
Casting Crowns led Tuesday evening’s worship time which concluded with a video of IMB missionary Matt Miller who serves in Barcelona.
His family had built their dream house outside Atlanta. But the 2004 terrorist bombings of railway stations in Madrid turned their hearts to Spain. They sold their home and found a job there in order to be a part of reaching the city for Christ.
“Living missionally through your job is where you start,” said Miller. “You have relationships that allow you to share your life. In whatever God calls you to do, take action. You will see Him come through in ways you can’t explain any other way.”
Ezell then joined Moore, Southeastern Southern Baptist Seminary President Danny Akin and The Southern Baptist Seminary President Al Mohler on stage.
“We cannot do, and David and the IMB cannot do what they do, without the sacrificial giving of Southern Baptists every week,” said Ezell, thanking attendees for their gifts to the Cooperative Program.
“Southern Baptists have a passion to see the gospel go to the unreached places of North America and around the world,” said Akin. “It takes us all doing our part. We could not do any of the blessed things that we do without the support.”
Mohler echoed Akin’s sentiment.
“My first response is gratitude when I think of what Southern Baptist provide,” said Mohler. “My life benefited from the SBC even before I was born. We can tell people we can go to sleep at night knowing someone has shared the gospel because of the Cooperative Program.”
Ezell said he wanted to remind church planters that they are not alone.
“I tell church planters–no matter where you are–you are part of a family,” said Ezell. “The real purpose of this was to get the family all together to lift up the name of Jesus. We are connecting with people who are like-minded and like-hearted. If you have not connected with people here you have missed a big part of this.”
Ezell introduced Platt for the final address by bringing Platt’s 9-year-old son, Caleb, on stage.
“David Platt is one of the best friends I have,” said Ezell. “We love each other. This is Caleb Platt.”
Ezell recounted how, at their first meeting, “Caleb asked me–are you a Christian? I said yes, and I said I am very thankful you asked. We are trying to motivate and mobilize all these people to ask the same question that you asked me. I’m glad that you have a mom and dad who taught you that. Making disciples starts at home–no one knows that better than David Platt.”
Caleb recited Romans 10:9-11, and said family worship time at the Platt house is followed by family wrestle time. He embraced his dad as the elder Platt took the stage.
For complete coverage of the Send North America Conference visit namb.net/send2015.
Joe Conway writes for NAMB. Anne Harman is a writer and editor for IMB.
Published August 5, 2015