VANCOUVER – More than 10,000 people attended Missions Fest 2018 this past weekend, where one of the main speakers shared about the devastating effect that a popular atheist book had on a young Christian student.
Alycia Wood, a speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, spoke with theologian and church planter Michael Goheen on Friday during the opening session of Canada's largest missions conference.
Wood reflected on a story of a young man, Jesse Kilgore, who had given up his faith in college after he was encouraged to read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.
"It broke him so much he decided it wasn't worth living anymore and he took his life," she said.
But the sad part, Wood said, are the claims made by Dawkins are easily refuted.
The good news of Christianity is that God did not only say He is loving, but that He showed it.
"With the Gospel that Jesus gives us, we can say, 'God doesn't just say He loves you. God shows His love for you in the greatest possible way,'" she said. "The Gospel in my context of apologetics means that what people are seeking – truth, hope, meaning, morality, love – exist."
Wood noted that "the realization of what life is like for people who do not understand the truth of Christianity motivates" her to defend and explain the faith.
While Wood made a case for the beauty of the Gospel, her co-speaker, Mike Goheen, director of Theological Education and Scholar-in-Residence at Missional Training Center, Phoenix, Ariz., responded directly to the conference's 2018 theme: What is the Gospel?
"The Gospel is not simply theology or ethics," said the well-known missions expert who has authored several books on missionary work in the modern age. "The Gospel is an announcement of what God has done in history, especially in the death and resurrection of Jesus."
"Here is what he would have been saying, something like this: 'Good news. God is coming in love and in power to restore the whole creation and to heal the entirety of human life from sin and evil. So that it all can live again under the gracious rule of God.' Isn't that good news?"
Goheen concluded that the Gospel was about the restoration of the whole of human life.
He said that until Jesus returned, the church's mission was "to publish this Good News, which is true in our own neighbourhood and to the ends of the earth so that all have an opportunity to hear that Good News and to be included in Christ; to be included in this salvation that is as wide as creation."
Missions Fest has been an annual conference for the past 35 years, and draws anywhere between 10,000 to 15,000 people over the course of the weekend. The Jan. 26-28 event included exhibits, general sessions, youth rallies, and a film festival.