ICMC West 2017Sam
Even though the outside is hot and humid this summer evening in Austin, Texas, the college students inside do not even think about it as they sing in worship led by those hosting the International Campus Ministry Conference. College disciples and visitors from all over the western half of the United States gather together to grow in their relationships with each other and with God as they are welcomed to Texas. The campus minister from San Antonio, Jeff Henderson, takes the stage as he begins to lead the talk for the first Main Session: The One Who Is. He recalls a story of himself having the chance to play against professional basketball player Nate Robinson in Seattle. He uses this story to illustrate the difference between being the fan of someone and being their disciple, the concept of knowing of a person against actually knowing them; he takes this idea and attaches it to our relationships with Jesus. The primary Scripture Jeff focuses on is Matthew, 6:13–18. He uses the words of Jesus to Simon Peter to inspire and challenge all of us to step up and spread the Gospel and serve, not running from Satan or uncomfortable issues, but being on the attack.
The entire sixth conference floor of the Hilton hotel is occupied by campus disciples from all across the western United States. There is fellowshipping along with the rekindling and building of new relationships going on throughout the night as our campus church creates an atmosphere of love and brethren which can be felt in every part of this large establishment. Even downstairs in the lobby, crowds of students can be seen occupying the space so that there is not a single direction in which a person can turn without seeing someone from the church; there is not a moment that goes by where voices unified in Christ cannot be heard. It is to the degree that all the chairs in the lobby are taken and the floors of the hallways on the conference floor are flooded. This overwhelming occupation of the followers of Christ and feeling of connection carries on throughout the rest of the conference.
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” —Matthew, 18:20
The next morning, another hot and sunny day, is the second part of the Main Session: The One Who Was. Led by Dave Hooper, this speech uses many pieces of Scripture and shows how Jesus is written throughout the pages of the Old Testament. The final passage that Dave focuses on is Hebrews, 5:7–10,
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.”
This passage shows how Jesus had to learn obedience—a trait of His humanity. It is God becoming human that reconnects us with Him. Dave turns us to our reconciliation with Christ and stirs the crowd to truly connect and build a deeper relationship with God, “Don’t allow your Christianity to simply be a religion”.
“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’” —Revelation, 1:8
This leads into the first two rounds of classes. Each round of classes has a wide variety of options to choose from, all being taught by a multitude of people visiting from all over. To go to every class would be a miracle; to go to just one class is a blessing. The themes of the classes vary from Entering into Campus Ministry, to Overcoming Fears, to Mental Health & Spirituality, and much more. There is even a series of classes specifically for those in ministry, entitled: Useful to the Master. This series has many different church leaders serving as teachers, providing guidance and education for those who are serving or looking to serve God full-time.
The day is brought to an end with the third Main Session, led by Stuart Mains: The One Who Is To Come. Mains is the campus minister from California’s Inland Empire, speaking passionately and in a way that pushes our usual comfort-zones. Starting off with a mix of verses, he preaches the message that is often forgotten: Jesus is coming back!
“Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.” —Revelation, 1:7
We are all commissioned to abandon our “perfect model[s] of inoffensive Christianity” and spread the Word in a way that makes an impact, with such passion and faith that people around us are offended. This session is brought to a close by the entire crowd rising to their feet as Stuart Mains reads of The New Jerusalem:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God.” —Revelation, 21:3
The third day, Saturday, begins early with Men’s and Women’s classes. There are two more rounds of classes which end not long after noon, bringing an end to academic events for the day. Many use the day for rest, although many others take advantage of the time to explore the city of Austin. The hotel being near the Colorado River, it is popular to go kayaking and watch the bats come out from under the Congress Avenue Bridge at sunset. In addition to exploring other parts of the city, there are also nighttime events hosted by the church that many attend. These occur throughout the conference, and include a dance party and a concert.
ICMC comes to a close the next morning with the Sunday service, led by Brian Dailey from Seattle. To bring a conclusion to the themed series of the conference’s sessions, his sermon is titled The Almighty. Focusing on this, he completes the weekend by giving the overflowing auditorium a charge to walk away with: God can do anything! Using different aspects of his own story as examples, he shows how we can take everything we have learned and really put it into practice. So long as we have God, the Almighty, it is possible.
—Samuel Hemphill 7/16/17