It's been obvious since the very first musical chords echoed off the instruments on stage in Love Hall Wednesday afternoon. GCOWE '95 is a very different king of meeting from any previous consultation on global Christian outreach. God is doing something powerful through the completely new kinds of delegates He has brought to Seoul this month.
The gathering, of course, builds on the successes of previous global meetings such as Edinburgh '80, Lausanne II (1989) and GCOWE I (the same year). But these delegates are a new generation, unique in three important ways.
Put simply, God is raising up younger leaders to carry the AD2000 vision forward with more than 70% of the delegates being under 50 years of age.
For more than 80% of the delegates this is the first global level meeting that they have ever attended. Only ten percent of today's delegates attended the Lausanne II in Manila in 1989.
It is also significant that many gifted women are being used to advance His Kingdom around the world. Women comprise one quarter of the GCOWE delegates.
GCOWE '95 is also unique in that it is the largest and most widely representative international gathering in history (more than 200 countries) to focus on completing this vital goal in world evangelization: establishing a church planting movement within the unreached peoples of the world by a specific date.
,Another unique point: this consultation is also the first to be dominated by delegates outside of Europe and North America. Of the 4,000-plus attendees, more than two-thirds come from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. GCOWE '95 is the rite of passage for the transformation of the mission fields into a mission force.
At no time in history have we been so close to completing the preliminary penetration task of mission effort into all the peoples of the world. This is an initiative reverberating from the mission field itself. The AD2000 & Beyond Movement has enlisted more different kinds of groups, in more countries, than any previous movement in history.
In the rousing first plenary session of GCOWE '95, Dr. Thomas Wang, International Chairman of AD2000 & Beyond Movement, said, "God is already sending us a small cloud. I feel the Lord is giving us the sound of abundant rain right now."
Patrick Johnstone, author of Operation World, puts it this way: "The genius of the AD2000 & Beyond Movement is that it is based on what others already are planning to do. Some very big networks are hiding under a very small AD2000 & Beyond Movement umbrella."
GCOWE '95's mission is summarized by Phil Butler, Executive Director of InterDev, a Christian group that helps others co-ordinate with each other. "AD2000 is important because it gives the church a clear unadulterated vision. It provides incremental steps, breaking the task down by region, country and city. It empowers people at each level and is (primarily) directed and inspired by non-Western leaders around the world. The wonderful global heirs of the missionary movement of the last 150 years can now join hands with those in the West who have prayed and sent and funded. Together we can focus on finishing the task."
Every human being who has ever been born has an inbuilt need to pour his or her best efforts into a cause bigger than that of one individual. It's part of the human condition.
And what better cause for the Christian is there than giving everyone access to the Gospel in his or her own culture?
During the next nine days, if you are part of this cause, you're in good company. You're joining more than 4000 missions-minded believers who will tap into God's power and develop strategies toward a goal that will take all the sweat and prayers and work we can muster. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are committed to evangelize the world by the year 2000.
"A Church for Every People and the Gospel for Every Person" is the guiding light that shines as a beacon as we gather together to worship, strategize and pray. It's a goal that has given focus to the AD 2000 & Beyond Movement, a grassroots movement that differs from all earlier worldwide evangelization efforts precisely because it is grassroots.
Reaching the whole world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ has always been a priority for evangelical Christians. But in the last 15 years it has gathered a special head of steam. In 1980 the first major breakthrough came when some 200-300 believers convened in Edinburgh, Scotland. Together they came up with a strategic goal: A Church for Every people by the Year 2000." In the eighties, growing numbers of missions-minded people continued to grapple with that goal, including one of Edinburgh '80 plenary speakers, Thomas Wang. In his later role as International Director of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, Wang became increasingly aware that many Christian groups were using the year 2000 as a target date for their organizational goals.
Awakening at 3 a.m. one morning in 1987, he wrote an article of decisive consequences: "The Year 2000: Is God Trying to Tell Us Something?"
Other missions and church leaders, including Argentine Luis Bush, joined Wang in Singapore in 1989 to consider seriously what could be done by the year 2000. Christians from every part of the globe gathered for the first Global Consultation for World Evangelization, in anticipation of the larger Lausanne meeting in Manila a few months later.
GCOWE '95 (Global Consultation on World Evangelization '95), occurring in the middle of the decade, provides a fresh look at progress to date. It's also a chance to clarify and refine the vision, and to make strategic decisions for the years ahead.
First, we clarify. In describing the movement's goal of reaching the world for the Savior, movement leaders have agreed on a definition of "people." The term represents a distinct cultural/linguistic group. There are currently 12,000 ethno-linguistic people groups identified by Wycliffe. Of those groups, 2500 are classified as unreached, or without a strong indigenous church.
Each of these groups needs a chance to respond to the Savior in a way that reflects their deepest cultural instincts and concerns. Living mostly in North Africa, the Middle East and Asia, the unreached peoples will be on our minds and hearts over the next nine days.
As we look within our own country groups to develop new initiatives or to assess our progress thus far, we'll keep the unreached peoples in our hearts. As we gather into tracks and task forces, we will pray and work for the salvation of those who have never heard the Good News.
"The conference's goal isn't convincing people of the vision," says Luis Bush, International Director of GCOWE '95. "Every person here has committed himself in writing to the goal of 'A Church for Every People and the Gospel for Every Person by the Year 2000. This conference answers the question, 'How do we implement this vision?'"