I attended a long and intense 4 days of conferences in Columbia, SC. I got to know, listen to, and glean lots of wisdom and knowledge as to what God is doing around the United States and Canada in the "world" of international student ministry. I was incredible and yet challenging! The greatest message that I have learned and been challenged with is the issue of disciple-making.
This is the greatest challenge and disappointment of the American church (as a whole) because it is what we were commissioned to do at the end of Christ' earthly ministry in Matthew 28:18. The disappointment has come because it doesn't fit in our lifestyle as typical Americans. We believe that the challenge was issued to only a few then and only applies to a few today. The common layperson in the local church either doesn't want to "disciple-make" or they don't know how (which means they are a failed product of the ones before them).
At some point, we must get this issue dealt with. There needs to be a renewed passion to disciple-make! We are called to "go and MAKE disciples!" "Making" disciples WILL require a lot from each of us. This job can't be left to the pastors of our churches. He is only one man. It can't be left to the "more spiritual" people of the church. If you are saved, born again, a follower of Christ, a Christian, or any other title you would want to give yourself, then you are must be a disciple maker. In order to change a society or culture, it takes more than one generation of a people. There can be a start with just one generation, but for it to be a long-lasting culture change, it has to take place over more than one. But, how can that happen? It can only happen, when something that is genuine and authentic is passed down from one person to another, no matter the connection between the two people involved (as long as they are within the same culture). Let me be clearer and put this in better words.
In order to change our American culture (or another) and to have it last, we must teach one person to another and then that person teach another, the precepts of God and His commands in a way that changes lives. It must be done with love and compassion, but it must be true and relevant. We must let each follower of Christ know that they are important to the Kingdom/Body of Christ. They must know that they were not called to occupy a pew or chair. They were called to impact this world! This message must be proclaimed to every culture.
I'm here at a double conference in Columbia, SC. The first conference was High Impact. It was hosted by our mission board, North American Mission Board, and attended by NAMB missionaries and Baptist state missionaries who all work with international students. The second conference is a national conference for all Christians who work with international students. It doesn't matter what organization, church, denomination, or even volunteers. The only criteria is that you are a Christian.
I have been excited about attending these conferences because of their importance and wealth of information. Some of the discussions and sessions were going to be very important for the ministry that God has called us to.
Well, as of Friday, my brain is already full! :-) I still have another 2 full days of sessions and speakers to attend.
The greatest thing that I have learned so far is the need to be a learner! I had a lot of questions before I came. I desire to make as few mistakes as possible when our ministry officially starts. However, I have been learning that EVERY ministry is different because every campus is different or has different dynamics. So, the challenge is to learn and be willing to fail in order to learn. I am thankful for those who have gone before me in international student ministry (especially, those who have taken the time to impart their wisdom to me and pray for my family and I!).
God has a lot of work to do in my life, but above all, I'm just thankful that He is already at work!
Dennis Runner- a witness, a follower, a student, and a lump of clay in the hands of my God and Savior.