Urbana 2006 motto
|Genre||Christian, Missions, Evangelism, Social justice, College/University/Seminary|
|Venue||America's Center (since 1948)|
|Location(s)||St. Louis, Missouri (since 1948)|
|Country||United States (since 1948)|
|Organized by||InterVarsity Christian Fellowship|
Urbana is a major Christian missions conference sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship for college students. This event is designed to inform Christian students about current issues around the world that missionaries face, to declare the biblical mandate for cross-cultural missions, and motivate them to participate in missions.
Each Urbana lasts for nearly one week at the end of December and ending with a final communion on New Year's Eve. In addition to the main speakers, participants are offered a choice of dozens of elective classes offered throughout the week, relating to specific topics within the general theme of university and international missions. Worship is also a major highlight of the conference; special attention is paid to incorporating diverse worship styles, even including songs in foreign languages.
The first Urbana was held in 1946 in Toronto, and since then, it has generally been held every three years. From 1948–2003, Urbana took place at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, with the primary venue after 1963 being the Assembly Hall (now State Farm Center), the school's basketball arena. Because of insufficient space at the University of Illinois campus, Urbana 06 was moved to St. Louis, Missouri, at The Americas Center and the Edward Jones Dome. Urbana 09 and 12 were held at the same location.
Urbana has been held in the years 1946, 1948, 1951, 1954, 1957, 1961, 1964, 1967, 1970, 1973, 1976, 1979, 1981, 1984, 1987, 1990, 1993, 1996, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2009, and 2012. The 24th Urbana conference will occur in December 2015.
The first Urbana was held in 1946 at the University of Toronto in Toronto, Canada. 151 colleges, universities, and seminaries from across North America were represented, along with 100 missionaries. L. E. Maxwell, president of Prairie Bible Institute, and other noted Christian leaders in academia spoke at the December event. The second Urbana was held in 1948, this time at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Jim Elliot, known for his missionary work and martyrdom in Ecuador, attended this Urbana as a student. The slogan for this Urbana was "From Every Campus to Every Country." 1,300 students from 154 campuses participated. Speakers included Frank Houghton, V. Raymond Edman, and Billy Graham.
The 1954 Urbana had the theme "Changing World; Changeless Christ" and hosted 2,000 students from 263 schools. A. W. Tozer preached on Bible characters, and Alan Redpath and were among others who also spoke at this Urbana. The number of students attending Urbana grew to 3,500 in 1957, and the theme that year was "One Lord—One Church—One World." Billy Graham returned to speak at this conference, and was joined by the likes of Donald Barnhouse and Harold Ockenga. Urbana 57 was held in a gymnasium with poor acoustics, and with the University of Illinois set to finish building a new assembly room by 1961, the next Urbana was postponed until then.
Urbana 61 had a change in format from previous conferences. It featured a "plenary panel" about mission work, a "plenary forum" that involved a question-and-answer time with various Christian leaders, elective courses on specific topics related to missions, missionary sessions, and a pastoral group. The theme was "Commission—Conflict—Commitment." 5,400 students participated in this conference. Eugene Nida, Arthur Glasser, and Urbana veterans David Howard Adeney and Billy Graham were speakers. Festo Kivengere preached on Jacob and Esau.
Urbana 76 was themed "Declare His Glory Among the Nations." John Stott spoke on the biblical basis for mission, Elisabeth Elliot on the will of God, and Helen Roseveare on Declaring His Glory in Suffering. 17,000 students participated in 1,700 small groups, meeting each morning for Bible study and every evening for prayer. "That All Nations Might Believe and Obey Jesus Christ" was the theme for Urbana 79. Many speakers made repeat appearances, including John Stott, Billy Graham, and Elisabeth Elliot. Joining them were Luis Palau, David Howard Adeney, and others. Urbana 79 experienced capacity issues due to so many students wanting to attend that the next conference would be held just two years later.
Urbana 81 was held with the theme "Let Every Tongue Confess That Jesus Christ Is Lord" and 14,000 attending. Speakers included Wycliffe Bible translator Ed Beach, Eric Alexander from a church in Scotland, Gordon MacDonald, Isabelo Magalit, Marilyn Laszlo, Billy Graham, George McKinney, and author Rebecca Manley Pippert.
Urbana 84 saw 18,000 participants. Eric Alexander spoke on the conference theme "Faithful in Christ Jesus." The next conference, Urbana 87, took its theme from the book of Jonah: "Should I not be concerned for this great city?" Harvie Conn, along with Ray Bakke and Floyd McClung, spoke on this theme. Nearly 6,000 attendees indicated they felt they were being called by God to serve in overseas missions.
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An "International Student Track" was first offered at Urbana 2003, offering special housing options and electives to international students interested in spending time with other students from their respective countries. Urbana 06 again held a track for international students, as well as tracks that focused on the global HIV–AIDS pandemic, the growing business as mission movement, and the needs of the world's largest slum communities in the developing world. Major and tracks at Urbana 09 included International Students, Arts and Media, Advocacy and Poverty, Business as Mission, Evangelism, Jesus and Justice, The Mission of Healthcare, and The Church Around the World.
At Urbana 2006, nearly 22,500 participants attended. Urbana 06 speakers included Rick Warren, pastor and author of The Purpose Driven Life; Ray Bakke, a professor and specialist in urban ministry; Bono from the band U2 (via video); and Ajith Fernando, a well-respected Bible teacher who is the director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka. Urbana 09 speakers included Ramez Atallah, General Secretary of the Bible Society of Egypt; Shane Claiborne of The Simple Way in Philadelphia; Ruth Padilla DeBorst, General Secretary of the Latin America Theological Fellowship; Sunder Krishnan, Senior Pastor of the Rexdale Alliance Church in Ontario, Canada; and Patrick Fung, General Director of OMF International. Oscar Muriu, Senior Pastor of Nairobi Chapel, Nairobi, Kenya, spoke at both Urbana 06 and Urbana 09.
Urbana 12 speakers included Calisto Odede, Senior Pastor of Nairobi Pentecostal Church; David Platt, Pastor of Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham AL; Chai Ling, founder of All Girls Allowed; Daniel Bourdanne, General Secretary of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students; Ziel Machado, former Regional Secretary of Latin America for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students and current member of the pastoral team at the Free Methodist Church in São Paulo, Brazil; Geri Rodman, President of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship of Canada; and Terry LeBlanc, Director of the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies. Sandra Maria Van Opstal, Associate Pastor of Grace and Peace Community in Chicago, was the Director of Worship in 2009 and 2012 with a focus on the integration of multiethnic worship and mission. Steve Hoke from Mission Frontiers wrote this article describing worship at Urbana. Urbana 12 also included a Caregiver Kit Build: the 15,000 attendees assembled 32,000 Caregiver Kits which were then shipped to volunteer caregivers who work with AIDS patients in Swaziland and other African countries. Videos from the above speakers, and other videos of Urbana 12 can be found on the Urbana website.
- Whitnable, Kristine. "Urbana and Short-term Missions". Lausanne World Pulse. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
- Hunt, Keith Hunt & Gladys (1992). For Christ and the university : the story of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship-USA, 1940-1990. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press. pp. 127–129, 172–175, 217–218, 303–305, 356–358. ISBN 0830849963.
- Hoke, Steve. "The Impact of an Urbana Decision Card on One Life". Mission Frontiers. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
- Sheppard, Trent (2010). God on Campus: Sacred Causes and Global Effects. ReadHowYouWant.com. p. 148. ISBN 9781459602366. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
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