ISBC 2018 Introduction by P. Abraham Kimsteves
P. Abraham Kim, General Director
The next UBF international summer Bible conference (ISBC) will be held on August 9-12, 2018, at Louisville, Kentucky, USA. Lodging will be accommodated by the Galt House hotel, and major sessions will be held at the Kentucky International Convention Center, located two blocks from the hotel, being connected by a skyway. We thank all the overseas delegates and members of the US/Canadian West Coast chapters who have traveled by air to attend the ISBCs. Those who drive or take a bus, Louisville is located at a 15 hour-drive from Montreal and Colorado, 12-hour drive from New York and Minneapolis, 10-hour drive from Toronto and Washington DC, 7-hour drive from Atlanta, and a 5-hour drive from Chicago and Toledo.
Overview of the recent ISBCs
Since UBF had the first ISBC in 1981 at Niagara Falls, international Bible conferences have been an inspirational force for our members to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19). These are the recent ISBCs that were held with their themes at various locations:
Since the 2004 MSU ISBC, more than 2,500 people from North America and more than 80 countries have gathered in one place. Through the ISBCs, many have met Christ for the first time and many others have accepted missionary calling. It is a time to learn from each other, network, and worship God. Nevertheless, attending an ISBC requires investment of time and money for all of us, more so for international delegates.
Why do we have ISBCs?
So why do we have ISBCs? Let’s think about the biblical meaning of an international Bible conference. Deuteronomy 16:16 reads, “Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose….. No one should appear before the LORD empty-handed.” In Deuteronomy 31:12, God commanded the Israelites to assemble all men, women and children, and foreigners among them for hearing the words of the law. God called Israel and wanted them to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation for the whole world (Ex 19:6). For Israel to live out God’s hope and purpose, God knew that they needed Bible conferences at least three times a year. God knew that, for many of them, coming to the conferences would be costly. Nevertheless, God taught them to come to meet him with offerings. God wanted them to put their relationship with God and their spiritual identity as a chosen people to be the top priority in their lives.
For UBF as a community, the international Bible conference is a time to see that the work of God is much greater than we imagined. It is a time to confirm God’s calling and renew our identity as God’s special people, a royal priesthood and a holy nation (1Pe 2:9).
Overview of 2018 “His Kingdom” ISBC
After the last year’s North America staff conference survey, North America senior staff and ISBC program committee have met to pray for a layout of the 2018 ISBC. Finally, the theme of 2018 ISBC is set to be “His Kingdom.” Why “His Kingdom”? The kingdom of God is the heart of the Bible and Jesus’ teaching. His first message was “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mk 1:15) He taught us to pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10). When God reigns on the throne of our hearts, we dwell in his light and life. We have love, peace, joy, and freedom in all circumstances. We have the power of the Holy Spirit to serve people with the good news of salvation. The kingdom of God is everything and our life and ministries flow out of it. The kingdom of God has come in us and in the church community, yet it needs to ever grow through our faith and obedience to our King Jesus.
So through the 2018 ISBC, we want to see the vision of God’s kingdom for ourselves and the world. The kingdom of God will be fully realized in the entire universe when Jesus comes again. The Lord Jesus said, “Yes, I am coming soon!” (Rev 22:20) The Lord said that the gospel will first be preached to all nations before his coming (Mk 13:10). We can speed the Lord’s coming by preaching the gospel to all nations. Through the gospel of the Lord Jesus and the promise of his Coming, we want to be refreshed and inspired to be Kingdom workers for world missions.
On the first day, Thursday evening, we will have an opening message followed by the World Mission Night I. Friday morning will be devoted to a group Bible study and the first main message. In the afternoon, we will have Interest Group sessions twice so that everyone may participate in two sessions of their choice. In the evening, we will have World Mission Night II as a plenary session beginning with a message. On Saturday morning, we will have the second group Bible study and main message. The afternoon is devoted to reflection writing and sharing. On the Saturday evening, we will have a special lecture by our guest speaker, Dr. Scott Moreau (Wheaton College), a professor of Intercultural Studies and the Academic Dean of Wheaton Graduate School. For 16 years, he was the editor of Evangelical Missions Quarterly and that general editor of Baker Books’ Encountering Mission series. He has written or edited over 20 books and 300 articles, and has received numerous recognitions for his writing, teaching, speaking and service to society. He will also speak at Interest Group (IG – Repeat twice (2:00-3:40pm and 4:00-5:30pm) with the title “Overcoming Challenges in Cross-Cultural Evangelization and Discipleship” After the lecture, we will have a Kingdom Festival. This Festival is new and will be the climax of the conference as we offer chorus, music, dance and orchestra as our corporate worship to God and King Jesus. On Sunday morning, we will have a short group Bible study followed by a Sunday message. There will be a call for a missionary pledge and the conference will end with a short inauguration ceremony of the fifth General Director.
After discussions and recommendations by senior staff and chapter leaders, ISBC Program Committee and HQ staff prayerfully worked to choose Bible passages that expound the nature of God’s kingdom and the kingdom values and vision. After prayers, the passages were chosen that are relatively new.
- Opening message: “Your Kingdom Come” (Mt 6:9-13). This message on the Lord’s prayer will help us to examine ourselves and challenge us to seek His Kingdom. It will also explain the nature of God’s Kingdom we will expound throughout the conference.
- Main message I” “I Have Come to Call Sinners” (Mt 9:1-12). The passage is about Jesus’ calling us into His kingdom of grace and discipleship.
- World Mission Night II” “Forgiveness of Sins to All Nations” (Lk 24:45-49). These words of the Risen Christ testify that Jesus’ death and resurrection is the fulfillment of God’s promises, that God brings His kingdom to the peoples of all nations through the preaching of the gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit, and that we are to be witnesses of the gospel.
- Main message II: “You Are the Salt and Light of the World” (Mt 5:1-16). These words of the Beatitudes teach us the kingdom values and Christian’s inner life by which we can overcome worldly temptations and live holy lives according to God’s hope.
- The Kingdom Festival: “Glory to the King and the Lamb” (Rev 5:9-14). This passage is a heavenly picture of all peoples and creatures worshipping God. Worship is the ultimate purpose of creation, evangelism and redemption. It is essential for us to know why our heavenly Father and Lord Jesus are worthy to receive our praise and worship and why worshipping God should be at the center of our lives.
- Sunday message: “A New Heaven and a New Earth” (Rev 21-22). The new heaven and the new earth will extend our hope to the kingdom perfected through the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus. With this hope, we can endure all hardships and fully devote ourselves to his kingdom work.
Significance of 2018 ISBC
At the birth of UBF in the early 1960s in Korea, UBF was a community of love made up of college students who found new life in Christ. In the 1970s and through the 1990s, these young people received God’s vision for the world and went out to 95 countries as missionaries. Thus, God raised UBF to be a large-scale, lay-missionary movement, after the Moravian Missionary Movement that sent 2,000 lay missionaries in the 18-19th centuries. UBF chapters outside of Korea have grown to be communities of missionaries, natives and their children. During 2,000s and 2010s, native leaders began to go out as missionaries to other countries and to take over the leadership of missionaries in many countries of the world. A new generation is becoming the main force of UBF. So the decades of 2000s and 2010s mark for UBF a period of growing and maturing as a multi-cultural and cross-generational church.
The Christian church was born to witness to Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth (Ac 1:8). Serving God’s hope and vision for world missions should be the primary concern and purpose of the church and all Christians. Campus evangelism is a highly strategic mission. College students are future leaders of a country and society. They are spending their prime years of life preparing for their future. They are open, teachable, and ready to commit to the truth. College campuses are like a reservoir that is ever fresh and full because of the flow coming into it and the flow going out of it. Dr. Billy Graham said, “If our world is to be changed, it’s gonna be at university level on campus.” Dr. Bill Bright, the founder of Cru, said, “If we win the campuses today, we will win the world tomorrow.” God has raised and used UBF for his most strategic mission along with other campus mission organizations. At the last North America staff conference, Dr. Steve Shadrach, author of “The Fuel and The Flame”, reminded us that campus mission is worthwhile to devote our lives to and challenged us to continue the ministry until we die.
UBF has been praying for the evangelization of all 233 countries of the world. In 2010s, UBF in Korea, USA and other countries together are sending out about 40-50 missionaries annually. Now shepherds and missionaries in Korea, North America, and Europe are retiring from work, and many of them have a vision to go to their second mission field. Retired shepherds and missionaries like Dr. Joseph and Esther Chung of USA and Dr. Samuel and Anna Lee of Korea set good examples of silver missions in Uganda and Zimbabwe. Currently, silver missionaries Moses and Sarah Ching in Belize, Isaac and Rebekah Lim in Kyrgyzstan, Daniel and Miso Lee in South Africa, and Daniel and Deborah Yang in Rwanda are serving fruitful ministries. In coming 10-15 years, over a thousand shepherds and missionaries will retire from work and many of them will go to the places that are yet unreached by UBF.
Through our lives and ministries, God has raised precious new generation leaders including our children. The spiritual legacy and strength of UBF should continue through them. May God bless these new generation leaders to put their hope on God’s kingdom and give their hearts to God. Our Lord Jesus was most happy when Mary broke her alabaster jar and poured the very expensive perfume on him. He said, “She has done a beautiful thing to me. Wherever the gospel is preached, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Mk 14:6,9). Everything in the world passes away. Only God’s kingdom and what we did for Christ will last forever. May God raise many men and women among our new generation leaders who do beautiful things to the Lord. May God raise many missionaries among our young leaders who would dedicate six-months or a year or two to world missions before they seek out social career and marriage.
Now is the time for UBF to rekindle the passion and vision for world missions, and pray to reach out to all major cities and campuses of the world, especially the remaining 130 countries that are waiting for self-supporting missionaries. May God inspire and enlarge his kingdom vision in our hearts and guide us to rededicate ourselves to the Lord and his Great Commission. May God raise many short-term and long-term missionary candidates through the 2018 ISBC who would reach out to all major campuses and cities in 233 countries of the world.
Post-2018 ISBC Options
After the 2018 ISBC, there are two options for international delegates and North American members as well—a 2.5-day Missionaries-Shepherds Conference at the Galt House hotel or a tour. The Missionaries-Shepherds Conference is mainly for a study of the whole book of Hebrews. The book of Hebrews uniquely expounds Jesus’ priesthood. Knowing Jesus’ perfect priesthood elevates our intimate walk with God that becomes the source of our conviction, strength and holy life. Dr. Elijah Park of Chicago has contacted a travel agency to arrange four tour options—Grand Canyon, West Coast-San Francisco, Niagara Falls-New York, and Louisville-Chicago area.
Preparations for 2018 ISBC
The church today faces many challenges. Nonetheless the Spirit of God is working mightily as ever through his people who embrace His kingdom vision. May God inspire many young leaders to participate in preparation for 2018 ISBC.