“These are exciting times” exclaimed one participant in the OPEN Expo this past week. The Expo brought together 195 people from over a dozen different states to share and learn about the opportunities B4T is generating in the remotest corners of the earth. In addition, outside meetings were held for 140 University of Arkansas students and 2 dozen church staff from the NW Arkansas region.
The OPEN Expo this year included 4 tracks, for coaches, church staff, students, mission agencies. The feedback on the Expo itself was very good, as with the outside meetings. The tracks received mixed reviews which will cause the OPEN leadership team to reconsider their value. Having new speakers, new case studies and a bigger emphasis on young people gave this OPEN Expo a different flavor.
Personally, and not surprisingly, the meetings with young people were the most challenging and invigorating. Many of these young people are living in the future. They live in a world which is more interconnected, more volatile, more complex and potentially more liberating than at any previous time in history. Their values, attitudes and behavior are more in line with the way the world will work in future, than the way it works today. Their ideas are at the forefront of fundamental changes occurring to a greater or lesser degree across the globe as countries and communities move from a modern, industrial age, to a post-modern world. This is not to say that all young people are riding on the crest of the wave of change. Some are in danger of being left behind on the rocks, and unless our church youth leaders and Christian schools begin to respond effectively to the changes happening around the world, those young people under their influence could be left behind. While the final shape of the future is far from clear there were many good and lively discussions this past week in Bentonville.
Change is coming to missions. With each OPEN Expo we see new programs, and new plans being discussed; even new mission models being birthed. Jesus exhorted us to stay in step with the changing world around us;
“When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.
As we seek His plan for the future let’s be listening the voices of youth around us. Strive to encourage young people voice their thinking and to take the lead, laying out practical steps which will move forward His kingdom on earth. It is a new day. These are exciting times!