Since 1946, God has spoken to over 300,000 students at the Urbana conference about missions and what he is doing around the world. The conference started in Toronto, moved to Urbana, Illinois in 1948, and since 2006, it has been held in St. Louis (but they kept the name Urbana). It is the largest student missions conference in North America. The theme Urbana 18 is “Faithful Witness: Discern your place in God’s Global Mission” and the biblical focus will be on the book of Revelation.
God spoke to me about missions and ministry at Urbana 1981, and 37 years later I’m still teaching the Bible. And God has led me to be involved in cross-cultural projects in Hawaii, Nigeria, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Russia, Israel, Liberia, and Korea. It has been my delight to attend seven Urbanas (1981, 1984, 1987, 1990, 1993, 1996, 2015), and from December 26-January 1, I’ll attend my eighth, this time with my wife Shannon (who’s been to four more than me).
At Urbana, I’ll be leading two seminars:
- God Behaving Badly: Is God Really Angry, Sexist, and Racist? At America’s Center (AC) 223-224 on December 28 from 2:00-3:00. Many people think of God as wrathful, smiting people for no apparent reason. The Old Testament seems to portray God as malevolent, punishing enemies with extreme prejudice. But alongside these passages are pictures of God’s love, goodness, and compassion. How do we make sense of the seeming contradiction?
- Sexual Abuse in the Bible (#metoo), Hyatt Regency @Arch, Regency Ballroom DEF on December 30 from 3:30-4:30. While people in power have been covering up sexual abuse for millennia, the Bible boldly records the tragic stories of Sarah, Hagar, two Tamars, and Bathsheba. As we examine these stories, we will discover how God shows mercy not only to victims but also to perpetrators of sexual abuse.
The first seminar will be based on material from my book, God Behaving Badly, and the second, on material from my book, Prostitutes and Polygamists: A Look at Love, Old Testament Style.
My wife Shannon will be co-leading a Bible study with Esrael Seyum on the book of Revelation with 800 international students (in AC 223-224, December 28, 29, 30, 31 in the mornings). As many of you know, Revelation can be confusing, so she and Esrael will need great wisdom to lead this large group into clarity about God’s word.
If you’re coming to Urbana, I hope to see you there. If you’re the praying sort, Shannon and I would covet your prayers.