He dwelled among us
Learning to live like Christ in the world’s neighborhoods at Urbana 09.
by Christin Davis –
Some 17,000 young people, ages 17-30, rang in 2010 with a challenge to dwell among the world’s poor at Urbana 09, held in the Edward Jones Dome and The Americas Center in St. Louis, Mo., Dec. 27-31.
The Urbana conference, hosted every three years since 1946 by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, is focused
on mobilizing men and women for global missions. It brings together students from around the world for worship sessions, inductive Bible study, seminars, and connections to over 300 mission agencies.
The theme, “He dwelled among us,” focused on John 1-4.
“At a time when students are thinking globally and are open to what it is that God may be saying to them, we’re showing them what God is doing in the world, and then inviting them to be a part of that,” said Jim Tebbe, director of Urbana.
Oscar Muriu, senior pastor of Nairobi Chapel in Kenya, urged the mission-focused students to acquire a model of ministry that is different from what we often see today.
“Handouts are not an answer to world missions; ‘helicopter’ missions change nothing,” Muriu said. “God’s way is quiet, subtle and subversive. Our desire for instant results does wrong in an attempt to change and win the world.”
Muriu pointed to various forms of ministry throughout the stages of history.
“In Acts, the missionaries went off presuming to receive the good will of others,” he said. “Today, most Christians live in the two-thirds world and cannot use the green buck as the fuel for missions. We must move on to an incarnational model that invites the whole world to participate in missions.”
Referencing Philippians 2, Muriu detailed four transitions that Jesus went through as he incarnated into our world and lived among us: He went from pride to humility, from power to powerlessness, from privilege to poverty, and from the harmony/unity of heaven to the brokenness/disunity of earth.
“Jesus said we are to be servants,” Muriu said. “Jesus’ incarnation is our model for ministry.”
One evening of the conference focused on the financial influence on poverty.
“I believe this generation of church believers is not just about obtaining new life when we die, but about bringing God’s kingdom down to earth,” said Shane Claiborne, founding partner of The Simple Way and author of The Irresistible Revolution. “When manna came down from heaven, God instructed the people to take only what they needed for that day. Poverty exists because we haven’t figured out how to live simply within our means.
“We are not to conform to the patterns of Wall Street, but to the upside-down kingdom of God,” he said.
In the Urbana offering collection, each delegate was asked to help advance various missions initiatives around the world—$63 from each delegate would raise the goal of $1 million. One hundred percent of the money goes to 12 organizations and projects including Hagar International, International Justice Mission, World Vision and Care of Creation.
To date, the collection totals $874,000 and donations continue.
Interceding in prayer
“So much of our prayer is repeating back to God what he already knows,” said Sunder Krishnan, senior pastor at Rexdale Alliance Church in Ontario, Canada. A mechanical engineering Master of Science graduate, Krishnan previously worked in safety analysis with Atomic Energy of Canada.
He spoke on the need for our dependence on intercessory prayer.
“We have guidance on how to pray in Acts 4,” Krishnan said. “From this we know that only a sovereign God makes prayer sensible.”
He detailed the key objectives for this type of mediating prayer: acknowledge that God is sovereign, creator and redeemer and pray according to the word, referencing similar situations in Scripture.
“Pray big and bold; prayer is not about getting answers,” Krishnan said. “God’s agenda is in the transformation of the pray-er; it is God’s gift to us.”
In a call to commitment, 2,292 students decided to follow Christ, 5,000 delegates committed to serve cross-culturally, and 2,610 individuals committed to long-term service cross-culturally.
Dream for a generation
Ramez Atallah, general secretary for the Bible Society of Egypt, served as the conference’s Bible expositor, teaching on the first four chapters of John each morning. Raised in Egypt, Atallah moved to Canada as a teenager and met Jesus through a local church. In 1980, he returned to reside in Egypt with his wife.
Speaking on John 4, Atallah acknowledged that the woman at the well was an unlikely candidate for ministry, yet she converted the town. When Jesus decided to spend a few days living with the Samaritans, Atallah said, ‘I’m sure the disciples were kicking and screaming, but Jesus still went in and dwelled among them.”
“I have a dream of 17,000 young people living in their neighborhoods, always pleasing God, holding the message of truth firmly and modeling Christ’s love,” Atallah said.
Watch videos of the general sessions and read more about the conference at urbana09.org.