Twenty four years ago I called Thom Miller at FSU, Dean Collins at AU and Sam Darden at UT and pitched an idea. How about a regional conference to increase awareness of campus ministry in the Southeast? They agreed to give it a try and I agreed to direct the Gatlinburg Collegiate Conference for the first year. 24 years later Thom Miller is at Southwest Christian Church, Dean Collins is interim President of Atlanta Christian College, Sam Darden is in year 36 at UTCSF, and I just finished directing my 24th Gatlinburg Collegiate Conference.
It has been a great run. Along the way I became friends with the late, great Mike Yaconelli, Rich Mullins and Millard Fuller. I still count as friends featured speakers Billy Sprague, Mike Breaux, Brennan Manning, Jimmy Donovan, James Lang, Rebecca Pippert, Debbie Woods, James Street, Tom Sine, Ron Sider, Tommy Oaks, Mark Nelson, and Tony Campalo. There have been so many other great speakers as well over the almost quarter of a century of the Conference.
The best part for me though hasn’t been the speakers, musicians, worship leaders, concert artists, D.J.’s, independent film makers, workshop leaders, or even the dramatic introduction of the annual commissioning of Globalscope missionaries and exchange students. It has been seeing the growth of NACCM ministries in the Southeast. 4 ministries gathered together in 1986: UT, AU, FSU and UGA. Since then we have added ministries at UK, Murray State, Eastern KY, Western KY, ETSU, WV, UNC, NCSU, USC, GT, GSU, Emory, Kennasaw, UWGA and other various Christian colleges, ministries and churches.
Hundreds of baptisms, thousands of students, hundreds of campus ministry staff and interns, hundreds of Globalscope exchange students and missionaries and millions of dreams: All this in the tackiest town in the South. God is good!