GCOWE'97 - South Africa is set to take center stage

By Paula Ulrey
Pulse correspondent

This summer the missions spotlight will move to Pretoria, South Africa. That's when an anticipated 5,000 church and mission leaders from 100 countries will convene GCOWE '97. Many of the world's top missions leadership-the opinion makers-in nine different mission-related areas will meet June 30-July 5 for the Global Consultation on World Evangelization to discuss providing "a church for every people and the gospel for every person by the year 2000."

They hope to develop a strategy for reaching the remaining 1,685 significantly large, "unreached" people groups in the world by the year 2000. And Africa, long the object of mission-sending initiatives, will also develop national initiatives for moving out with the gospel. Joshua Project 2000 is a major focus of the conference. Last May the international office of the AD2000 and Beyond Movement sent surveys to 2,400 mission agencies and denominational sending agencies. The survey, which included an invitation to the leaders to attend the conference, asked the mission agencies to identify unreached peoples they are targeting. Results will be published in a book, "Global Guide to Unreached Peoples," which will be presented at the conference. The objects of Joshua Project 2000 are identifying unreached peoples, researching and enlisting prayer for those identified, then mobilizing church-planting teams for each prioritized people.

According to Luis Bush, the AD2000 and Beyond Movement's international director, the conference will be practical. With data in hand the mission executives will strategize and target the remaining unreached people groups. Nine parallel consultations will provide working sessions July 1-3 for mission executives; business executives; those who work with the poor and needy; those who train pioneer church planters; presidents and academic deans of theological institutions; university students and youth leaders; South African local pastors; African national leaders; and those involved in the performing arts and missions.

Phil Steyne is international coordinator for one of the nine tracks, the presidents and academic deans of theological institutions. Steyne, professor of missions at Columbia Biblical Seminary and Graduate School of Missions, Columbia, S.C., is a South African. He was part of the Love Southern Africa Congress in 1995, which brought 5,600 people together from South Africa, other parts of Africa, and around the world. After the conference half the delegates scattered northward as far as Zaire, Kenya, and Madagascar, preaching the gospel in short-term missions trips. According to Steyne, this kind of fervor was what led Bush to ask South Africa to host GCOWE '97. The World Mission Centre, Pretoria, is sponsoring the conference. William Crew, Steyne's nephew, is founder-director of the center, which has ignited South African missions interest through providing speakers, starting missionary conferences, providing information, and networking churches.

"There is a very viable church in South Africa," Steyne said. "God has worked in amazing ways. Even in regular denominations, which would not have been interested in missions and had no concept of faith promise giving, now they are responding remarkably, getting involved in giving to missions worldwide and taking up faith promise offerings."

Bush said GCOWE '97 will be a time for leaders to inquire of the Lord the next step in world evangelism. "That question should be posed at least nine times within the context of each one of those consultations," Bush said. At beginning and ending plenary sessions the entire global group will pose the question, "What's the call as we move into the last 42 months to the end of the millennium, and then into a new millennium?"

The focus of the unfinished task is becoming more and more refined, Bush said. "A global awareness and a mobilization of prayer is growing,: he said, pointing to dramatic increases in events such as Praying Through the Window. Bush said the conference will be something of a "coming out in full-orbed relationship" for the church of South Africa which, coming out of the whole process of the demise of apartheid, desires to be a vehicle of blessing to the other nations of Africa.

"As far as Africa, the continent, is concerned, the Christian church growth is accelerating," Bush said. "It is time to ask the question and answer it, 'Are we covering all the bases in terms of the unreached peoples of Africa with pioneer church planting, and if so, are we being concerned about penetrating every people in every city and every area with the good news?'"

Reprinted from the January 3, 1997, edition of Pulse, P.O. Box 794, Wheaton, Ill. 60189.

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