“All of the academic teaching in the classroom world does no good if it can’t be applied to ministry in the real world,” stated Baptist College of Florida (BCF) Missions Professor Rich Elligson. For this reason, BCF is committed to exposing students to both excellent education and opportunities for hands-on experience. One such opportunity was the MissionFest missions conference and training sessions offered recently by Westside Baptist Church in Gainesville, Fla. The multi-day conference gives the church the opportunity to showcase its missions activities and partnerships, reemphasize their global missions priorities, and mobilize their church members to carry out the Great Commission.
The seventeen BCF students were there for a number of reasons. First, they had the opportunity to meet and interact with a variety of missionaries associated with Westside. “It’s such a joy to see the students and missionaries around the tables together,” explained Westside’s Minister of Missions Michael Taylor. “They are sharp young men and women. They ask great questions and share the missionary passion for reaching the world with the gospel.” Second, they received some excellent training. After a two-hour session on engaging Muslims with the gospel, a group traveled to a local Islamic center to witness a worship service and meet with Muslims face-to-face. “I was really surprised at both the number of Muslims living in that Gainesville neighborhood as well as the variety of ethnicities we encountered,” stated BCF Senior Christian Studies Major Cole Jackson. “The event really opened my eyes. We don’t have to travel around the world to see these other religions; the world is coming to us.” Third, the group was able to meet with the Westside staff to see how the church administers a comprehensive missions program. “It’s important for our students to understand how much work goes into successful local and global missions programming,” explained Elligson. “We often focus on the missionary in the field and forget that someone has to ‘keep the home fires burning.’ And that’s where the local church comes in. From prayer networks to financial support, to recruiting and training groups of volunteers to go, Westside does it right.”
Colorful flags of the nations, an ample display area, small group breakout sessions and lots of focused prayer times all added to the “reach the world” atmosphere. And that’s an atmosphere that’s contagious. As the bus returned to Graceville and pulled into the BCF parking lot, more than one student asked, “So when is OUR missions conference going to be?” According to Elligson, “The answer is October 23-25. And we can’t wait.”
For more information about the upcoming missions conference or learn about the mission degrees offered at The Baptist College of Florida, please call 800.328.2660 or visit the website at www.baptistcollege.edu.