VANCOUVER, Wash. — A roster of keynote speakers, this time all from the Northwest, highlighted the 12th run of Mission ConneXion Northwest here Jan. 17 and 18.
An estimated aggregate attendance of 14,000 was tallied for the conference sessions at Crossroads Community Church, said the event’s founder and executive director, Bill MacLeod.
“It looks like people were pleasantly relieved actually that our numbers this year were a little down from last year,” he said, alluding to when keynote speaker Ravi Zacharias’s participation drew a 20,000-person aggregate crowd that caused big traffic tie-ups nearthe venue.
Keynoters this year were Roderick Davis, Carl Medaris, Roberta King and Rick McKinley. Each provided their own insights on missions under the overall conference theme of “To All People, By All Means,” based on I Corinthians 9.
On Friday evening, Medearis, an author and expert on Muslim-Christian relations, provided a humor-filled but also serious recounting of his own experiences bringing the Gospel into unexpected places in the Islamic world — sometimes before top leaders.
The key to such inroads, he said, is to focus on the person of Christ rather than on Christianity. “It’s because I’m not preaching a religion that they don’t like associated with the West, it’s because we’re preaching Christ. It’s the magic formula. It’s the formula that Paul used, and that we’re called to use. It’s not all that special, not all that surprising. It’s Jesus.”
He acknowledged his own past fears in taking the Gospel into such dangerous territory (“If we were really honest, most of us are chickens at heart”), but called the crowd to prayer to overcome their own fears.
“Don’t fear man,” he said. “Don’t fear death. Don’t fear your future. Don’t fear lack of money. Don’t fear failure. Do not fear.”
Davis, a former drug-dealer in his youth who founded TEARS ministry in the Dominican Republic, said the scriptural admonition in Christ’s Great Commission to reach the world with the Gospel makes the assignment crystal clear.
“I don’t know why we have to make it so hard,” he said. “If Jesus said ‘Go.” then just go … We shouldn’t be asking God if we are to go; we should be asking God if there’s a valid reason to stay.”
McKinley, founder and lead pastor at Imago Dei Community in Portland, emphasized that effective, loving proclamation of the Gospel depends critically on the spiritual vitality of those carrying the message.
“We need the Gospel for ourselves in order to preach the Gospel to others,” he said. “It’s only when we are saved by the Gospel that we are set free to preach the Gospel.”
Christians must not be so arrogant as to think some people are simply unreachable,” he said.
“Evangelism is about humility, not about arrogance,” he said. “Make Jesus the hero of our story, not you.”
Also speaking Saturday morning was King, a longtime missionary now on faculty at Fuller Theological Seminary in California.
MacLeod said the conference sponsored by a variety of local churches — one of the largest annual Christian events in the Northwest — continues to touch hearts.
“It is always so humbling for me to be approached by so many, many strangers I’ve never met who just want to say thanks for putting on this event each year,” he said. “ It touches our own team that so much can be accomplished by so few, when we share a common vision.”
For more information, go to missionconnexion. com.