What is going on in the world to give Christians so much encouragement that evangelization of the globe is truly within reach? Are there real grounds for believing that a significant phase of the Great Commission can be completed?
A detailed and intriguing answer was given at GCOWE '95 on the opening day by Rev. Luis Bush, International Director of AD 2000 & Beyond. Some of his points from a speech to the plenary and a press conference:
On the purpose of GCOWE '95: "Our purpose in GCOWE '95 is to encourage continued building toward the fulfillment of a goal, a dream from servants throughout the world, a dream under Jesus that by the year 2000 we may see a church for every people and the gospel for every person."
On the reasons for the new upsurge in evangelistic hope: "A rapid acceleration of divine activity is evident as we look at the remaining task. Even the secular press and secular futurists suggest that we are moving from an age of unbelief to an unprecedented age of faith. God is on the move. What I see happening is a release of concern that is going to be translated into servanthood in love and justice displayed, and also the proclamation of the life changing message of Jesus Christ. As Christianity is communicated; as it is lived out in servanthood, you're going to see nations uplifted within the 10/40 window, particularly, but also around the world."
On the diversity of GCOWE '95: "Probably more countries are sending representatives to this conference than any other gathering in Christian history. The impact will be on entire nations as the Christian community mobilizes to reach out in compassion and servanthood to the people of their nation, particularly those who have not been exposed to the claims of Jesus Christ for many years."
On priorities during the consultation: "The primary focus of the AD2000 movement in this conference in terms of priority is the 10/40 window which is where the mass of suffering humanity is concentrated. They're suffering spiritually. They're suffering materially. There are 62 countries where you have the greatest concentration of the poverty. You have over 82% of the population with the lowest GNP per person. You have the lowest life expectancy, highest infant mortality, lowest quality of life. You have massive alliances that go all the way back in time to Satan himself in some of these particular nations."
On the background of GCOWE '95: "The Edinburgh '80 consultation was a very significant milestone in the development of the vision of 'A Church for Every People and the Gospel for Every Person by AD2000.' Those 200 participants represented the seed. The seed has become a fruitful tree that has developed over the years since that time. There are, in fact, a number of major contributing tributaries into this river which is called AD2000 today.
Consultations are one of those major tributaries. Within those consultations, the 1980 consultation played a very important role. In relation to the impact of the vision of a church for every people, in the last 15 years there is a much greater understanding of what this vision actually means today. The GCOWE '95 consultation stands by the position that we have adopted over the last few years: a 'people' represents a distinct cultural linguistic group in the world. In terms of the progress towards that goal, much research has been done. At this conference there will be a listing of these peoples integrated from all the different 'listings' that have been compiled up to now.
The goal that we are seeking to fulfill by the year 2000 is a church for every one of these large ethno-linguistic peoples. There are almost 2,500 peoples on this list. Patrick Johnstone, who is coming to GCOWE, has researched carefully the progress over the last 2000 years. And of the 12,000 ethno-linguistic peoples that Wycliffe has identified in the last 200 years, there has been remarkable progress in actually seeing a church established among every one of them. Until 200 years ago, according to his statistics, only about 500 of these 12,000 had a church planting movement. One hundred years ago an estimated 5,000 had a church movement. In the last few years, we have seen a very rapid increase so that there are 10,000 estimated groups now reached. So we have seen remarkable acceleration in terms of the penetration and response of the gospel among unreached peoples. Most of that has taken place in the last 15 years!"
On the attainability of the goals of GCOWE '95: "We don't think that [12,000] is the total number of ethno-linguistic peoples. These have simply been documented. There are 4,900 [smaller groups needing church movements] that have been discovered. In the process [of reaching the 2,500], complexities will be identified in terms of sociologically distinct people groups within ethno-linguistic peoples. The effect of focusing primarily on these 2,500 is not to be exclusive, but rather a matter of trusting that there will be a major overflow impact on the finer divisions in the process. Thus compassion will emerge to reach out to other groups as well."