GCOWE ’95 A Major Step Forward in Building a Movement to the Frontiers
Relentlessly the participants had planned, organized, prayed and sacrificed for years to bring about this global event. Hundreds of volunteers invested thousands of hours of labor to make it a stunning success. The Korean church gave millions of dollars to cover the cost of food and housing for thousands of delegates from the developing world. Almost 4,000 delegates came from 186 countries in the hope of changing the world through the growing AD2000 and Beyond Movement. GCOWE '95, the Global Consultation on World Evangelization-- the focus of all these efforts, has come and gone. What happened and was it worth all the effort?
Held May 17-26, 1995 at the beautiful Torch Center, home of the Korean Center for World Mission in Seoul, Korea, GCOWE '95 opened with pageantry and flair as the Korean church enthusiastically welcomed the worldwide Body of Christ to Seoul.
The delegates and guests attending spanned the range from the famous and powerful to the unknown faithful servant of Christ. Delegates included world royalty, a prime minister, national legislators, senior judges and professors as well as missionaries from the remotest unreached peoples. According to Dr. Hyung-Ja Lee, vice- president of the Korean Preparation Committee, "Not even during the 1988 International Olympic Games held in Korea did I see so many nations and so many distinguished guests represented as at this gathering."
GCOWE '95 was unique in that it was the largest and most widely representative international gathering in history. And it focused on establishing a church-planting movement within the unreached peoples of the world by the year 2000.
It was clear from the start that GCOWE '95 was a very different kind of meeting from any previous consultation on global Christian outreach. God is raising up a new and powerful movement to reach the unreached peoples through the completely new kinds of delegates He brought to Seoul in May.
The gathering, of course, built upon the successes of previous global meetings such as Edinburgh '80 and GCOWE I in Singapore in 1989. But the GCOWE '95 delegates are a new generation, unique in four important ways.
First, more than 70% of the delegates were under 50 years of age. This means that God is raising up younger leaders to carry the AD2000 vision forward.
Second, for more than 80% of the delegates this was the first global- level meeting that they have ever attended. Only ten percent of GCOWE's delegates attended Lausanne II in Manila in 1989.
Third, it is also significant that women comprised one quarter of the GCOWE delegates. This is a marked change from previous global conferences.
Fourth, this consultation was also the first to be dominated by delegates from outside of Europe and North America. Of the 4,000 attendees, more than two-thirds came from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Luis Bush described GCOWE '95 as the rite of passage for the transformation of the mission fields into a mission force. As Ralph Winter has said, "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 and Beyond Movement has enlisted more different kinds of groups, in more countries,than any previous movement in history."
The delegates, staff and volunteers were treated to a succession of video presentations and messages from Christian luminaries such as Thomas Wang, Luis Bush, Bill Bright, Paul Cedar, Patrick Johnstone, David Yonggi Cho and many more. The messages were inspiring and hope-
filled as these Christian leaders described the awesome works of God that are accelerating in our day and the tremendous opportunities for advancement that now await the global church. The delegates were challenged to attempt great things for God as they see the marvelous things God is already doing to reach every people with the Gospel.
Focusing on the Unreached Peoples Unlike most previous global conferences, this nine-day event clearly emphasized the establishing of a mission-minded church-planting movement within every people in order to reach the stated goal of a church for every people and the Gospel for every person by the year 2000.
The Unreached Peoples Track of the AD2000 and Beyond Movement has selected 2,500 unreached people groups with populations over 10,000 as their primary focus for establishing church-planting movements over the next five years. It is hoped that reaching these 2,500, many of which may be clusters of groups, will allow the Gospel to flow more easily to those smaller groups that are related to the 2,500. In his plenary address Patrick Johnstone, chairman of the AD2000 Unreached Peoples Track, challenged the GCOWE '95 delegates to look at the tremendous progress that has been made over the last 200 years and to believe that with God's help we can penetrate the 2,500 targeted groups by the year 2000.
Johnstone said , "I have two aims in speaking today:
1. to show that we are much nearer to our minimum goal of witnessing churches among unreached peoples than many have realized,
2. to suggest a broad strategy to actually launch a church-planting movement for every significant people in the world by the end of the year 2000 (Johnstone defines a significant group as an ethnic group with a population over 10,000). For this we need the active participation of every AD2000 track and every national and regional initiative represented here."
He is promoting a strategy for reaching the unreached peoples which involves grouping the unreached peoples in what he calls "affinity blocs." Johnstone explaines, "In the process of developing a peoples database with Dr. David Barrett, I was amazed to discover that of the world's 71 ethno-linguistic groupings, 26 contain significant numbers of unreached peoples. They have grouped these into 12 affinity blocs linked by culture, religion, geography and/or politics. Eleven of these are located in the 10/40 window.
"These affinity blocs can be a key for us to plan globally for their evangelization. They encompass 800 peoples of more than 100,000, and of these 130 are so strategic that a Gospel breakthrough within that people could rapidly impact other peoples on the long list. Let me propose broad strokes of strategy to achieve this:
- "Convene affinity bloc conferences immediately, representing indigenous and expatriate agencies, national bodies and prayer networks, to develop strategic partnerships for each Gateway People, and to ensure that a church-planting initiative be developed among every people group within that affinity bloc by AD2000.
- "Conduct national and regional conferences this year to assess and address the remaining task within a geographic region, through national and international initiatives.
- "Strengthen or launch Gateway People strategic partnerships to ensure that every possible ministry and agency make a coordinated contribution and that every related smaller people is adequately targeted." Patrick Johnstone concluded his remarks by saying, "We have a measurable and a finishable task. What a privilege that God has called us to the Kingdom for such a time as this. Let us be single- minded, committed, and full of faith in our great God to see this fully achieved in our generation."
Student Mission 2000 For the GCOWE '95 delegates there were few experiences to match that of being the honored guests at the Student Mission 2000 meeting. Ushered in by their Korean hosts, the 4,000 GCOWE delegates marched onto the track of Seoul's Olympic Stadium, the same track that had been the stage for so many Olympic athletes. As they entered, the more than 75,000 Korean students gathered there stood and cheered them, clapping their hands and waving For many delegates it was an overwhelming experience.
The incredible thing about it, however, was that these Korean students were committing themselves to being senders and go-ers in the task of world evangelization. Many of their efforts will no doubt be directed toward reaching North Korea with the Gospel when it finally open its doors to the South. But others will join the worldwide task of penetrating the unreached peoples with the Gospel. The church in Korea is in many ways a challenge to the church in America. One congregation, Onnuri Presbyterian Church in Seoul, for example, has committed itself to sending 2,000 members of its 8,000- member church to the mission field by the year 2000. They are also asking their church members for a lifetime commitment to pray two hours a day for their missionaries and world evangelization. The pastor and 800 members have already made this lifetime commitment. May the churches in America and around the world be that mobilized.
GCOWE '95 was a superb accomplishment for all the staff and volunteers involved. It was also a life-changing experience for many of the delegates. They left with a firm commitment to the mission of the AD2000 and Beyond Movement.
GCOWE '95's mission is summarized by Phil Butler, Executive Director of InterDev, a Christian group that helps mission agencies partner and coordinate 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."