Tom and Nancy Lin

Leading a Global Missions Movement among University Students and Faculty (@tomlinnow)

From a recent interview I did with Relevant’s Reject Apathy Magazine, exploring the changing context of global missions and the hope I have with this student generation’s engagement in God’s call to mission… Enjoy!

What is calling? How do you know the will of God? Something we’ll explore with more than 6,000 students at 12 select campuses across North America during our Urbana On Campus “tour.” We’re thankful for event partners like World Relief for challenging us to think through God’s purpose in our lives through video. Click to see a list of all of the campuses, starting with my alma mater!

Billy Graham and John Stott gathered top evangelical leaders from around the world in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1974 with the hope of reaching the whole world with the good news of Christ.  Since then, The Lausanne Movement has hosted two additional global Congresses, one in 1989 and one in Cape Town in 2010.  On July 24-26, I hosted a follow-up Lausanne Consultation for North American Younger Leaders for 130 influential leaders in their 20s and 30s to share vision and work together on 10 missions issues which came out of Cape Town.

As the co-chair of the Consultation, I was impressed with the new partnerships forged between the leaders.  I was encouraged by the robust academic and practical discussion, resulting in a future book which I will serve as Editor on.  Click here to hear AUDIO of the outstanding speakers!

From Urbana Associate, Paul Borthwick:

As co-laborers in the work of the Kingdom and fellow partners in the world of fund-raising, I thought you might like to read these words from a 27-year-old Christian responding to questions I was asking about raising funds from the under-30 crowd.  [NOTE: The respondent is from a upper-middle class background and a liberal arts secular college grad, who prefers to remain anonymous.]

“Concerning giving among my generation, my observations are:

1.  Many people in my generation feel entitled.  We ‘deserve’ to drive in luxury, we have ‘earned’ the right to be pampered and take exotic vacations, and we are worth being spoiled with facials, manicures, spas, new clothes, gyms, professional trainers, dinners at fancy restaurants, followed by fancy drinks, fancy coffee, etc. etc. etc.   If this all sounds like the Kardashians, you’re right!!  This type of life-style takes lots of money, often leaving us broke, or worse, in debt.  I think a good bell weather for our cultural narcissism is the American wedding.  It captures much of what is wrong with our culture.   After all this, we don’t have any money left to give to others.

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Speaking to 250+ InterVarsity Directors at National Leadership Meetings in April.  The Directors committed to sending over 5,000 InterVarsity students to Urbana 12.  (Typically only about 25% of all Urbana participants are InterVarsity students.)

I’ve been recently excited about the development of common vision around Scripture engagement among various ministry organizations and leaders. It is one of our 4 objectives for Urbana 12, to see student’s not only study the biblical basis for missions but also grow to love studying God’s Word.  In November, a national Summit in Orlando around Scripture engagement will involve various organizational leaders.  Next week, I head to Wycliffe Bible Translator Board meetings, where the Directors are passionate about advancing the work of Bible translation. And in my role in InterVarsity, I also see significant new initiatives around Scripture engagement, esp. engaging young students in God’s Word and growing them to be passionate about God’s Word.

We just launched a new online daily, inductive Bible study for students called “Thirsty” — which provides a passage and 3 inductive questions, delivered each day to your inbox or smartphone. Those who would like to discuss the passage or share personal application can interact on the daily “Thirsty” site or Facebook page.  (See a video introduction in my prior blog post.)  Two of my current staff and one of my former staff are significant leads in this new initiative, so I’m especially proud of this good work!

About 650 Christian leaders from 150+ nations are gathered this week at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, for the quadrennial World Assembly of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students.  I am leading a delegation of 44 InterVarsity/USA staff who feel honored to be here.  What’s perhaps most encouraging is the presence of 130+ student leaders from movements around the world!  See my World Assembly reflections on InterVarsity’s blog and yesterday’s Mission Network News report.  Or listen to a six-minute interview, where I share on-site reflections from Krakow.

As Lausanne North American International Deputy Director, I often get asked what the Lausanne movement is all about.  The Lausanne Congress last year has been called “the most representative gathering of Christian leaders in the 2000-year history of the Christian movement" (Christianity Today).  Four-thousand Christian leaders representing 198 countries attended the Congress in Cape Town, South Africa.  Learn more by watching this short documentary.


Getting around Kolkata will either make you a saint or a mean, crazy son of gun. I’m serious. I see a lot of saints and last night I was one crazy son of a gun. We left home at 1:00 pm to travel from the North to the South to help YWAM folks give a program at an AIDS Hospice. We got home at 10:00 pm. For this 2 hour program, it took 2 subway rides, 1 taxi, 2 cycle-rickshaws and 5 auto-rickshaws. Add 98% humidity, the temp at over 30 degrees, diesel fumes, and never a place to sit that wasn’t squashed next to another sweaty body for close to 6 hours.  Also you have to add sounds of honking horns at all times, a political rally leader yelling at full blast, and the constant task sound that Indians make with the side of their mouth to show they are frustrated. Parked cars, construction equipment and people bulge into the already inadequate driving space because there are no rules for where you can and cannot park, and most sidewalks are filled with hawkers. When we arrived home, our host mother said, “you look tired” which I took as a compliment because I was so filled with rage at the inconceivable inefficiency and over-stimulation that I felt ready to rip someone’s head off. But I was too tired for violence and so we ate dinner quickly and headed upstairs to bed.

Days like this is exactly the reason why people come home from trips like this and say pithy statements like “It made me so thankful for what I have”. Because before coming here, we didn’t think to be thankful for the fact that commuting for a church service takes only 5 – 20 minutes rather than 4 hours. Nothing I do at home in Vancouver requires as much effort as getting anywhere, to do just about anything in Kolkata. And I even walk to get my groceries in Vancouver! Other mission teams from Western Countries get around this massive irritation by renting large Air Conditioned Buses that drive them door to door where they are going to serve. It’s easier, more comfortable and more efficient, depending on strikes, traffic and what the cows are doing that day. But after raging for awhile, here are my 3 thoughts on why my soul (and everyone on the team’s souls) are all better from the experience of local transportation:

1. All of our souls really are on a life-long path to being more of a saint or more of a mean maniac. Towards God, love and peace or away. The difficult circumstances of life, those that make us most uncomfortable, help rise to the surface the stuff of character, which produces perseverance, which produces hope which produces faith. That’s somewhere in the bible I know it.

2. Certain kinds of transport can only get you certain places, part way of a larger journey. We may want to get to Kalighat, but first we have to stop at 3 other places, each with their own unique feel. Just like we may want to get to intimacy with God, but we have stops of self-awareness, and skills for loving others and disillusionment that come along on the trip to intimacy with our Creator.

3. Each mode of transportation has it’s own unique feel and way. Just like personal prayer feels different than public worship, or journaling feels different than service. Each mode is good, but not complete in itself to get us to the end of the journey of experiencing the fullness of God.

While I think scripture commands us to be thankful for what God gives us, I also think we have so many other commands to consider when we realize our position of privilege. I can choose to go home in 2 weeks to traffic lights and walking to church, but my friends here cannot. And how do I steward that choice when I follow a God who didn’t stay up in heaven and be thankful that he never had to step in cow poop on a crowded street in Kolkata? It’s not clear what my choice should be, which I suppose is why I have a few more stops and rickshaws to take on my journey with God.

- Today’s Reflections from an InterVarsity Staff who is leading the Kolkata Trek