Last week, Lana and I attended the 2015 Our Generation Summit, sponsored by Vision Baptist Missions. Having had some contact with some of the organizers, but not having attended before, we weren’t sure what to expect.
After pulling into the parking lot of the Music Road Hotel in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, we entered the conference center building in the far end of the parking lot.
It was packed, bustling with far more activity than we imagined. Besides pastors and a few lay people like us with an interest in helping missions, most of the attendees were teens and young adults considering full-time missionary work.
Almost immediately after checking in and collecting our welcome packet (which included two free books), we were greeted by a missionary who remembered us from a single Wednesday evening visit to our home church months earlier. Half an hour later, the first group session began, setting the stage for the next two days.
We even heard a series of challenges lasting only sixty seconds each!
Like most large conferences, the summit had both group sessions and smaller breakout sessions with more targeted audiences. Lana and I split up for these so we could take in as much as we could. Because there were more than two tracks available, we had to miss most of the sessions geared toward aspiring missionaries. Instead, I attended sessions targeting senders and churches, while Lana focused on sessions for ladies.
Looking at the schedule, we feared the first evening group session would be daunting, lasting a full three hours. But we were surprised. We heard five-minute sermons, and thirty-minute messages. We even heard a series of challenges lasting only sixty seconds each! Before we knew it, Austin Gardner was giving the final address, sharing the major theme of the summit.
We found out these group sessions we not only for us attenders. They gave the students and missionaries from the Our Generation Training Center a chance to practice and refine their preaching. And we could tell that training made a difference. The advanced students who were given more time spoke with far more confidence than the newcomers facing their first fearful challenge in front of such a large crowd!
One message was unmistakable no matter who spoke – that world evangelism is the responsibility and privilege of every Christian. This repeated message turns on its head the common refrain that “not everyone is called to be a missionary.”
Before I attended this conference, God had already closed the door on my plans to go to a foreign mission field. Still, I was faced with some serious questions that I am still seeking to answer.
- Is my life really committed to accomplishing the Great Commission in my role as a sender?
- Are my plans for Edify Hub enough?
- Though I have laid aside obvious time wasters to focus on serving, would I say like Shawn Kook did, “I can do more”?
- If I can do more, what good things should I sacrifice to free my resources for the main thing?
The group sessions were practically a pep rally for world evangelism.
Reflecting the youthfulness of the main audience, the group sessions were practically a pep rally for world evangelism. A worship team led the congregation in song. The accompaniment, provide by piano and electric and acoustic guitars, emphasized an upbeat, syncopated rhythm far more than I’m used to with my traditional conservative background.
I did find myself uncomfortable with most of the music, but to blindly box it in with CCM having repetitious words and a “boyfriend Jesus” sentiment would be a mistake. No, behind the closely-held microphones and raised hands came deep, solid lyrics from both classic and modern hymns, calculated – as the rest of the conference – to focus our attention on the wonder of God, salvation through Christ, and a world that needs to know Him.
Not every hour was claimed for preaching, teaching, and singing. Breakfast was provided both mornings in one of the larger rooms, offering an opportunity to meet new people and share ideas. Starting at lunch time on the second day was an afternoon of free time, offering chance to gather at local restaurants and build relationships. For the rest of the afternoon, some people visited the local Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg attractions, and others met in the foyer of the hotel to learn, talk, and share their passion for world evangelism.
During these times, and in between sessions, Lana and I were able to make several new friends, and finally meet in person some who we had previously known only by email or Twitter. One of these was Kyle Shreve, training to be a missionary to Peru, who has already been a help to me. The photo for this article is one that he took at the summit. (I was so wrapped up in everything else that I completely forgot to take any pictures!)
Was it worth the time and money to attend the conference? Here’s why I believe it was a good investment for us:
- I was reminded and inspired to believe that yes, God really can use me to accomplish His work.
- We met new people who challenged us with new perspectives.
- I heard new approaches to deputation that can impact the future of Edify Hub offerings.
- Most of all, I was challenged to evaluate everything that I do in terms of its impact on world evangelism.
Consider: Is your life making a difference in world evangelism? What would you have to give up in order to be more effective?