As a member of the Cross Leadership Team that conceived and is launching the Cross Conference, I am thrilled to be part of it. Here is my seven-point answer to why this conference exists.
With 7,000 schools of higher learning, and 15,000,000 students, and a spread of 5,000 miles (from Maine to Hawaii), there is room in America for another conference about the most important issue in the world.
In fact, we believe that God is stirring among young people today not unlike he was in the Student Volunteer Movement a hundred years ago. Between 1886 and 1910, this movement sent out 4,338 missionaries. Over 50% of all missionaries from America between 1906 and 1909 were Student Volunteers. We would like to join others in helping students lift their sails into this new wind of the Spirit.
More specifically, we see a growing tide of students with a big view of God as sovereign and glorious. This tide has been fed by decades of God-exalting worship music, Bible-saturated campus ministries, and the book-publishing and social-media explosion of the Reformed resurgence. In other words, there are thousands of students eager to plug the cord of their passion into the great biblical truths of the Reformation. They care about building their lives and ministries on robust theology. We want to point that tide to the unreached peoples of the world.
We are driven by what John Stott called a passion “for His Imperial Majesty, Jesus Christ, and for the glory of his empire.” For all we know, America may be a footnote in history someday, and every President virtually forgotten, like the Caesars of Rome. But we know beyond all doubt that the kingdom of Christ “shall never be destroyed. . . . It shall break in pieces all kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44).
Christ’s kingdom will triumph without sword or gun or bomb, because Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would be fighting” (John 18:36). Bold and brokenhearted emissaries of Christ will conquer, not with weapons of the flesh, but “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:11). We want to call students to this path of sacrificial triumph.
We are awakened to the terrible reality of eternal suffering, the universal scope of human fallenness, and the absolute necessity of hearing and believing the gospel of Jesus in order to be saved (Romans 10:13–17). One of the flags we want to wave over every generation of students is: “Followers of Jesus care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering.”
Jesus spared the leper, and Jesus spoke of hell. Nobody in the Bible spoke so much of eternal suffering as Jesus did. We believe all humans are headed there unless they hear and believe the gospel of Jesus. God has put the remedy in our hands. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. We have the joyful news that God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:17). We want to mobilize thousands of students under this flag.
We see the unique task of the missionary to be taking the gospel to the unreached and unengaged peoples of the world. God calls many Christians to many other worthy ministries. But missions is the glorious calling to learn a language, cross a culture, and speak the gospel in order to plant the church of Jesus among a people group with no cultural access to the gospel.
There are about 3,100 people groups in the world that are “unengaged”—that is, there is no known plan being implemented to reach them with the biblical gospel. We want that fact to be prominent in our conference. Under Christ and his gospel, that is our focus.
We believe that this kind of focus and this kind of student are an explosive combination. That is why Cross exists. We would like to bring them together and see what the Holy Spirit might detonate.
John Piper studied at Wheaton College, Fuller Theological Seminary (BD), and the University of Munich (DTh), and is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org. He served for 32 years as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions and Desiring God. John and his wife Noël have five children and twelve grandchildren.