Global Consultation On World Evangelization (GCOWE'95) Backgrounder for The Media

By Dr. David Aikman, former Senior Correspondent for TIME Magazine

What is GCOWE'95?

The Global Consultation on World Evangelization (GCOWE'95) is a gathering in Seoul, Korea, May 17-25, 1995, of about 4,000 Christians from some 200 countries around the world. Its purpose is to develop strategies and plans to achieve, if possible, Christian evangelization of the entire world by the year 2000. The slogan adopted for this goal is: "A church for every people and the Gospel for every person by AD 2000."

Who are the organizers of GCOWE'95?

The convening organization is called the "AD 2000 & Beyond Movement." The Chairman of the International Board is Thomas Wang, and the International Director is Luis Bush. There is a 12-member International Board composed of Christians from 9 countries. Honorary Chairmen of the Movement include (in English alphabetical order) such world-famous international evangelists and churches leaders as Bill Bright (founder of Campus Crusade for Christ), Dr. Billy Graham, Dr. KyungChik Han, Luis Palau, and Philip Teng. In Korea, the organization of the consultation is being handled by committees representing the Korean Christians as a whole. Chairman of Korean AD 2000 & Beyond is Dr. Kim Joon-Gon.

Who is paying for the consultation?

About 75 percent of the funding of the conference has come from both the Korean church and Christians outside of Europe and North America. The overwhelming majority of delegates have had to raise their own funds within their own countries in order to attend the conference.

What is so special about GCOWE'95 compared with other Christian meetings around the world?

First, there has probably never been a Christian gathering in the 2000-year history of the Christian faith that has had representation from such a large number of countries. Second, unlike previous world conferences of evangelical Christians, many countries which in the past had been evangelized by Christian missionaries from the Western world have become vigorous pioneers in the last few years of missionary efforts of their own in many other countries (including the West). Third, for the first time in history, there is a serious prospect that, by the year 2000, almost the entire world will have had the chance to hear the fundamentals of the Christian faith, through radio or television, or partial or complete translations of the Christian scriptures, or audio recordings.

What is an evangelical Christian?

An evangelical Christian is one who believes, broadly speaking, in

  1. the need for a personal commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord, a process often described as conversion, or being "born again,"
  2. the authority and inerrancy of the Bible as a guide for doctrine and for moral living, and
  3. the need to help carry out what Christians all over the world call "the Great Commission."

What is the "Great Commission"?

Jesus Christ was crucified under the Roman Prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate, in approximately the year 30 A.D. He rose from the dead three days later and appeared to all of his 11 remaining disciples and hundreds of other followers on several different occasions over a period of nearly 7 weeks. Then, in front of their eyes, he rose up to heaven in a cloud from the Mount of Olives, in Jerusalem. Among the many things he told them, his instructions to take the Gospel to the entire world are found in the Gospel of Matthew and are commonly called "The Great Commission." Jesus told his disciples: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (NIV, Matthew 28:18-20). Christians believe all evangelistic work is part of the Great Commission.

Aren't Christians just one group among many religious believers in the world?

Yes, but they are by far the largest and they are by far the fastest growing and the most evangelistic of the world's religious believers. In mid-1993 there were 1.87 billion Christians in a total world population of 5.56 billion. There were 1.01 billion Muslims, 751 million Hindus, 334 million Buddhists and about 1.25 million who were either non-religious or actually atheistic. In China alone, the Christian church has been growing at least three times faster than population growth for the last 45 years.

How realistic is it to believe that the entire world can be evangelized by Christians by the year 2000?

Entirely realistic, on a statistical basis. The goal is not to ensure that everyone believes in Jesus Christ -- which is not possible because people are free to reject truth even when they are exposed to it -- but that everyone is exposed to the Gospel message of salvation in some form or other. There are estimated to be close to 12,000 distinct ethno-linguistic groups in the world of significant size. In the first 1700 years of Christianity, only some 500 of these had been reached with the Gospel. By 1900, that figure had risen to 5000. Today, close to 10,000 of the 12,000 groups have been reached.

In addition, the rate of growth of Bible translation, literature distribution, and Christian radio broadcast worldwide continues to surge. More than 600 million people in 216 countries have seen the "Jesus" movie, a film made in 1979. A new language translation of the sound-track is made every 10 days. By the year 2000, it is estimated that 80 percent of the people in the world will have access to the entire Bible in their own languages. The number of languages in which the Gospel is broadcast in different parts of the world has risen from 170 to 249 in less than 10 years.

If evangelism is going so well, why is another Christian consultation necessary?

Because experts on missionary work have identified a particular region of the world, the so-called "10/40 Window," in which resistance to the message of the Gospel has been most persistent and intense. This is a broad, rectangular swath of the earth between 10 degrees to 40 degrees north of the Equator that traverses North and West Africa, the Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent, and East and South-East Asia. An astonishing 97 percent of the least evangelized people in the world live in the 10/40 Window yet only 8 percent of all missionary activity takes place within these regions. Some 40 percent of the entire population of the 10/40 window -- 2.4 billion people -- also live in 50 megacities of more than a million people which are also the least evangelized cities in the world. Two thirds of the population of the world live in the 10/40 window.

What does GCOWE'95 plan to do about the 10/40 Window?

The organizers have labeled the 10/40 Window a "priority global challenge" of all evangelization efforts. Through the mobilization of intercessory prayer on the part of millions of Christians around the world, through church planting, networking among the many different church, missionary, and para-church organizations working in the area, and through specific evangelistic strategies and tools (for example, literature, video, broadcast, etc.), GCOWE'95 believes it will be possible to make a dramatic penetration of the Window in the next five years.

Is there something spiritually significant about the year 2000?

The GCOWE'95 organizers stress that there is no theological or specific end-times significance to the target date 2000. Though Christians believe that Jesus Christ will return triumphantly from heaven with a host of angels in his Second Coming and this event is obviously much closer now than before, the Bible makes it clear that no human being knows when all this will happen.

Nevertheless, many entirely secular observers have commented that there is a quickening of interest in spiritual things as a new millennium draws near. The former editor-in-chief of Time Magazine, the world's most widely read weekly newsmagazine, Henry Grunwald, noted in an essay entitled The Year 2000: Is it the end -- or just the beginning, in 1992:

"We are witnessing the end, or at least the decline, of an age of unbelief and beginning what may be a new age of faith....Many people seem to want a faith that is more rigorous and demanding, or else more personal and emotional....Throughout the Third World, Christian churches, especially the Evangelicals, are gaining more converts than ever before."

Grunwald, former U.S. Ambassador to Austria, was writing as an astute observer of the age, not as a religious believer at all.

Haven't there been other global evangelistic efforts before AD 2000 & Beyond?

Yes, and all were precursors of GCOWE'95 and remain strongly allied to it. Many were started in the early 1950's. The World Evangelical Fellowship issued a Statement of Faith in 1951, which is a doctrinal position shared by GCOWE'95 (see end of this backgrounder). In 1974, Christians from more than 150 countries gathered in Lausanne, Switzerland, for the most diversely represented gathering of world evangelicals ever to take place until then. The Lausanne Covenant (1974) was a more detailed theological exposition of the evangelical position than WEF. This declaration is also agreed with by GCOWE'95.

In 1989 a follow-up meeting of the Lausanne Conference took place in Manila, Philippines. During discussions on the challenges of global evangelism in Singapore in 1989, there emerged a strong sense that the greatest challenge of fulfilling global evangelization any time in the foreseeable future was a lack of clear vision and distinct goals. It was from this sense of urgency to complete the Great Commission that the AD 2000 & Beyond Movement emerged.

Why should journalists who are neither Christians nor even followers of other faiths pay any attention to a Christian consultation in Korea?

Because journalism, in no matter what culture or country it is practiced, has always been concerned to know what truth is and to report major new social, cultural, or political developments. Christianity, in contrast to all other faiths, puts a special emphasis on the importance of historical truth. Christians believe that if Jesus did not physically rise from the dead, literally change from being a human corpse to a glorified human being who would never die again, in the city of Jerusalem at a specific time in history, then their own faith is meaningless and valueless. Jesus himself said: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Journalists, therefore, ought to be intrinsically interested in a religion that puts so much stress on truth.

In addition, journalists should inherently be interested in a major international gathering in Korea of international followers of a faith with which Koreans as a whole were completely unfamiliar just 150 years ago.


Appendix:

The World Evangelical Fellowship Statement of Faith (1951)

We believe in the Holy Scriptures as originally given by God, divinely inspired, infallible, entirely trustworthy; and the supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct...

One God, eternally existent in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit...

Our Lord Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, His virgin birth, His sinless human life, His divine miracles, His various and atoning death, His bodily resurrection, His ascension, His mediatorial work, and His personal return in power and glory....

The salvation of lost and sinful man through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ by faith apart from works, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit...

The Holy Spirit, by whose indwelling the believer is enable to live a holy life, to witness and work for the Lord Jesus Christ...

The unity of the Spirit of all true believers, the Church, the body of Christ...

The resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life, they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.


This material is distributed courtesy of the AD2000 and Beyond Movement and the Global Consultation On World Evangelization (GCOWE) '95. GCOWE '95 is drawing national Christian leaders from 200 nations to Seoul Korea between May 17 and 25, 1995. Sixty percent of the delegates represent nations outside of Europe and North America. Their stated goal is to work together on strategies for "A Church for Every People and the Gospel for Every Person by AD 2000."

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