In the wake of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s triennial missions conference, Urbana 09 (held Dec. 27-Dec. 31 in St. Louis), a leader with The Mission Society (formerly The Mission Society for United Methodists) notes that the Urbana conference offers a clear and encouraging sign that “God is calling a new generation to His mission.”
“Over 15,000 young people gathered to learn about and explore commitment to God’s mission in the world. It has been an amazing time,” Ramsey wrote.
He said his time at the Urbana conference made it clear that not only is “calling a new generation to His mission,” but that this particular generation has “an exciting passion among students to confront issues of injustice and poverty with the power of the Gospel.”
This isn’t a fuzzy “do-gooder” type of approach, trying to come up with human solutions — the approach that has characterized various “social gospel” attempts of the past. This generation seems to be gifted with a radical abandon to Jesus Christ and a willingness to confront systems of poverty and injustice with the light of the Gospel. They seem to experience the deep offense that such systems are to the Creator and feel compelled to challenge and change….
Those of us who are a bit further along in years — parents, church leaders, mission leaders — need to recognize what God is doing and do all we can to encourage, to advise, and to release this incredible energy and passion.
Meanwhile, Riley B. Case of the United Methodist Confessing Movement writes that the passion and strong sense of mission exhibited at the Urbana Conference serves as sober reminder about the declining state of official UM missions.
[When I attended by first Urbana Conference in 1955,] the Board of Missions of The Methodist Church was very visible and active in recruitment of persons for service in the Methodist Church. The board at that time was recruiting evangelical students as missionaries….
The Methodist Church in 1955 had nearly 1,800 overseas full-time missionaries on the field. The General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM, the successor to the Board of Missions) now has fewer than 200 full-time overseas missionaries in service….
InterVarsity seeks to work in cooperation with other parachurch groups and other denominations. In the light of this nearly 150 mission agencies and educational institutions exhibited at Urbana 09. However, The United Methodist Church was conspicuous by its near-absence.
Numbers of evangelical seminaries recruited students at Urbana, but few mainline seminaries. One has the feeling that United Methodist seminaries either are not aware of conferences like Urbana 09, or are not interested in pursuing evangelicals as students.
That is most unfortunate, because The United Methodist Church could benefit from the commitment and enthusiasm that comes out of conferences like Urbana.
Of the more than 15,000 attendees at this year’s Urbana conference, more than 2,600 committed themselves to long-term missionary service. Another 5,000 committed themselves to short-term service.
|•||The Mission Society celebrates 25 years|
|•||‘Refocused on our divinely appointed mission’: GBGM and The Mission Society co-sponsor missions conference in Atlanta|
Related articles and information
|•||‘Justice generation’ puts Jesus into social action | Heather Sells, CBN (Jan. 12, 2010)|
|•||Thousands of Urbana attendees bring in new year with commitment to missions | Steven Lawson, Charisma News Online (Jan. 1, 2010)|
|•||Going worldwide: For 25 years the Mission Society has helped the church discover its mission | Dick McClain, Good News (September/October 2009)|
|•||There must be more: Mission Society ‘campus missionaries’ are helping feed the spiritually hungry at several U.S. colleges | Anna Egipto, Unfinished (Spring 2009)|
|•||The demise of the world’s greatest mission agency | Mark Tooley, Touchstone magazine (November/December 1998)|
|•||An open letter to the United Methodist Church from The Mission Society | The Mission Society, via the UM Confessing Movement (May 8, 1998)|