Thursday, July 3, 1997
With as warm a welcome as sub-freezing temperatures would allow, Pretoria played host this past week to 4,000 delegates from 135 nations for the Global Consultation on World Evangelization.
"A church for every people and the gospel for every person by the year 2000." This short phrase sums up the purpose and unifying goal of the International AD2000 and Beyond Movement, a loose confederation of Christian entities from nearly every country in the world which sponsored the conference. But when looking at the thousands of ethnic and linguistic groups in the world which have not yet had an opportunity to consider the claims of Christ or even meet a Christian who speaks his language, the question becomes "how?"
To help answer this question, the World Mission Centre of Pretoria set up ten different working consultations around the city. Local churches provided seven of the eight venues for the Christian leaders, with 1500 volunteers providing much of the housing, transportation, meal preparation and logistics for delegates meeting in their building each day. In addition, 200 people met at Faerie Glen Church to pray around the clock each day for those attending the conference and the work being done.
The last GCOWE, held in Seoul Korea in 1995 helped to refine focus to those cultures (defined primarily by language and location) most needing the opportunity to learn of Christ, most of which were identified at that time to reside in the 10/40 window, an area 10 degrees to 40 degrees north of the equator in the Eastern Hemisphere. Further research has, since then, developed a list of 1739 groups determined to be the largest and least-evangelized in the world. Called the Joshua Project peoples, the list has done much in the past two years to encourage outreach to those groups where Christians are rare or unknown. Of particular interest and discussion during these meetings was the new list of 597 peoples which still have no reported church planting activity, to which there were commitments made in several consultations to seek to engage these in church planting efforts by the year 2000.
Twenty-five thousand Pretorians are expected to join the international contingent Saturday for a colorful "March for the Nations," which will begin across from the Union Buildings and culminate with the reading of the GCOWE declaration for World Evangelisation at Sammy Marks Square. The march, which is open to the public, will commence at 7h30. The event will be broadcast live in Pretoria through Radio Ripple and Impact Radio (103 MHZ FM Stereo).
Each consultation was separately organized and led by international coalitions of similarly-focused delegates.
Meeting for perhaps the first time, 250 presidents and academic deans of theological institutions met at Doxa Deo church to discuss, among other things, the new paradigms needed for theological education designed to meet the needs of the rapidly growing church in, Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Not all of the delegates were in professional Christian vocation. In the Business Executives Consultation, meeting at Moreleta Park Church, political and business leaders committed to using their expertise and finances as a springboard for Christian services of mercy and ministry. Guests for these meetings included many political dignitaries from Africa and Europe
The "Workers Among the Poor and Needy" consultation met at the Mamelodi Campus of Vista University to share successful models for sustainable development among the underprivileged, often through the medium of story-telling. The extreme cold over the past week found the workers, many of whom come from equatorial countries which never fall below freezing, sharing relief blankets themselves.
The largest consultation of 1,100 delegates, the African National Initiatives brought Christian workers from nearly every nation Africa to Hatfield Christian Church. African churches, who, encouraged by the AD2000 and Beyond Movement, increasingly see themselves as senders of missionaries rather than receivers. South Africans particularly may have the fastest-growing contingent of missionaries, with the number doubling twice in the past 6 years.
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