SEND North America Conference 2015 has come and gone. The missions gathering was held in Nashville, Aug. 3-4 and drew more than 13,500 people. Even though the conference is over, the impact on those who attended will be felt for some time to come.
The theme was “Every Life on Mission Matters.” This theme was driven home by video interviews shown throughout the conference of six individuals who had decided to be intentional about living on mission for God. The arena was filled to capacity with pastors, church planters, and a substantial number of lay people who came by the carload and the busload to be challenged and inspired.
This year, the SEND Conference was sponsored jointly by the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board. The respective leaders of these two Southern Baptist missions sending agencies – Kevin Ezell and David Platt – appeared on the platform together numerous times. They clearly exhibited a great deal of mutual affection and respect for one another. There were many light moments of friendly banter between the two as well as serious moments of tear-filled conviction.
The SEND Conference was clearly intended to encourage action and not simply to disseminate information.
The camaraderie between Ezell and Platt was one of the most encouraging aspects of the conference. The positive and cooperative spirit between the two leaders underscored the synergy that must exist between being on mission at home and to the nations. There was an obvious absence of any dichotomous references to domestic vs. international missions. Rather, the emphasis was on seeking God and being on mission for Him wherever He leads.
The main sessions featured times of worship led by Passion Band, David Crowder, Shane and Shane, and Casting Crowns. Keynote speakers were J.D. Greear, Russell Moore, Louie Giglio, Vance Pittman, and David Platt. The inclusion of these bands and speakers clearly drew many from the younger generation with whom they are largely popular.
Even though there were people of all ages in attendance, the presence of so many young adults brought encouragement and great promise for the ongoing spread of the Gospel and even of the future of the denomination. There were comments made throughout the conference and in the breakout sessions about the beauty and effectiveness of The Cooperative Program. Non-Southern Baptist individuals and churches were welcomed and encouraged to attend the SEND conference; however, the speakers consistently emphasized the blessing of being a part of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Participants had a difficult time choosing between excellent break-out sessions which featured a variety of relevant topics including church planting, sharing the Gospel, making disciples, reaching the nations, worship planning, speaking into the culture, church revitalization, engaging Millennials, reaching cities, and preaching in the 21st century. Some breakout sessions were directly targeted to challenge college students to live missional lives on campus. Others were designed specifically for women, and still others for Christians in the workplace. Some breakout sessions were conducted entirely in Spanish.
Throughout the SEND Conference, representatives from NAMB and the IMB were available at three different stations throughout the venue. These stations were called “Next Steps” stations. Participants were encouraged to drop by to receive guidance and to discover what the next steps might be for them personally or for their church.
The SEND Conference was clearly intended to encourage action and not simply to disseminate information. One of the speakers pointed out that the title of the conference was a verb – SEND. Everything about the conference was intended to move participants forward in the process of discovering and living out God’s unique mission for them.
Platt issued an invitation at the conclusion of the conference which he claimed was not a normal invitation for a missions conference. He indicated that the invitation being extended was not an invitation to “special, extraordinary people,” but an invitation to “ordinary people” who were willing to say, “Here I am, God. Send me right where I live and wherever you lead.”