Responding to Urbana ’18

By January 11, 2019

USA (MNN) — Editor’s note: It’s 11 days into the new year, and Urbana ’18 attenders have had some time to process North America’s largest missions conference. Mission Network News’ Alex Anhalt shares his thoughts on Urbana ’18:

What happens when you put the foremost evangelistic thinkers, organizations equipped with the tools to do missions all over the world, and thousands of college students hungry for opportunities to share the Gospel all under one roof?

According to InterVarsity, you get Urbana 18.

I was able to attend Urbana a week ago both as a reporter and as a college student. Now that we’ve shared some of the stories and voices we’ve heard, I wanted to offer my own perspective.

The conference had a little bit of everything. From meticulously organized corporate Bible studies to spontaneous, heartfelt worship, examples of believers coming together permeated every corner of the conference halls.

Everywhere I looked, the Church met in prayer, dialogue, and praise. Men and women of faith used their drive to work for Christ and their varied expertise to collaborate on projects that can benefit the whole Church.

But why do we need an event like Urbana at all? If you ask thinkers like John Inazu, author of Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving Through Deep Difference, they’ll say it’s because the body of believers is exactly that; a body, not an assortment of standalone pieces.

Urbana 18 was about partnership and community. InterVarsity and the myriad of other participating organizations provided practical networking opportunities, passionate and empathetic conversation, and motivational reminders to pursue the Great Commission. Every individual I interviewed believed wholeheartedly that Urbana could kickstart a generation of world-shaking servants.

Urbana also provides unique opportunities for some of the brightest minds in missions to sit side by side. Among others, I spoke to CEOs, NASA engineers, technology entrepreneurs, and even Hollywood scriptwriters, all of whom provided enlightening reminders of what it means to follow Christ in every field imaginable.

This conference brought people together. Sharp minds collaborated on technology that could change the face of missions. Christians from creative access countries were met with emphatic applause, not oppressive orders to stop, when they explained their work. Young believers signed on with organizations that could change their own lives and countless others. Brothers and sisters in Christ cried into one another’s arms as they shared the movement of the Gospel in their lives.

The conference walked through Revelation and the seven letters sent to seven churches. Each reminder of what the Church could become was met with open hearts and considerate minds. The prophecies of Revelation might not have a timeline, but for now, Urbana 18 indicates that the Church’s future could be one of partnership and community.

Urbana exists to encourage young believers to glean what they can from a wide field of resources and understanding. Urbana 18 helped kickstart missions movements in this generation. In this reporter’s mind, the community and devotion to God seen in conferences like this one inspire can shake the world.

Pray about what part you could play in the movement of missions during 2019. Ask God how you can support workers and thinkers at the forefront of missions.

And most of all, thank Him for a rising generation taking their place as workers seeking the harvest.

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