Saturate’s vision is to see a gospel saturation movement happen in North America and beyond. We want to partner with God, like-minded churches, organizations, and individuals as He brings about the vision of seeing every man, woman, and child have a daily encounter with Jesus in word and deed.
We realize (as I hope everyone does) that true gospel saturation cannot and will not happen with one church, one denomination, one ministry, etc. It can only happen as the body of Christ unifies locally & globally to reach our world together with linked arms. I developed a great friendship with Pat Li-Barbour from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (or IV) as he was working to reach the unreached at San Diego State University. We both had a passion evangelistically for students that were often disenfranchised and unengaged with the local churches. Since that time about 10 years ago, I have seen how InterVarsity has developed missional communities on college campuses and equipped student leaders to surrender their lives to God’s mission. Pat now serves at IV’s headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin and is the Communications Manager for their triennial missions conference called “Urbana.” They may not always use the same lingo of “missional community” or “gospel saturation” but as I have witnessed, they might be doing a better job in some of these areas than most churches in our world. As we think of reaching our cities we the Church must engage and work with the para-church, non-profit, corporate and civic worlds if we are to see our communities transformed by the Gospel.
This article below is a feature highlight on their Urbana Student Missions Conference. Hopefully, it can be an encouragement to you for groundbreaking ministry in student and college life or potentially an opportunity to send some of your college-age people with a passion for the Body to go and grow and hear what God may have next for them. I have been blown away by the missional momentum that comes from this conference (open to anyone from any church or ministry background). Enjoy!
70 Years Equipping Generations of Faithful Witnesses
The Barna Group recently discovered that only 10 percent of millennials who attend church actually know the Great Commission—Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:18-20. We know that these are not just words, however. They are a command given to all believers to make disciples of the nations.
Since 1946, InterVarsity’s triennial Urbana Student Missions Conference has been inviting generations of young adults to consider the full implications of Jesus’ command. God has used Urbana to call nearly 300,000 to lead lives on mission across campuses, zip codes, and countries. Through Urbana, movements have been born, the gospel preached, careers redeemed, and unreached peoples served by the Body of Christ.
While the face of the conference may have changed over its 70 years, its dedication to calling students to whole-life, whole-world discipleship and the hallmarks of the Urbana experience remain the same.
Urbana is Inspirational
Grounding itself in Scripture, Urbana hosts global voices to share the Lord’s encouraging, convicting message. Past Urbana speakers include Billy Graham, Elisabeth Elliot, Ravi Zacharias, A.W. Tozer, and Helen Roseveare. They have helped students expand their view of God to a global scale and recognize the triumphs and challenges of believers across the world.
Through expositor Patrick Fung’s message at Urbana 15, Grace realized, “God was speaking to me. I said yes to his call to go and felt liberated from the plans I had made for myself.”
She decided to attend an InterVarsity Global Program (GP) to East Asia. Her experience connecting with students from a different culture—specifically having her roommate confide in her about recently losing her mother to cancer—inspired her to change her major with the hope of returning to that region as a counselor to help comfort others with God’s love.
At Urbana 12, the Lord convicted Peter to have a more biblically based work ethic and to share his faith with his co-workers in the corporate world. “I wonder, ‘What if I never went to Urbana?’” he said. “I would have gone back to my workplace continually beat up. I probably would have quit without seeing all the miracles God had in store for me when I placed my faith in him. I’m so joyful and glad that I didn’t take the easy way out and quit. God strengthened and equipped me at Urbana.”
Urbana is Directional
Many come to Urbana with no idea what God wants them to do with the rest of their life. Others arrive with a strong sense of calling but cannot see its connection to the Great Commission. That is why Urbana offers students a sacred space to step away from the busyness of life to seek the Lord’s leading.
Being a theater management major, Alissa enrolled in the Arts Track at Urbana 06. But she soon recognized, “My calling wasn’t there. I wandered around aimlessly trying to figure out what other session to be involved in. Then I came across a seminar about human trafficking. At that point, I really let God into my heart. It wrecked me. It turned me upside down.”
Following the conference, the Lord introduced Alissa to Diana, another Urbana 06 alumni, and together they founded Nomi Network, a nonprofit providing job opportunities and education for women at risk of human trafficking in India and Cambodia. Since then, Nomi Network has trained hundreds, inspired microenterprises, and protected many young girls from becoming victims of the commercial sex industry.
By comparison, Marcus already sensed that he should use his medical expertise in missions. But exactly where and how remained a mystery. He first came across SIM—one of the hundreds of missions organizations in Urbana’s exhibit hall—at Urbana 2000 and then three years later, with his girlfriend. “Not once did [they] say how we would fit into SIM,” Marcus said. “[They] just cared for us as people.”
Because of SIM’s people-driven focus, Marcus and his wife joined the organization and have been serving for over 10 years in Africa in various roles. They returned to Urbana 06 as exhibitors for SIM, ministering and encouraging the next generation of students.
While God may call students to change majors and locations, he has also used Urbana to remind many that their gifts and passions qualify them as missionaries right where they are. #Hack4Missions, Urbana’s hackathon, shows up-and-coming software developers, game designers, and other tech-savvy students how technology can spread the gospel and address many challenges that missions organizations face.
Urbana is Relational
With thousands gathering from across North America, it seems inevitable that many students end up feeling lost in the crowd. But Urbana designs intentional spaces to foster community and deep personal connections, including roommate huddles every night to debrief the day’s experiences, and also prayer ministry, where students meet with prayer counselors for discernment and intercession.
Urbana is Informational
Urbana hosts 200 hundred seminar speakers—distinguished thought leaders, experts in the corporate world, and veteran missionaries—to mentor students and provide practical guidance. As a child of missionaries, Ben Bissell was well-aware of international missions. But he discovered other ways he could serve the God’s kingdom at Urbana 09. He is now the executive director for Westminster Economic Development Initiative (WEDI) in his hometown of Buffalo, New York. Their three-pronged mission revolves around revitalizing the local community, educating English Language Learners, and empowering disadvantaged community members to become business owners.
“Urbana was a way of learning about unique tools for community transformation and where Christians were innovating in international development,” Ben said. “It opened up my understanding for how I could influence the world while following Christ. I didn’t have to live a fully secular life to impact the social and physical needs of people.”
Daniel—already passionate about serving as a missionary—went to Urbana at the recommendation of his church. “I went to a seminar called Travelling Well,” he said. “It helped me think, ‘What kind of risks do I need to take for the gospel? But also what precautions can I take, so I can persevere and last longer?’ I think I probably would have burned out a lot faster if I hadn’t gotten some of that wisdom.”
Urbana 18 is Your Opportunity
Urbana is not just for young adults and college students. It offers opportunities for people from all stages of life. Diane said, “I went . . . as a working woman, unhappy professionally, and not sure why I was at Urbana. I found out why I was there when a one-hour seminar unexpectedly brought all my interests together: missions, language, and teaching. I now teach ESL at the local university and am co-chair for my church’s missions committee.”
The Ministry and Missions Leadership Track at Urbana 18 (urbana.org/ministrymissions) is specifically designed for pastors, evangelists, and other ministry leaders to collaborate on how to expand their church’s influence. Please consider attending and inviting others from your church to go with you as well.
Urbana 18 Will Compel the Next Generation
This December thousands will gather in St. Louis for Urbana 18. They will be challenged and encouraged by the book of Revelation. They will worship the King of kings and Lord of lords. They will seek out God’s call for their lives, honoring him through their passions and gifts. They will leave Urbana as faithful witnesses for a lifetime.
Would you encourage the young adults in your life to attend Urbana 18—to experience God’s global majesty and to seek their place fulfilling his Great Commission?
Please visit URBANA.ORG. You can also contact Urbana Communications (firstname.lastname@example.org/ 608.443.3712) with your questions.
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