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Cross 2013

Exactly a month ago the first ever Cross Conference was beginning, with a kick-off concert by Trip Lee. I had arrived in Louisville the night before because I was volunteering. As I walked through the labyrinth of the Kentucky International Convention Center that morning trying to find the meeting room for bookstore volunteers, I got chills all over when I saw the main room in which conference activities would be held. Part of it was no doubt because of excitement – after all, I had been eagerly recruiting for and anticipating this conference for months, knowing that it was going to be everything I had ever longed for in a missions conference. But I think the bigger reason is that there was almost a palpable sense that history was going to be made in the next few days; that from this very inaugural Cross Conference, countless students would answer the call to give their lives to proclaim the glorious gospel of the majestic God to one of the six-thousand-some unreached ethnolinguistic groups of the world.

From what I’ve written so far, it might not seem like my experience and the conference itself is all that different; after all, don’t all student missions conferences call students to proclaim the gospel to the unreached? Well, yes…and no. I’d like to try to highlight why Cross is unique and significant and why, despite the abundance of missions conferences, you should consider going and/or encouraging others to go.

For me, the biggest draw to Cross was that it was going to be a missions conference with the gospel (more specifically, the penal substitutionary gospel) and our majestic, sovereign God at the center. I don’t want to deny the good that has come from other conferences; I affirm and praise God for them. However, it seems that often the topic of mission and missions is approached from a more anthropocentric perspective; also, sometimes the alleviation of temporal suffering is given the main stage, and the alleviation of eternal suffering (and the gospel I described above) is relegated to the periphery. Make no mistake, Christians SHOULD care about temporal suffering. Christ didn’t “just” take care of eternal needs when he walked the earth; he also feed physical bread and healed physical illness. But we MUST be consumed with a vision of being used by God to alleviate eternal suffering. We should build the wells, but there are countless hundreds of “secular” agencies also working toward relief of temporal suffering; if the Church doesn’t proclaim the gospel, no one else will.

Though I was fully expecting these emphases, the way they played out at the conference was even more incredible to experience than I had expected. The whole conference was “drenched” in gospel and “big God” theology. To hear the missionary call heralded from that perspective is what I had always longed for but had never experienced (in person, at least. I had listened to online sermons about missions by John Piper).

The other thing that’s unique about Cross is that it’s not a generic missions conference (that’s not meant as a pejorative). Typically missions conferences are very broad, and the calls and opportunities range from domestic opportunities to overseas opportunities in areas in which the church is already thriving to areas with unreached people groups. Cross’s call is uniquely to the unreached. For those unaware, unreached people groups are ethnolinguistic groups in which either no missionary work is being done, or the church has not been established and there is not an indigenous body of believers big/strong enough to evangelize their own people group. There are just over 6,000 unreached people groups. Within this outer circle, there is a concentric one called unengaged people groups, numbering about 2,000. Amongst unengaged people groups there are no laborers at all. Check out Joshua Project for more information on unreached people groups, and consider signing up to pray for the “Unreached of the Day.”

Despite the great need to labor amongst the unreached, this category is tragically neglected. I know statistics are often viewed with skepticism, but I remember hearing at the Urbana Student Missions Conference that only about 2% of the Church’s resources (in terms of people as well as finances) fund pioneering work. In your own experience, this truth probably resonates. If you think about all the missionaries you’ve ever known, heard of, or and/or supported, how many of them labor among the unreached? Maybe none? That is why I applaud Cross being a missions conference for the unreached instead of a general missions conference. In your sending (and going, if God calls), let this quote from Cross ring in your ears:

“I will go where I am needed most unless I hear God specifically call me to go where I am needed less.”

And finally, on a less serious note, this conference was a delight for me to experience because I had never been to a Reformed conference before. To hear and see so many of my heroes at one event was a real treat. And yes, I finally said the “R” word. I hesitate to label Cross that way because I don’t want to deter those who are not Calvinist from going. At the same time, I do want those in my camp to know about the conference and to go. YRR/New Calvinists, this conference is for you 😀 Go next year. And tell all your friends to go. You will not regret it. You will hear a call to give your life for the most glorious cause in the universe, from the perspective of the glorious doctrines you so cherish. Arminians, you are not excluded. We welcome you out of the hallway and into our room. You might not get recognize all the faces on stage, get all the jokes, or agree with everything you hear, but you will be challenged with Scripture; you will want to know God more, love God more, and to make the regular cry of your heart, “God, what is my place in this story? How would you have me participate in this grand cause of heralding your great name to panta ta ethne?”

All of the plenary sessions from Cross 2013 are available for free here.

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  1. Thanks for the summary Jen. But I’m curious, where did you find yourself specifically fitting into your place in God’s story?


    • Your question made me realize that my post was entirely impersonal. That wasn’t intentional, but subconsciously it may have been caused by the fact that, as amazing as the conference was, in relation to missions I didn’t learn anything new and didn’t sense God saying anything new either. For the past few years I’ve felt called to be a sender, but have remained open to serving amongst UPGs overseas long-term if God calls. This did cause me to feel strange at times at the conference; volunteering helped, as I didn’t have much time to walk around the exhibits or dwell on these things. I did appreciated that during the call for commitment at the last session, David Platt emphasized that some would obey God by staying seated, whereas some would obey by standing up. Often during these kinds of things those who don’t stand can feel like something is amiss.

      I did feel rather convicted when Piper talked about praying every day, “Lord, how do I fit?” In the past few years I’ve stopped asking that question; I had kind of “settled” into a sending life, assuming the status quo. So that statement was perhaps a splash of cold water in the sense of making me realize that I had gotten “comfortable.”

      Since I’ve recently become rather certain of a call to seminary and possibly academia, I’ve definitely thought and prayed about how that might intersect with serving UPGs one day.

      I’d love to hear about how you were impacted by the sessions you listened to!

      Addendum: Mack Stiles is so awesome. I got to talk to him for a while. I was almost ready to go to Dubai 😛


  2. What seminary were you thinking about going to?


    • Hey Jim! A prefatory note first: ironically, this is actually not public knowledge. I’ve only told a few people that I know, not wanting to make it public until I actually apply. It’s funny that I’ve now revealed it in a comment on my blog, but the majority of my readership are people I don’t know in “real life.”

      I initially had my heart set on Westminster (so much so that I didn’t consider anywhere else), but unfortunately there’s really no scholarship money I’m eligible for. Recently, though, I discovered that TEDS has a ton of scholarships I’m eligible for, so most likely I’ll go for a masters at TEDS. It’s not just money, of course – it’s a fine broad evangelical seminary with some phenomenal scholars like Carson and more recently Vanhoozer and Campbell. But I’m quite enamored with the Westminster tradition, and I really love a lot of their faculty. I had been daydreaming about taking all of Beale’s classes…

      Anyway, if you have any thoughts/advice, please feel free to share! And if you know of any scholarships for those not on pastorate track, not former campus ministry staff, etc. please share!


  1. Book Review: Reformed Means Missional (Samuel T. Logan ed.) |

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