InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Urbana 2000 Student Mission Conference

InterVarsity's 19th Student Mission Conference
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
December 27-31, 2000

Reported by: Dr. Ralph G. Colas, Editor (Adapted by BDM)
Fundamental News Service
American Council of Christian Churches
P.O. Box 5455, Bethlehem, PA 18015
(610) 865-3009 (voice)/(610) 865-3033 (fax)/

"We are hosting a giant party in a lot of ways," said Steve Hayner, President of InterVarsity/USA. "Jesus was awesome last night!," Sundee Frazier, female leader of the platform Urbana worship team, called out to the 20,000 gathered under the sponsorship of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship of Canada as well as Groupes Bibliques Universitaires et Collegrauxdu Canada. The local newspaper described the convention as "the top religious story of 2000 for Champaign-Urbana, Illinois." 

Barney Ford, Director of Urbana 2000 and chairman of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, described Urbana's Main Assembly Building as the "Mothership." At the first press conference Ford listed objectives of Urbana 2000 as to be a renewed emphasis on the Biblical basis of missions, to issue a call to this mission so the participants are informed God is on a mission, to give North American folk contacts with those from other countries and to do these things in the context of a student culture. 

Ford had emphasized that "this means lots of music since this is a youth conference." That was perhaps an understatement becoming evident with the first big beat of the Worship Team Band which led the singing, clapping, swaying, and lifting up of the hands and lasting in sessions of some 20 and 30 minutes at a time as they chanted the repetitive lined songs. The words and pictures of the seven band members (the main drummer was a student at Cornerstone University (GARBC), Grand Rapids, MI) were flashed onto six massive screens suspended from the ceiling. Sundee Frazier led the music and emceed the entire five days of the platform Worship Gatherings, also doing some preaching, praying, and even adding some confessions of a personal nature. 

Frazier related that she got her first taste of worship leading years before when she was handed a tambourine and discovered she had "rhythm." Matt Frazier, who later became her husband, was "my first Bongo teacher and from the day we met we were a match made in drum heaven," Sundee said. During several of the worship songs a spotlight was beamed on a young lady who, while on the platform, danced to express her worship. 

At least 90 denominations from 117 countries made up the group who came to cold and snowy Urbana. No young people were permitted to attend unless they were at least a senior in high school. Each student paid $395 which included housing, meals and bus service around the large campus. Non-students paid an additional $100. 

Convention spokesman Phil Evans told the press it cost at least $8 million to produce and deliver this event. Three hundred elective seminars were offered while 320 exhibitors paid large amounts of money to use some the space in four giant exhibit buildings. InterVarsity received nearly $1 million in gifts from churches and others in order to financially assist those young people who otherwise would be unable to attend. 

From the first plenary session the young people, who stood the entire time the worship band played, were encouraged to raise their hands and wave them to the beat of the music. 

The first speaker at Urbana was George Verwer, International Director of Operation Mobilization. This was Verwer's fourth time to speak at Urbana. In his remarks he declared, "We are watching tens of millions come to Christ around the world. In Korea, 10-15% of the population know Jesus Christ and I am not talking about the frozen chosen." 

The next day's Urbana Information Newspaper contained a large ad from Eastern College (home of Tony Campolo),  which is an American Baptist institution in PA. In large print the ad said, "The whole gospel for the whole world—through the whole person. Get a degree in urban and global economic development." 

Many other denominations, such as the Baptist General Conference, Episcopal World Mission, Evangelical Free Church Mission, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America, Reformed Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Salvation Army were a part of the agencies represented at Urbana. 

Other religious groups such as Campus Crusade for Christ, Child Evangelism Fellowship, Gospel Missionary Union, The Navigators, TEAM, New Tribes and AMG International did all they could to recruit the young people to become part of their organizations. 

Some of the schools represented were the American Baptist Seminary of the West, Asbury Theological Seminary, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Bethel Seminary, Biola University/Talbot School of Theology, Covenant Theological Seminary, Denver Seminary, Fuller Theological Seminary, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Grace College and Seminary, Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Moody Bible Institute, Westminster Theological Seminary and Wheaton College Graduate School. 

A quick look at the above organizations reveals a hodgepodge of ecumenical, new evangelical, charismatic and compromising groups. Some of the organizations might claim to be Fundamentalists, but their association with and support of Urbana 2000 would belie that claim. These organizations spent many dollars in order to exhibit and recruit at Urbana. 

There were two general worship gatherings each day, one in the morning and another in the evening. Seminars and workshops took place in the afternoon. The drab gray color of the large assembly arena was immediately changed when the multi-color strobe lights were directed to the platform. The pulsating beating of the bass drum as well as the turning on of the lights signaled that the worship time was soon to begin. Every seat became filled, even those that reached upward to the ceiling of this circular dome arena. In addition, several thousand delegates, by a rotation process, watched the proceedings in two overflow halls. 

Three members of the InterVarsity Drama Team recited rather than read portions of Scripture at each session. The delegates clapped and cheered as the members of the drama team took their place on the platform and also as they completed their presentations. Not only did they applaud the Scripture and music, but even all the prayers, testimonies, messages, and announcements. 

The Bible preacher each day was Ken Fong, pastor of the Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles, CA, an American Baptist Church. He began by asking the young people if they remembered their first kiss. He suggested there were two kisses in theology — one at creation when God breathed life into Adam, and the second one at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was given. He declared, "When we worship we are kissing God back!" 

Alex Gee, pastor of the Fountain of Life Church in Madison, WI, closed the first general worship service as he advised everyone to "Get ready for our messiness. God wants to clear off our crud. Worship is when you get naked before God. God wants to kiss the sin right out of your heart." 

The next day was given over to Racial Reconciliation. A video was shown that gave information about atrocities during the last century and related that many are still being mistreated and ostracized because of the color of their skin. The video also told of those policemen in Chicago who "murdered" some black young men. Nothing was said concerning whether or not those shot by the police were guilty of any crimes or unlawful acts. 

The next speaker, Brenda Salter-McNeil, founder of Overflow Ministries and graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary, told of a drive-by shooting in Skokie, IL: "We are scared of folk who do not keep our traditions. Corporations seek to be more global but the church is comfortable as it is."  McNeil acknowledged she herself wanted to repent and then began to plead with the young people to be involved in racial reconciliation. 

Alex Gee came to the platform and forcefully declared, "There is no worship without racial reconciliation. This is the gospel and my job tonight is to lead you to repentance. The church of Jesus Christ is at risk because it fails to teach people about respect and dignity."  At this point, the worship leader led everyone into quoting a prayer which was flashed on the screen, "Lord, we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves." 

The next day a video was shown in which Dr. Tony Evans of Dallas, Texas said, "Any gospel that does not speak to the issue of injustice, and where people are not fed, is not the gospel."  The delegates, at least most of them, skipped lunch one day and also gave an offering to feed the hungry. A grand total of $1,034,822 was given to 14 selected organizations. 

While it is impossible to cover the more than 300 elective seminars and workshops, this reporter attended two of them on Dec. 29th. The first one on "Worship" was led by the Urbana 2000 Worship Team. They told of forming this team and how they spent a year getting ready for Urbana 2000. The second workshop, "Sharing Christ Through Modern Rock Music," was led by a team affiliated with Youth For Christ International (YFCI). The leader suggested the need for Connection which involved energy in music along with the upbeat rock style. He also said there is a requirement of  Authenticity, Familiarity, and Partnership. His organization needs 100 young people to join their rock music team for 2001. They sought to recruit any musicians present who could play the drums, guitars, and keyboards. Each young person that was accepted would need to raise nearly $4000 to help pay for the expenses for their training and travel to the headquarters in Minnesota. The group then played several rock songs from their repertoire. In the smaller room where the workshop was held, the music was loud enough to damage anyone's ears. However, the room was so full of young people that many had to stand for the entire time. 

That night's message was given by Vinoth Ramachandra, Secretary for South Asia for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students in Sri Lanka. He spoke on The Cross of Christ, how it subverts other religions who deny salvation by Jesus Christ; it subverts the stories that humanism will bring about a world of peace and subverts the stories of the post modern world. When he had finished speaking, Sundee Frazier, the worship leader, gave the invitation while the lights were lowered and asked those who desired to trust Christ to raise their hands. But any who did so were seemingly not dealt with by personal workers. Later at the convention, Ken Fong, the Bible teacher, spoke on "Pentecost and the Kiss of the Holy Spirit" as recorded in Acts 2. This caused the cynics to suggest Peter and the others were drunk with wine. Fong taught that when a person is drunk, they lose their inhibitions, self-consciousness, and do things that are not usually done. "Urbana is when I got drunk with God," Fong related. 

That day a major emphasis was placed on getting involved in social causes. Also, an extra hour was given that evening to music led by the worship team. The young people again stood for the entire music session. 

The final speakers at Urbana were Ruth Padilla De Borst of the Christian Reformed World Missions, Paul Borthwick who teaches missions at Gordon College and Marta Bennett, professor at Daystar University in Nairobi, Kenya. Bennett was the speaker prior to the serving of the Lord's Supper. More than 500 young people were used in serving the elements to everyone in attendance — no matter what church membership one held. 

Some Observations by Dr. Colas:

1. While at times the gospel was defined according to the Word of God, at other points it was made to include social action projects and racial reconciliation as its core. This same idea has often been promoted at Promise Keeper's rallies, Fasting and Prayer conferences as well as at National Association of Evangelicals' conventions. There is little attempt to distinguish the "root" from the "fruit." When one promotes a "Holistic Gospel," it adds something that should never be included. Great care needs to be made lest confusion results. At Urbana, there was a failure to underline that, while we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, salvation is by grace through faith plus NOTHING. When statements are made like "Respond to God by kissing Him back," it emphasizes subjective feelings over against the objective truth of God's Word. 

2. More and more religious groups have publicly apologized for something their forefathers supposedly did many years ago. This makes the participants "feel good" by issuing public apologies for some action taken or attitude that may have been shown by someone many years ago. Each of us is responsible for our OWN actions and attitudes (Ezek. 18). However, these public apologies are being offered, not only by such as the United Methodist Church and the Southern Baptist Convention, but also some fundamentalist groups who do this because of some action previously taken some four or five decades ago. 

3. At Urbana 2000, methodology replaced theology, and many fail to understand that this methodology has become a new theology. This was clearly seen in the music used. Even when a familiar hymn was sung (and there were very few of them), the added and punctuated contemporary beat and hand clapping diminished the majesty and seriousness of the message of the words. 

4. All who attended were given a packet which included a special copy of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. The front page said, "This Bible is brought to you through a partnership between Urbana 2000, World Vision and the American Bible Society."  The reader is told, "The King James version has serious defects. The Revised Standard Version Committee is a continuing body, comprising about thirty members, both men and women. Ecumenical in representation, it includes scholars affiliated with various Protestant denominations, as well as several Roman Catholic members, and an Eastern Orthodox member and a Jewish member." Also found in the front of the Bible is the fact that the copyright is owned by the liberal, apostate National Council of Churches (NCC). The NCC reaps the benefit from the sale of this unfaithful version of God's Word. Included was a reminder that" … in reference to men and women, masculine-oriented language should be eliminated as far as this can be done." 

5. At the seminar sponsored by the American Baptist Seminary of the West entitled, "So you're a woman and you want to go into the ministry," the leader told the group, "Jesus broke lots of taboos." 

6. At the final press conference, the president of InterVarsity, Steve Hayner, said that Inter-Varsity does not have any control over its 750 chapters on the campuses of 530 colleges, but rather does have influence. He related there had been a problem at Tufts University regarding the use of a homosexual as a leader. He said InterVarsity used the argument of free speech, and thus was able to continue its former policy of refusing a leadership role to homosexuals. He added that InterVarsity received more help in holding this position from Roman Catholics and Muslims than from so-called Protestant groups on that campus. 

7. At no time were the liberal denominations exposed at Urbana. Instead, it was a mixture of truth and error. It certainly is a worthy goal to desire reaching our world with the gospel of Jesus Christ and challenging young people to be involved in the task. However, we must always remember that if we want God's blessings on our labors, it means we must do God's work in God's way. Paul told Timothy, "And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned except he strive lawfully," II Timothy 2:5. 

8. A fundamentalist, a personal friend of mine, recently wrote, "Psychological ideas have now become a part of the new way of thinking among many national speakers. They indicate man's problem is one of three basic needs: 1) To have a sense of belonging; 2) To have a sense of self worth; 3) To be loved. Christianity has become one of reformation instead of transformation. C.H. Spurgeon once said, 'Brethren we shall not adjust our Bible to the age, but the age to the Bible.'" Urbana 2000 majored on these three basic needs and minimized what once was emphasized back in 1946 when the first Student Mission Convention was held. Instead, Urbana 2000 challenged everyone to "worship the Lord with compassionate acts of mission."  There was little said about God's call to not only win people to Christ, but also to plant churches where Biblical separation is practiced.

Biblical Discernment Ministries
- 8/01