Two popular notions running rampant within evangelicalism are, frankly, more rumor than reality. One is the so-called leadership crisis (see “So Where’s the Crisis?,” CT, Nov. 20, 1987), which portrays a generation of saintly “go-getters” retiring with no one in the wings to replace them. The other concerns the state of missions, or more specifically, the perceived lack of missions interest on the part of the church in the West.

As in the case of our leadership “crisis,” grim scenarios are presented as immediate realities (in this case, an evaporating pool of missionaries) if the church does not wake up and offer its best and brightest to the future advancement of God’s kingdom.

Now, granted, the church can ill afford to rest on the success of its missionary past. The Great Commission still lies before us. But these persistent rumors of crisis (an effective way of generating ministry monies) overshadow the fact that there seems to be no lack of missions interest among today’s collegians and young adults. One need only travel to the University of Illinois campus in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, at the end of this month to see what we mean.

There, for the fifteenth time since 1946, thousands of students will gather to have their missionary hearts quickened and their missionary vision rekindled. There, thousands of students will commit themselves to servant careers in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

The Urbana student missionary conferences have touched nearly every major sending agency in the U.S. According to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the conference sponsor, 1,000 students who attended the last Urbana in 1984 are either on the mission field or near departure. ...

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