At last month’s Gen12 conference, ‘Gather to scatter’, almost 200 people came together at BST to find out more about cross-cultural mission. That gathering day was full of great challenges, learning and encouragements. But what about the scattering? How have people been better engaged in taking God’s word to the world since walking out the door of Gen12?
“It’s made a huge impact on our young adults” says Garrett Edwards, youth pastor at North Pine Anglican Church, who brought a group along to the conference. “I often worry that we’re viewing church as an end in itself; as just a place to come and worship and then go home. But church has a purpose – we’re meant to go out and share the gospel!” The day after Gen12 the young adults who had come with Garrett decided to get up in church and share what they’d learned with their congregation. “It was great to see them challenging people about mission,” Garrett says, “and it’s helped us think more seriously about what we as a church need to be doing to get our teens and young adults involved in – and leading – mission in our community.”
Garrett’s group were also inspired by a question raised by keynote speaker Rev Peter Rodgers: ‘Where is God in our changing world?’ Garrett notes: “Young people can often wonder where God is in this fast-paced world of technology and fashion and constant change. How is God relevant to it all? But Peter’s clear message was that although the world shifts around us, our mission from Jesus never changes. The gospel stands the test of time and we are still clearly called to go and share it with the nations.”
Another encouraged Gen12 attendee was 53-year-old Anne Cameron: “Sometimes churches can, without meaning to, send the message that mission is just something young people do – it’s all about ‘the next generation’ ” Anne told us. “But I felt very affirmed at Gen12 that I absolutely had something to offer and God spoke to me clearly about how I need to get more involved in mission right here in Brisbane.”
Anne attended one of the seminars focused on cross-cultural mission in Australia, run by CMS, and found that the content resonated with a message she felt God had been impressing on her over several months. “I’ve always struggled with feelings of not really fitting in” Anne admits, “feeling like an outsider, even at church. And in the weeks leading up to Gen12 I felt God bringing those feelings to the surface again, which I didn’t really understand since I’d always battled against them. But then the speaker was talking about refugees and emphasising how important it was to bring the love and grace of God to those who didn’t belong and didn’t fit in – and I just felt my heart say ‘yes, this is it!’” Halfway through a counselling qualification at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Anne is now pursuing involvement with Student Life (who she was able to re-connect with at Gen12) and is praying through practical ways she can engage with international students and refugees, and others who ‘don’t fit’, right in her own neighbourhood.
Others who attended the conference felt the pull of mission overseas. Anne’s 17-year-old daughter Julia also came to Gen12 and was reminded of her passion for sharing Jesus with unreached people groups: “It can be easy to get sidetracked by the busyness of life,” she says, “but this has really helped re-focus me and I’m excited about where and how God can use me.” Julia is going on a short-term mission to Cambodia and Thailand later this year and feels newly energised to pursue her dream of working full-time in overseas mission in the future.
The plans of 27-year-old physiotherapist Viana Vuvan have also been impacted by Gen12, as she’s been to Cambodia three times on short-term mission trips but is now motivated to commit to a longer visit: “The seminar I went to really drove home the fact that investing time in people and building relationships is so important in mission. Going back to Cambodia for a longer period of time is now definitely in my plans for the next year or two.”
So what about you? How are you taking God’s word to the world? You might be thinking about going across an ocean, like Viana or Julia, or maybe just across the street, like Anne or Garrett and his group. When it comes to the how, who and where of sharing the gospel there are many possible answers. But when it comes to why, there’s only one: because our mission from Jesus never changes.