By JOHN FORTMEYER, CNNW publisher
TUALATIN — As usual, the subjects of dozens of workshops varied greatly, as did the topics pursued by the different plenary speakers. But from start to finish, the 18th annual run of the big Mission ConneXion Northwest conference reminded the estimated 3,000 attenders about a unified effort they can join.
“When we focus on the gospel, we are one body, speaking with one voice, and have one mission — the Great Commission,” said event founder and executive director Bill MacLeod as he opened the first plenary session at Rolling Hills Community Church in Tualatin.
In doing so, he alluded to this year’s theme for the Jan. 17 and 18 conference: “One Body, One Voice, One Mission.” The free-admission event is sponsored by a wide range of churches and features dozens of missions-oriented ministries.
Stephen Yoon, one of four keynote speakers, addressed the crowd Friday evening. He said it was somewhat ironic that he would be featured at an event with such a theme, because he currently lives in a nation where a unified effort by believers is not visibly evident, but yet God is present.
“I have to proclaim to you that God is at work, God is alive in North Korea,” said Yoon, a Korean-American chiropractor who for a decade has cared for childen with disabilities in the capital city of Pyongyang. He said he has seen many unexpected medical miracles in his practice, and has played a key role in the recent construction of a $3 million hospital there.
Yoon said he never anticipated living in North Korea, but his wife, Joy, sensed a call to that nation at a young age and he eventually learned that it welcomes professionals such as physicians who can meet specific needs. There is great need for treatment of children from throughout all corners of the nation, Yoon said.
Those who are willing to follow God’s leading can be engaged in a ministry of reconciliation, even in difficult places, Yoon said.
“He does His work through our obedience, not our education or our experience,” he said. “Through our obedience we go, or stay, and be the instruments of God’s love.”
Another keynoter, Rebecca Pippert, is best known for Out of the Saltshaker, a book on evangelism that she wrote in the 1970s. She regularly lectures internationally on spiritual renewal, evangelism and character formation.
She recalled with fondness the two years she spent during the 1970s as an evangelist for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship on the campuses of three Northwest colleges — Reed in Portland and Whitman and Whitworth in Eastern Washington. She no-ted that in the years since, she has seen a “collapse of absolute truth” in the secular western world, but that she believes it has only increased spiritual need.
“The secular culture doesn’t have the power to diminish how God made us .. in fact, it exacerbates the hunger,” she said.
The result is that there are both bigger challenges and bigger opportunities for followers of Christ, Pippert said. “It is an extraordinary, unprecedented moment for the Gospel,” she said.
She termed evangelism a “fire” that can reach all hearts and that can involve all believers.
“Our weakness doesn’t hinder God from using us,” she said. “The power comes from God … We don’t need self-confidence; we need God-confidence.”
But she said it’s critical to depend on the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word, to get training in evangelism, and to display the kind of love that only Christ can supply. “Don’t try to love the world (yourself); you’re going to run out fast,” she said.
A third keynoter, Michael Badriaki, earned degrees at both Multnomah and George Fox universities locally. Born in Kenya and raised in Uganda, he teaches at Lancaster Bible College in Pennsylvania and co-founded with his wife, Kristen, the Global Leadership Community, where they nurture leadership through education.
Like Yoon and Pippert, Badriaki emphasized the importance of leaning on God in seeking to touch a needy world.
“It is God’s mission, not ours,” he said. “He has ownership. But He has invited us as co-workers all over the world.” In an age where “me, myself and I,” is all too evident in social media today, Christians must counter that trend with a spirit of sacrifice if they are to move in unity, Badriaki said.
“The sacrifice that I am talking about biblically, that we have as one, goes beyond ‘me, myself and I,’ ’’ he said. He pointed to Christ’s death on the Cross as the ultimate model of loving sacrifice.
He also called for faith, which he likened to a restful attitude of reliance on God.
“Faith is like reclining in a chair,” he said. “Are you reclining with Jesus? Division in the church will not go away unelss we are reclining.”
Also speaking as a keynoter was author Dick Brogden, who with his wife has served among Muslims for the last two and a have decades and founded the “Live Dead” program, which plants churches and trains church planters in unreached people groups in the Arab world. Brogden also was featured in a separate pre-conference event, Leadership ConneXion, on Friday.