I'm in Orlando, Florida at the moment, participating in a pretty big conference about christian mission. (Well, actually, OK - it is huge! At the moment the "pre-conference" is on and there are 3,000 people at it. I've heard there will be about 10,000 by the time the main conference gets going tomorrow. That is a lot of people seated in one room!)
Today, one of the speakers (John Piper - if that name means anything to you) had us think about what you actually do at a conference about mission. Yes, we have heard from a couple of missionaries (although not that many), I've just been to a great session about the history of mission in Latin America and I'm just about to have dinner with a group of leaders from Latin America, but what is the essence of a mission conference?
His answer was great. The key activity at a mission conference has to be the opening and teaching the scriptures. Why? Because it is as we open and study the scriptures that we understand what mission is, and learn what will sustain mission and missionaries.
So for the last day and a bit we've been reading and studying 2 Cor 4-5, and it has just oozed gospel, gospel motivated mission, and gospel sustained mission.
The temptation at a mission conference is to get all caught up with the missionaries and spectacular stories or success or failure, or to hear about great needs or rejoice in needs met. And those are all good things - but they won't in the long run motivate or sustain mission - especially when it is difficult. What will motivate and sustain mission is the gospel - a firm understanding of the gospel its place in the world.
I am glad to say - I've been challenged and motivated once again by what I've heard.