Intersect 2011 – Transform

Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary’s Northern California campus celebrated Intersect 2011, a multi-day intercultural event held the first week of November. This year’s theme, “Transform,” was based on the book To Transform a City, Whole Church, Whole Gospel, Whole City, by Eric Swanson and Sam Williams. 

Sponsored by The David and Faith Kim School of Global Missions, the Seminary’s seventh annual Intersect conference provided the Golden Gate Seminary community with an opportunity to dialogue about bringing the Good News to the cities – the strategies, methods, responsibilities, the work of the church, and the work of God’s people.

This year’s keynote speakers were authors and leadership specialists Eric Swanson and Sam Williams. Eric Swanson is a missional church specialist with Leadership Network, has logged 25 years of student ministry with Campus Crusade, and wrote the bestseller The Externally Focused Church (Group, 2004). Sam Williams is co-director of Vision San Diego, a coalition of 200 private, public, and non-profit organizations serving that city. He was previously a professor at Golden Gate Seminary and pastor at BayMarin Community Church in San Rafael, CA.

The event incorporated a variety of activities including lectures, discussions, question and answer sessions, a campus-wide international luncheon, a video contest, and music.

One of the highlights was a luncheon dialogue for Bay Area pastors and church influencers invited by Seminary students who were members of the local churches.
“Pastors and students simply could not get enough of the keynote speakers,” explained Dr. Rick Durst, this year’s Intersect chair and the Seminary’s professor of Historical Theology, as well as director of the online education program. “Sam Williams and Eric Swanson’s down-to-earth way of explaining that when we rub shoulders with community people in service projects, that’s when those unbelieving neighbors start teeing up the evangelistic questions that make sharing the gospel natural and easy.” He noted that the ‘afterglow’ strategy sessions were packed out, standing room only, and had to be cut off both days simply to let the speakers get some rest.

The speakers’ keynote addresses, “The Importance of the Cities” and “Transformation Power,” emphasized the importance of the city as a ministry opportunity. Williams explained that the largest migration of people in the history of the world is taking place right now, and people are more open to change during transition. “More people are open to the Gospel now than in any other time in history. But the church doesn’t know what to do – the church has no strategies for the cities.”

Williams said that it is the responsibility of the church today to care for people whether they become a Christian or not. The strategy of city transformation is spiritual and societal – and occurs when people love their neighbors as themselves. Swanson added, “The work of the church is both spiritual and societal, and both are passions of God.”
The speakers described how to transform the lives of those in the cities through community service. “The unique ministry of church in the city is service. No one serves the city better than the church,” said Swanson.

“Whenever and wherever believers engage in good works in community service, two things inevitably follow – good will from the community and good questions from those impacted by the good,” said Williams. “Believers in community service get asked ‘Who are you?’ and ‘Why are you doing this?’ Then those believers get to do what Peter advocated – give a gentle defense for the hope that has happened to us in Jesus.”

Swanson said the explanation to give is, “We don’t do this because we want you to be a Christian, but because we are Christian.” He noted how good deeds create good will, which opens the door to Good News.

Other activities during the conference included a student video competition, which generated several creative 90-second videos. More than 500 people from all over the world visited and voted for their favorite Intersect video. Master of Arts in Educational Leadership student Jeanine Kowalski, with her video "We're At Work," received the $1,000 grand prize.

In conjunction with Intersect’s International Luncheon, students, faculty, and staff participated in a rice-themed cooking contest, “Everybody Eats Rice.” More than 20 rice-themed dishes were consumed by the crowd who gathered to dine together.

The annual Intersect conference began in 2005 by Dr. Faith Kim, chair of the Seminary’s Intercultural Education, to encourage an intentional approach to viewing diversity and commonality as related attributes, to understand that there are as many “within” group differences as there are cross-cultural differences, and to develop an individual and institutional plan of action.

“Just as the Christian faith intersects the language, location, and cultures of people wherever they are, Christians are called to intersect with people - wherever and whoever they are - sharing the Good News of Jesus,” said Dr. Faith Kim.

“All city leaders hope for the good of their city and look desperately for partners to that end,” said Durst at the conclusion of the conference. “However, they mostly expect criticism and not contribution from the churches. We can change that. The Gospels describe Jesus as going around and doing good. God is calling us to do the same even as we recognize the opportunities that such good brings for sharing the good words of salvation.”