Over 300 healthcare workers, students, and International Mission Board staff were challenged to use their medical skills to take the Gospel to the nations by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Adam W. Greenway during the IMB’s MedAdvance Conference, August 5-7.
During the three-day conference at Southwestern Seminary, Greenway told the attendees, who represented 32 states and eight IMB affinity groups, “For many of us, circumstances can affect our willingness to follow God’s call [and] to discern God’s call.”
In the first of three messages, Greenway focused on Acts 8:1 and the martyrdom of Stephen after the beginning of the early church. Greenway said as persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem everyone scattered from the city, except the apostles.
“Church history says [the scattering was] in such a way to where that church never gathers again in the exact same form after Acts 8 as it had before Acts 8,” Greenway said.
While noting the changes brought about by the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, Greenway said the early church believers were “unphased” about their circumstances and their commitment to advance the Gospel even though “in one moment it was as if everything had changed, but nothing had changed.”
“You would never know the response of these believers except continued obedience and surrender to whatever circumstance they found themselves in,” Greenway said.
Recognizing Jerusalem was the same city where Jesus told the disciples in Acts 1:8 they would be His witnesses in varying regions, Greenway told the audience, “Before Acts 1:8 became the way your church developed its missions strategy, Acts 1:8 was the missions strategy.”
Medical missions has been part of the IMB’s strategy in reaching the nations since 1846, a year after the Southern Baptist missions organization was founded. The goal of the conference was to encourage attendees to take the Gospel to the nations while simultaneously using their professional medical skills. The conference allowed participants to hear the needs for medical missionaries, ask questions of current IMB personnel, and hear testimonies of past and current medical missionaries.
“Medical missionaries are church planters who have professional skills,” said Rebekah Naylor, distinguished professor of missions and missionary in residence at Southwestern Seminary, who also helped organize the conference.
Naylor, who served as an IMB medical missionary for over three decades, said medical missionaries “are used by the Lord in entering communities and people groups, in evangelism, in discipling, in forming healthy churches, and in developing leaders.”
“A healthcare worker can cross every geographic, cultural, and economic barrier and can get to a spiritual conversation in minutes,” Naylor said. “Now there is much awareness of health throughout the world after the pandemic. And more and more places and people have restricted access. That makes healthcare today vital.”
During his concluding message, Greenway reminded attendees that people from every nation, country, and people group are “save-able in God’s sight.”
“Do you recognize the incredible privilege that has been given to you and me?” Greenway asked. “We have been given the message by which people can have their sins forgiven. How significant is that? Because left in their sins they will ultimately be doomed in darkness and they will die and they will go into eternal separation from God.”
Greenway challenged participants to examine their role in evangelism and missionary efforts in being obedient to the commands of Christ.
In a time of commitment, Greenway encouraged those gathered to use their medical gifts to advance the Kingdom of God and “keep putting that yes on the altar until God says no.”
Each attendee was given a bookmark to place on a world map to indicate their decision. In response, 47 attendees expressed a desire to explore long term service and 29 other attendees indicated they wanted to go overseas as short-term volunteers.
Greenway concluded the conference by remarking, “Only eternity will reveal the significance of these last three days together.”
Conference attendees were led in Bible study and heard mission field updates from Todd Lafferty, executive vice president at the IMB; led in prayer by Eleanor Witcher, director of the IMB’s prayer office; and listened to current field personnel share testimonies of God’s work through medical missionaries during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Read more about the MedAdvance Conference from the IMB.