By Bob Allen
Students of the New Calvinism movement identified by titles including “young, restless and reformed” will head to Louisville, Ky., during Christmas break for a missions conference organized “for the global purpose of magnifying the kingly majesty of Jesus Christ” by focusing “on all the unreached peoples of the world where Jesus is not worshipped as God and Savior.”
John Piper, a member of the CROSS conference leadership team, promoted the Dec. 27-30 event in a video from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, against a backdrop of a skyline featuring Burj Khalifa, at 2,716.5 feet the world’s tallest building, and over audio of an Islamic call to prayer.
“Behind me is the tallest city in the world, and you can hear the kind of city that we’re in,” said Piper, author of more than 50 books who served for 32 years as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis.
“It is a spectacular city, a wealthy city,” Piper said. “And that tower, and this city, are coming down. The city is ripe with sin for the judgment of God, unless radical Christians flood this city with the spectacular good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ: that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.”
Piper said at the first conference on missions he ever attended a student stood up and asked a panel why anyone who believed in predestination would be a missionary. A veteran missionary took the microphone, Piper recalled, and said after 20 years working in the hardest places in the world, “unless I believe in predestination, I wouldn’t be a missionary.”
“Why is that?” Piper asked. “Because Jesus said when the rich young man walked away, it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven. It’s hard. It’s impossible. They threw up their hands and said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ And Jesus said, ‘With man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.’”
Joining Piper on the leadership team are Thabiti Anyabwile, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman in the Grand Cayman Islands; Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Mich.; and David Platt, pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.
Another member is Zane Pratt, team leader of the Global Theological Education Strategy Team for the Southern Baptist International Mission Board and former dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
David Sitton, president of To Every Tribe, a missionary church-planting organization based in Los Fresnos, Texas, and Mack Stiles, CEO of Gulf Digital Solutions and general secretary for the Fellowship of Christian UAE Students (FOCUS) in the United Arab Emirates, round out the leadership team.
All belong to the Gospel Coalition, a Reformed evangelical movement started in 2007 over concern about “some movements within traditional evangelicalism that seem to be diminishing the church’s life and leading us away from our historic beliefs and practices.”
Piper said in a CROSScon blog that with 7,000 schools of higher learning and 15 million students in America, planners believe there is room for another conference about missions. He said planners believe God is stirring among young people today in ways similar to the Student Volunteer Movement, which recruited thousands of missionaries between 1886 and 1920 and is recognized as one the most successful missionary-recruiting organizations of all time.
“More specifically, we see a growing tide of students with a big view of God as sovereign and glorious,” Piper wrote. “This tide has been fed by decades of God-exalting worship music, Bible-saturated campus ministries, and the book-publishing and social-media explosion of the Reformed resurgence.”
“In other words, there are thousands of students eager to plug the cord of their passion into the great biblical truths of the Reformation,” Piper said. “They care about building their lives and ministries on robust theology. We want to point that tide to the unreached peoples of the world.”
The conference website includes a statement of faith that describes “election” as “an unconditional act of free grace” by which “God chose, before the foundation of the world, those who would be delivered from bondage to sin and brought to repentance and saving faith in His Son Christ Jesus.”
It affirms the direct creation of Adam and Eve, who were “appointed differing and complementary roles in marriage as a type of Christ and the church.”
Christ’s atonement for sin warrants offering the gospel to all persons, it says, but “it also obtained the omnipotent New Covenant mercy of repentance and faith for God’s elect.”
“Christ died for all, but not for all in the same way,” the statement says. “In His death, Christ expressed a special covenant love to His friends, His sheep, His bride. For them He obtained the infallible and effectual working of the Spirit to triumph over their resistance and bring them to saving faith.”
Rather than discouraging gospel proclamation, the statement says predestination “is the warrant and the ground of our hope that our evangelization is not in vain in the Lord.”
It says that each local church “should recognize and affirm the divine calling of spiritually qualified men to give leadership to the church through the role of pastor-elder in the ministry of the Word and prayer.”
Women, it says, “are not to fill the role of pastor-elder in the local church, but are encouraged to use their gifts in appropriate roles that edify the body of Christ and spread the gospel.”
The statement acknowledges that not all things in the affirmation are of equal weight, and every part of it doesn’t need to be believed in order to be saved.
“We believe that the cause of unity in the church is best served, not by finding the lowest common denominator of doctrine, around which all can gather, but by elevating the value of truth, stating the doctrinal parameters of church or school or mission or ministry, seeking the unity that comes from the truth, and then demonstrating to the world how Christians can love each other across boundaries rather than by removing boundaries,” the statement says. “In this way, the importance of truth is served by the existence of doctrinal borders, and unity is served by the way we love others across those borders.”
Scheduled speakers include Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and David Sills, professor of Christian missions and cultural anthropology at SBTS. Current students who attend the conference can earn three hours of transferable graduate or undergraduate credit through Southern Seminary or Boyce College, the seminary’s undergraduate school.