By Chris Moon
While traveling home from the 2023 International Conference on Missions—which finished up Saturday in Oklahoma City—ICOM Executive Director David Empson said he kept track of his messages.
He said his Facebook feed was lighting up with comments about the Restoration Movement’s largest annual missions gathering. Other people texted and emailed their thoughts about the conference.
Empson said Monday he was happy with what he was hearing.
“The preaching was solid. The worship was solid. There were a lot of young people there,” Empson said.
ICOM ventured to Oklahoma City this year for the first time since 1973. The event extended Wednesday through Saturday at the Oklahoma City Convention Center.
Speakers included Ozark Christian College President Matt Proctor, Christ In Youth President Jayson French, Stadia President Greg Nettle, and Denise Beck, executive director of Velvet Ashes. Songwriter Andrew Peterson also performed.
The conference president was Stephanie Freed, co-founder of Rapha International. The theme was “Hope for the Nations.”
Official attendance figures aren’t available yet, Empson said. But he said people were struck by the large number of students in attendance.
Empson said multiple Restoration Movement colleges sent students—Dallas Christian College, Central Christian College of the Bible, Boise Bible College, and Johnson University. Ozark Christian College chartered buses for students to travel to the conference each day.
Camp Sooner, a local church camp, had 190 beds full of students attending ICOM. A local church housed more than 100 students.
The students drew the attention of the speakers, Empson said.
French’s keynote message considered the apostle Paul’s long ministry chronicled in the book of Acts.
“He never quit,” Empson said of Paul. “That was the challenge to everybody. The young people—we need them to start and jump on board. The older people—we need you not to quit.”
Empson said the vast majority of ICOM’s speakers—including those who spoke during roughly 150 workshops—were recorded and will be available for purchase on ICOM’s website.
Because ICOM hadn’t been in Oklahoma City in so long, officials weren’t sure what to expect in terms of attendance. Empson said that numbers-wise, the conference felt no different than previous events.
“We’re all thrilled to bits,” Empson said. “Could there [have been] more people there? Of course, there always could be more people there.”
Now, ICOM is looking forward to next year’s conference, which will be held Nov. 14-16, 2024, in Lexington, Ky.
The 2024 conference president is Andrew Jit, director of Emerge Global, which does mission work in Europe, Central America, and East Africa. Empson said Jit, from New Zealand, will be the first person from the Southeast Pacific to chair ICOM.
Looking ahead even further, ICOM will be heading to Atlanta in 2025 and St. Louis in 2026.
Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colorado.