By Bill Weber
What in the world is God doing? More than you can imagine! The National Missionary Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, delivered that message loud and clear through conversations, preaching, exhibits, construction, hospitality, around lunch tables, in elevators, and on shuttle buses.
The new Georgia International Convention Center hosted the NMC November 17-20, 2005. More than 5,000 people gathered to celebrate the mission of the church. It’s not just how many people were there, but who they were: 700 teenagers, an estimated 2,000 college students, hundreds of missionaries and national church leaders from around the world, and many concerned Christians from churches. Missionaries were very encouraged to see such large numbers of people engaged in the world Christian movement.
A World Christian Movement Theme
Convention President Rajan Ipe, an evangelist and church planter from India, leads a holistic mission effort involved in relief work, education, and health care. His passion for a message that is both lived and proclaimed permeated all that he did with the convention this year.
In a letter to the churches, President Ipe wrote that “much evangelistic work is going on all over the world . . . but its effectiveness is hindered by lack of Christlike living by the converts.” His desire for the convention was to “stress the importance of true Christian living so that the world around us will see the difference in us.” The main sessions used testimonies from the global church and strong preaching to communicate the convention theme, “Set Apart to Shine: Christian Witness in a Corrupt World” (Philippians 2:14, 15).
Testimonies in the main sessions effectively revealed the struggles and victories of the church in complex and difficult contexts. Salonique Adolphe gave a powerful witness recounting experiences from his ministry in Haiti. He preached his conviction that the power of our God is greater than the powers of darkness he confronts.
The preaching was international. Ipe reflected the convention’s theme with his keynote address, “Christians as Shining Stars.” The Christian life witnesses to the power of our God when we do good deeds, show compassion, and live the life of a servant.
Saafa Fahmi, church leader and evangelist from Egypt, made an articulate and passionate plea for unity in the church. He emphasized how the attitudes and actions of missionaries, national church leaders, and churches either contribute to or distract from the gospel imperative to make disciples of all the nations.
Stephen Prophete, who ministers in both Haiti and Florida, used his message, “Christians as Suffering Saints,” to show how the faithful suffering of persecuted Christians is a powerful witness.
Strong preachers from the United States continued to develop the theme on the witness of Christians to a watching world: Dennis Bratton, “Christians as Blameless Servants”; Steve Hooks, “Casting Seed on Hard Soil”; and Ken Idleman, “Christians as Overcomers.”
A Platform for Missionaries
A unique aspect of the convention is the breakfast and lunch programs featuring brief presentations from a number of individuals. Missionary kids who grew up in Ghana, Jamaica, and India shared part of their personal story—what it means to grow up in another culture, with its peculiar opportunities and challenges. National church leaders from Zimbabwe, Haiti, and Mexico described how God is working in their particular field. Missionaries from Thailand, the Philippines, and Mozambique also presented aspects of their work.
These inspirational stories were filled with passion and commitment. It was especially moving to hear Bobby Relyea tell how he accepted the spear in a village ceremony celebrating the translation of Scripture. Even as a young teen, it was his responsibility to accept the spear as the oldest male in the family because his father John Relyea had died on the field in Papua, New Guinea, just a few months earlier.
The National Missionary Convention presents great opportunities for missionaries to network with church leaders from the United States and other countries. The free exchange of ideas provides new information about strategies.
The focus on missionaries was particularly evident in the workshops, which included such topics as recruiting and sending missionaries, how to care and pray for your missionary, and how to do mission work in new and better ways.
Communication With Young People
A priority for the National Missionary Convention is recruiting new missionaries. Young people in high school and college are a primary source for new recruits. “The Windows of the World” teen program is designed for them.
Sessions focused on teenagers encourage youth ministers to bring their youth, who showed up in large numbers. The Aaron Pelsue band led worship; Arron Chambers challenged them through preaching; and Bean and Bailey presented a music and comedy concert.
Maximum contact with missionaries is organized to help teens learn about the real thing. This allows them to ask the question, “Is mission work something God is calling me to?”
Students had the opportunity to help build a house for the Pine Haven Christian Children’s home in Montana, two homes for Native American families in Arizona, and a storage building for a children’s home in Ohio. The $10 fee provided most of the materials for the projects. Their donated labor saved thousands of dollars.
Since so many who attend are Bible college students, university students,
or involved in campus ministries, a concerted effort is made to introduce them to missionaries and let them learn firsthand from those who are engaged in cross-cultural ministry. One of the highlights was a challenging service featuring the Georgia Tech campus ministry worship team and a message by Cam Huxford.
Workshops offered a wide variety of helpful topics: world religions, evangelistic and discipleship strategies, benevolent work, the persecution of the church, urban ministry, cross-cultural church planting.
Of course, information on short-term mission trips abounded. Large numbers of people are traveling the world and vast resources are devoted to these efforts. This was evident in the exhibits of organizations that cater to these adventures. Workshops offered practical help on how to do effective short-term mission trips.
The exhibition hall was the hub of activity. It was colorful and informative—there were dialogues with missionaries, and organizations that provide opportunities for overseas missionary service were talking to everyone.
The exhibits introduced conventioneers to resources for learning about the global Christian mission. In addition to displays by publishers, the convention sponsored a resource center with the latest and best materials available, including books and multimedia materials.
Attending the convention will change an individual. The information, inspiration, and challenge all work to touch the hearts of those who attend. Decisions, large and small, are made at the convention—decisions to pray, to give, to send, to support, to encourage. No one knows how many of these decisions are made and what the kingdom impact will be.
One of the most significant and far-reaching decisions is the decision for cross-cultural mission service. Individuals are encouraged to make that decision at the convention or to make a public affirmation of a recent decision made before the convention. Sixty-two of these decisions were made. Only God knows what the impact of those decisions will be.
One who attended the convention put it this way: “The convention was wonderful, spectacular, inspiring, instructive, thought-provoking, heartwarming—beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.” God used his people and the gathering in Atlanta to continue to build his kingdom. God was honored at the National Missionary Convention.
Looking ahead at host cities and dates for the National Missionary Convention:
2006—Indianapolis, Indiana, November 16-19
2007—Cincinnati Ohio, November 15-18
2008—Tulsa, Oklahoma, November 20-23
Bill Weber is a professor of practical ministries at Cincinnati (Ohio) Christian University.