For Immediate Release
(Madison, WI) — “The God who is at work in the world today is a God of history,” says missions expert Paul Borthwick. This year, 2006 – an Urbana year – uniquely highlights some important anniversaries in the history of missions and student involvement in missions.
Borthwick, who teaches missions classes at Gordon College and is an Urbana Missions Associate with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, spoke at a chapel service at InterVarsity’s National Service Center on what encourages him about how God is moving in the world today. He noted several significant missions anniversaries that make this an important celebration year.
- Fifty years ago five missionaries were martyred in Ecuador, an event depicted in the move End of the Spear, released last January. All five missionaries cultivated their passion for lost souls while they were college students, not unlike many students Borthwick meets today. “These are the students you’re working for,” he told the InterVarsity staff members. “These are the students who can change the future of our global Christian faith, because of their willingness to be incarnational, to go to places that are hard to get to.”
- Sixty years ago InterVarsity held its first student missions convention in Toronto. Two years later it was moved to the University of Illinois and became the Urbana convention.
- Seventy years ago the East African revival occurred, bringing great numbers to faith in Rwanda and Burundi.
- One hundred years ago the Azusa Street revival began, which launched the modern Pentecostal movement. “If you are among those Christians who believe that tongues and miracles and signs and wonders have ceased, don’t travel,” Borthwick said. “Because the church around the world doesn’t know this.” While attending a convention of the Nigerian Fellowship of Evangelical Students, Borthwick said he asked his driver how he became a Christian. “Oh, Brother Bob over there raised me from the dead,” the man told him.
- Two hundred years ago the Haystack prayer meeting was held at Williams College in Massachusetts, launching the modern missions movement in the United States. “Prayer is at the core of God’s work,” Borthwick said. “I’m not instinctively a pray-er. But my students are. Students today seem to be drawn to all night vigils and spontaneous prayer meetings.”
Borthwick said that the Azusa Street revival anniversary should remind all Christians of the need to be dependent upon the Holy Spirit in their lives. “God is still doing Book-of-Acts type stuff,” he said, mentioning widespread reports of whole villages of Africans coming to Christianity at the same time, after having visions of Jesus.
Borthwick also recalled that one of the principal founders of the Azusa Street revival, William Seymour, said that the truest sign of the Holy Spirit’s fullness is not speaking in tongues but racial reconciliation. “That is really a unique thing that InterVarsity offers the student ministry world,” he said. “Most student groups aren’t nearly as sensitized to it or as aware of it as InterVarsity as a movement.”
InterVarsity’s Urbana Student Missions Conventions are a part of the legacy of the Haystack prayer meeting. But Urbana itself has created a legacy. Borthwick said that he will be attending Urbana-like student conventions in Taiwan, Indonesia, and Nigeria in coming months. “All of these are testimonies of the fact that through prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit students are mobilizing for a great advance into secular culture, into the world that we live in and the world beyond ourselves.”
- Registrations for Urbana 06 have now topped 2500, which is ahead of the pace for all previous Urbana conventions. Urbana 06 will be held at the Edward Jones Dome and the America’s Center in St. Louis, December 27-31, 2006.
- Paul Borthwick’s talk is an InterVarsity podcast. You can listen to it or download it at http://media.intervarsity.org/mp3/Borthwick.mp3.
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Urbana Communications Director