Send Conference connects churches to vast mission field

PLANO, Texas (BP) -- More than 4,200 church planters, pastors and church leaders flooded the hallways of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, for the North American Mission Board's second Send North America Conference July 29-30.

The gathering was marked by masses of participants praying in response to speakers, hundreds of connections between churches and church planters, and individuals seizing their moments to penetrate lostness in North America. Many attendees expressed the belief they were witnessing momentum building toward a movement to reach the continent.

The conference opening combined video, graphics, precision projection and an individual performance that traced the significant moments Southern Baptists have seized throughout history. Afterward, Aaron Coe, NAMB's vice president of mobilization and marketing, told attendees his prayer was that the conference would be seen as a turning point in SBC history.

"Will this be a defining moment or will this be a forgotten moment?" Coe asked. "The difference between a defining moment and a forgotten moment is a seized moment. We're praying that we are able to give you the tools over these next days for you to seize the moment."

Large group sessions, workshops and breakout meetings all were built around the effort to equip individuals and churches for growing the Kingdom.

Prestonwood pastor Jack Graham closed Monday afternoon's session by encouraging church planters.

"Church planters, you are on the front lines in cities across this continent, and you are taking the Gospel into the cities to penetrate lostness here and around the world," Graham said. "Thank God that NAMB is saying, 'Plant churches. Make disciples.' NAMB does a lot of good things, but it is important that they now say, 'Plant churches. Make disciples.' And we support them in it."

The Monday evening session closed with Jim Cymbala, pastor of The Brooklyn Tabernacle, calling for attendees to come forward if they felt God leading them to step out into a new dimension of service. Thousands came forward as Cymbala led in prayer.

"If you don't want to be in a fight, get out of the ministry," Cymbala said. "The ministry is nothing but a fight. Paul didn't say at the end of his life, 'I have danced a good dance.' He said, 'I have fought a good fight.'"

More than 100 breakout and workshop sessions included offerings for ministry wives, students and worship leaders as well as language tracks in Spanish, Korean and Chinese. At least 1,300 attendees registered for ethnic tracks.

Monday evening events for students included a hip-hop concert by Grammy award-winning artist Lecrae. Multiple environments were created for churches and church planters to network. Thirty of NAMB's 32 Send cities hosted sessions for attendees to explore partnership and planting opportunities.

Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and evangelist Luis Palau were the closing session speakers. Akin, who approached the platform following a time of praise and worship led by Christy Nockels and Brett Younker, put aside his prepared remarks.

"I want to speak to you about your life under the lordship of Jesus Christ," Akin said. "Why do we need a Gospel? The world is dead in sin. God is angry with sin. God judges sin. God killed His Son so He would not have to kill me. As you come to Christ there are some things you will become alive to, and some things you will die to."

Palau challenged attendees to "dream great dreams for God," "pray great prayers for God" and "obey great commands of God."

He introduced his son Kevin, who is on the forefront of community transformation in Portland, Ore. He has worked with his father for almost three decades, and their efforts have brought together 27,000 Christian volunteers from 49 of the 50 largest evangelical churches in metro Portland. They've completed 350 projects, and the ministry was so impactful that every public school in Portland has been matched with a church for support.

Coe closed the conference with encouragement and a challenge.

"How do we go from this moment to a movement?" Coe asked. "It takes people. There are entire communities in the United States and Canada that have no churches. We've got a lot of work to do. As we leave this Send North America Conference, I hope you leave encouraged that Jesus is for you.

"Let's agree together as the people of God not to leave complacent or go back to the status quo, but to leave this place to make a difference in the world for the glory of God. Join me in not letting this be a forgotten moment," Coe said.

NAMB President Kevin Ezell said he was "ecstatic about the turnout" for the event. "Not only the energy and electricity among the participants, but the passion and heart of pastors and planters -- it all exceeds our expectations. The ethnic diversity is fantastic. Obviously this confirms the launch of a new day. It is a new day and a new NAMB."

Most important, Ezell said, were the partnerships and commitments that were made at the conference.

"We've had more than 500 participants say they want to take the next steps in church planting. And more and more churches are stepping up to say they will partner with our planters. So the ongoing impact of these two days will really be the measure of success," Ezell said.


Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board. To learn more about the Send North America Conference, visit namb.net. To discover how you can become involved with Send North America, visit namb.net/mobilize-me. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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