In February, Nazarene pastors and leaders across the nation gathered together in Kansas City, Missouri for an event that only comes around every four years. M19 is a Church of the Nazarene sponsored conference that is centered around mission and evangelism. Designed to give pastors, leaders and students from all around the United States and Canada an opportunity for professional training, connection, workshops and worship, M19 is often a once-in-a-lifetime experience —especially for college students.
This year’s conference was centered around the theme, “The Mission: The Gospel Unleashed.“ Dr. Brent Peterson and Dr. Jay Akkerman from the NNU School of Theology & Christian Ministry decided that M19 would be an incredible opportunity for learning and growth for our ministry students. This inspired them to take a group of students on the field trip of a lifetime.
The following are personal testimonies from both Dr. Peterson and Dr. Akkerman, as well as stories from five of the students who attended the conference.
Dr. Brent Peterson, Dean of the School of Theology and Christian Ministries
We felt like having our students at this event would deepen their experience in the Church of the Nazarene. Along with meeting students and pastors from across the US, my hope was that they would be encouraged in their faith and calling and in the great mission to love all persons in the Kingdom of God. In talking with our students they were very blessed and encouraged in their faith and in their calling. I was thrilled for our students to make connections across the country and be inspired by the gathering.
I was also encouraged to make connections with new and old friends. The workshops and plenary sessions challenged me and gave me great hope. I love the invitation that we as the Church of the Nazarene can and should be known, not for our judgmentalism or what we are against, but what we are for: loving all people into the loving and transforming grace of God. I also loved how thinking about evangelism was about sharing from our own story of God's transformation within me. I was challenged to go beyond my places of comfort and find ways to be present and invited into the tables of people in my own community who are especially in need of hope and grace.
Dr. Jay Akkerman, professor of Pastoral Theology
From my vantage point, the Church of the Nazarene's M19 Conference did a great job uniting Nazarenes from the United States and Canada around its theme of "Unleashing the Gospel."
Through plenary session speakers like Fili Chambo, as well as Albert and Christine Hung, we were challenged to follow Jesus outside the walls of our churches to engage with our neighbors, risking vulnerability in order to build relationships.
As one of the directors of the first-ever Nazarene Festival of Young Preachers (a workshop providing students with the opportunity to preach a short sermon and be evaluated), I was gratified that nearly 40 young preachers from both the United States and Canada participated, as well as over two dozen evaluators and conveners. It was really great to experience the next generation of preachers in the making, including several who had never preached a sermon until the festival. Their passion was contagious!
Chris Cruz Osorio - sophomore Multicultural Leadership and Christian Ministry major
I honestly went into M19 not knowing what to expect. However, I was confident that God was trying to teach His Church something new and I was excited to be a part of that and get to learn from amazing people.
I am passionate about the multicultural Church, and multiple sessions and workshops were about reaching the other, the stranger. I learned how to have difficult conversations, such as the role that racism and privilege have played in the church and how the Kingdom can identify it and heal from the hurt that it has and is causing. I am planning to take everything that I learned and make it a part of what I am studying at NNU and subsequently, take it with me wherever I go after. As citizens of the Kingdom, we should be known as people who love, not people who judge or hate. I pray to be known as an individual that loves as much as God loves me and others.
Braden Rainey - junior Worship Ministries major
I had many take-aways from M19. I left with experience in preaching, new ideas from other preachers and a beauty of knowing that the Nazarene family stretches far beyond just our small world of NNU.
Knowing that I am a part of a Church body that is worldwide and so much bigger than me is incredible. Seeing all these future ministers come together in one body learning from one another is what I feel like the Church needs more of. I think that through having tough conversations with other pastors, we are bringing to light the problems that we see in our churches and figuring out ways to fix those problems. Our mission is to love people, not to separate ourselves from those not like us. As a Church, we need to move away from judgement and move towards love. Through conversations and conferences like M19, we are taking steps in the right direction to reach those hurting in the world.
Julissa Peart - sophomore Worship Arts major minoring in Christian Ministry
I am not the best at becoming the stranger; I much prefer to stay in my comfort zone. I love to talk with people and counsel and mentor, but realistically I am terrified of going out and addressing large groups of people. This is something that I want to push myself to be better at. This conference gave me a renewed passion for missional focus. We are often very tunnel visioned and get stuck within the walls of our churches or universities and we forget that there is a whole community outside that we are called to minister to. After this conference my heart is broken for those who feel ashamed and not good enough for the church, or for the love that God has to offer them. I want to mend that brokenness through God’s grace and be a part of the beauty that comes when we allow God to use us as vessels.
Austin Elleby - senior Youth Ministry major
I had the expectation of a great week of workshops and worship, but I never guessed it would be as gigantic as it was. I was able to leave M19 learning much about unleashing the gospel in difficult areas, and how to cultivate a personal relationship with God and others. I will take my experience with me to make sure I am relentlessly seeking relationship with God and others within my community; I am not just a pastor of a congregation but a pastor of a zip code. I want to live into the question of “How can I minister to this area as a whole? How can I bring the gospel outside of the four walls of this church?” M19 was able to provide me with tangible ways to do that, but more importantly inspired me to reflect on my own ministry.
Elise Snowden - junior Christian Ministry major
As undergraduate students, we often feel that the burden to do ministry well is placed completely on us and our capabilities. Discipleship and spreading holiness to the nations sound like impossible tasks to which we have been assigned. But those of us in ministry must remember that holiness is God’s project.
I feel blessed that I was able to have an opportunity to preach in this unique setting before I enter full-time ministry. I know that I speak for my peers when I say that our opportunity to preach gave us confidence and allowed us to reflect on the work God has been doing in our calls. Knowing that we are called to lead churches that are a foretaste of the Kingdom of God excites me. Acknowledging that the Gospel is about what Jesus has already accomplished empowers me as a minister. All of my fears and anxieties dissolve in the presence of the One who speaks good news. I find rest in the fact that my ministry is not my own, but instead, it is the work of God through me.
M19 was truly an experience worth remembering, full of spiritual growth and inspiration to continue on the race marked out for these ministry majors. We are so thankful for their willingness to follow God’s call on their lives and are blessed to have these students on campus.
To conclude with this inspiring message from Elise, “I pray that my peers and I would boldly step into our calls to preach the Gospel message. It offers hope for the broken, freedom for the oppressed, and compassion for the marginalized. May hurting people walk into the doors of our church and hear good news. Better yet, may our church break into the community around us and bring good news to the hurting.”