By Gordon Govier

High Expectations

About 1,200 InterVarsity staff and spouses have returned to St. Louis for a National Staff Conference, January 2-6, 2008. There are many similarities and some key differences with last year’s Urbana 06 Student Missions Convention in St. Louis.

Staff Conference 08 is a smaller gathering, of course. And the message has a different focus.

At Urbana 06, the 20,000 participants were challenged by the words of the apostle Paul to the Ephesians (4:1) to live a life worthy of their calling as followers of Jesus. At Staff Conference 08, staff are being challenged by Paul’s words to the Romans, to embrace the power of the Gospel in their work and their lives.

“It is our prayer that Staff Conference will give us a vivid encounter with the power of the Gospel, so that we can carry that Gospel with us in a new way,” said Tom Boyle, the director of Staff Development and Training. The main speakers of the five-day event are expositing Paul’s letter to the Romans, starting with verse 16 of chapter one: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation, to the Jew first and then to the Greek.”

Although the verse focuses on the power of God in evangelism, Boyle pointed out that the power of God is important for all areas of ministry. He said National Staff Conference, which is held every three years, is an important opportunity for InterVarsity to re-center its ministry focus for its field staff, who operate on 580 campuses across the U.S.

By returning to St. Louis, the site of InterVarsity’s Urbana 06 Student Missions Convention last year and of the next Urbana in 2009, Staff Conference is also an opportunity to continue forging ministry relationships in one of the nation’s largest urban areas. “We’re building a relationship and a reputation with the Christian community in St. Louis,” Boyle said.

“We have been very well received in St. Louis,” added Jim Tebbe, InterVarsity’s vice president of Missions, and the director of Urbana. He noted that 1,600 St. Louis area residents attended the Urbana 06 community night service. Several churches have forged strong links to InterVarsity, and he anticipates more will follow as InterVarsity continues to build its presence in the St. Louis community.

The plenary speakers at InterVarsity’s Staff Conference are Dan Chun, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu; Isaac Canales, president of the Latin American Bible Institute in la Puente, CA, and senior pastor of the Mission Ebenezer Family Church, in Carson, CA; Mary Kate Morse, a Professor of Pastoral Studies and Spiritual Formation, and the director of the Masters programs at George Fox Evangelical Seminary; and Richard Allen Farmer, a pastor and musician now living in Dallas TX.