One of the largest student mission conferences is nearing 21,000 registrants and Urbana's director sees an enormous potential for ignition in the mission field.
As Urbana anticipates its biggest crowd ever, Jim Tebbe said he's most excited about the students registered to attend the triennial conference on Dec. 27-31 in St. Louis, Mo. They are students who are poised on the edge of a lifetime of service to God and his purposes, according to an interview with InterVarsity president Alec Hill.
"God touches students’ lives at Urbana,” said Tebbe. “I’m excited to see what it is that God is going to do.”
This year's main tracks will put an emphasis on the AIDS crisis - a mission field more largely picked up by evangelicals in recent years. Other tracks target international students, business students and practitioners, and those interested in urban transformation in the Two-Thirds World.
Featured in this year's lineup of speakers is megapastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif. The evangelical pastor will address the topic of lifestyle, largely pulling from his best selling The Purpose Driven Life.
According to Tebbe, Warren will be bringing around 17 family members and a large contingent from his church's college ministry to the missions conference.
"They believe in Urbana and the way it can change people's lives," said Tebbe.
Attendants will have the chance to connect with one of 300 Christian ministries exhibiting at Urbana, including InterVarsity, which launched the conference in 1946.
Mission commitments made at Urbana have shown to be long-term with 83 percent of InterVarsity staff tracing back to a commitment they made at a past Urbana, Tebbe noted.
InterVarsity has held 20 Urbana conventions thus far to motivate university students to become world changers.