GCOWE Launches the World into the Final Push for a Church for Every People by the Year 2000
With growing global momentum in reaching the unreached peoples, 3,930 delegates from 135 countries gathered in Pretoria, South Africa on June 30th for the opening session of GCOWE ’97 at Hatfield Christian Church. Cold winter temperatures greeted the delegates, but the warm hospitality of thousands of South African volunteers and host families made the delegates feel right at home.
GCOWE ’97 was a marvel of organization and church cooperation. With 10 different consultations meeting simultaneously in seven different churches and thousands of delegates staying in the homes of 1,500 South African families, it was a monumental task to feed and transport such a large group of delegates, but the World Mission Centre and the South African Church pulled it off with few problems.
This organizational expertise was obvious from the moment the delegates stepped off the plane, GCOWE ’97 volunteers were there waiting with their computers and tags to direct the delegates and their bags to the proper buses and churches where they would be assigned and delivered to their host families.
Given the recent history of South Africa, it may seem a strange place to host such an important global conference on missionary outreach, but the collapse of the walls of Apartheid has revealed a burgeoning missions movement which has been growing under the surface for almost two decades.
In 1990, Dr. Thomas Wang visited South Africa and reported in the July-October 1990 issue of Mission Frontiers, “The great potential of all the resources of the church here are about to be released for the spiritual benefit of the peoples of the world.” This potential is now being realized. In just the past six years the number of missionaries going out from South Africa has doubled twice. God is at work and GCOWE ’97 is one more evidence of it.
Although GCOWE ’97 was inspired by the vision and momentum coming out of GCOWE ’95 in Korea, this African GCOWE was a result of the major changes taking place in the church throughout Africa, and South Africa in particular. These changes were evident in the fact that all of the delegates from Africa paid their own way; there were no subsidies for African delegates as there were at GCOWE ’95.
This was Africa’s opportunity to take its place as a full partner in world evangelization, and they took full advantage of it. African delegates amounted to 69% of all delegates. The African National Initiatives meeting was the largest of the ten tracks with over 1,000 delegates or 26% of all the delegates. Not surprisingly, the South African delegation was the largest group with 1,426 delegates or 36% of all delegates.
GCOWE ’97 was also host to a number of African dignitaries. They included Queen Tahitha Mamahato Seeiso of Lesotho and President Mathieu Kerekou of Benin in West Africa. The Queen attended the Poor and Needy Consultation.
The President of Benin attended the Business Executives Consultation where he created a great deal of excitement when he invited Christian businesses and ministries to come to Benin to transform his country’s economic and spiritual foundations. This former Marxist-Leninist has dedicated his life and his country to Jesus Christ with an open invitation to evangelical Christian missionaries.
Patrick Johnstone reports in the 1993 edition of his book Operation World, “Benin has Africa’s highest percentage of followers of traditional religions and is the least-evangelized non-Muslim country south of the Sahara.” Given this background, it will be a landmark study to see how Benin responds to an open and encouraged presentation of the Gospel. The Christian business leaders gathered at GCOWE ’97 have pledged to help President Kerekou and the people of Benin. Thirty five of these leaders have accepted an invitation to visit the country to consider ways to help. The business leaders are trusting God to use Benin as a model from which they can help other countries.
GCOWE ’97 Statistics Delegates: 3,930 registered from135 countries as of June 30,1997
Distribution: Africa: 68.95%, Asia: 8.94%, Middle East/North Africa/Central Asia: 1%, Latin America/Caribbean: 6.18%, Eastern Europe /Russia: 0.4%, Western Europe /USA/Canada/N.Z./Aust: 14.53%
Observation: 80% of the delegates are citizens of countries that formerly were viewed as missionary receiving countries. This
consultation shows that the missionary leadership base is now firmly established in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Fact: Men 76.5%, Women 23.5%.
Observation: Women have a strong presence in missionary leadership.
Fact: Of the total GCOWE registration fees, 64% came from Africa, Asia and Latin America. 36% came from Western Europe, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
Observation: GCOWE ’97 is being financed primarily through citizens of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Fact: 16% of the delegates call themselves an AD2000 core leader.
Observation: GCOWE ’97 is not confined only to the AD2000 and Beyond Movement.
Fact: 11% of the delegates attended GCOWE ’95 in Korea, 5% of the delegates attended Lausanne ’89. 3.7% of the delegates attended Amsterdam ’86.
Observation: New people are being exposed to this Global Consultation rather than just the same people attending one consultation after another.
Fact: 30% of the delegates have an e-mail address.
Observation: Missionary leaders are keeping up with new technology to network with one another.
Fact: Of the 4,000 GCOWE ’97 delegates 5% were age 60 or older 18% were age 50 to 59 36% were age 40 to 49 30% were age 30 to 39 10% were under age 30
Observation: There is a pretty even age spread among GCOWE delegates with many younger people. This shows that missions is benefiting from the wisdom of the older people. This also gives some indication that there will be enough replacements when the oldest generation retires. ---------------------------------------------------------------- A Church for Every People GCOWE ’97
The banners lined the sanctuary of Hatfield Church proclaiming the motto: “A Church for Every People and the Gospel for Every Person by the Year 2000!” It was a reminder to all the delegates as to why they had gathered in South Africa. It was a significant fact that 4,000 delegates with 10 different business and ministry perspectives were gathered with a focus on specific steps to reach unreached peoples. There was no question or disagreement that this was the priority. These efforts were based on a specific list of unreached peoples—the Joshua Project List of 1,739 peoples with less than 2% Evanglicals and over 10,000 population—of which 579 were reported to have no church planting efforts focused on them.
These 579 peoples were a central focus of the Mission Executives meeting at GCOWE ’97. After three days of speeches, panel discussions and small group deliberations, the mission leaders said they would seek to target 390 of the 579 peoples. These leaders will now go back to their mission agencies to promote the cause of those they have committed to target. See the article on page 10 for more information on the Mission Executive Consultation. For the list of those peoples still needing a church planting movement and yet untargeted by a mission agency, see page 29.
African National Initiatives
The African National Initiatives Consultation also declared that they were going to reach out to 49 of these 579 unreached peoples and to reach another 173 unreached peoples that are not on this list. A well-resourced research project will assess the unreached people groups on an ongoing basis.
Their stated goal is for the national church in each country in Africa to reach out to its country’s unreached peoples and to assure that all segments of society are reached.
Sixty-five partnerships from 15 countries, developed during GCOWE, committed to producing the Jesus film in 640 languages. The consultation also committed to produce the Bible or portions of the Word for every language group containing a minimum of 100,000 individuals and to reach every house in Africa with the Gospel in written or audio form by AD2000.
The Business Executives declared, “We intend to: * Indentify need and create opportunities to do business in the 10/40 Window, * Gain access to countries otherwise closed to the Gospel through trade and joint ventures, funding of projects and contacts wtihthe government officials, * Build bridges and find the connections so that traditional missions and business people can meet and interact to further God’s kingdom in the 10/40 Window. Our strategy will require overall coordination and country-by-country plans. To accomplish this task we will assign International and National Coordinators who will be responsible to implement this strategy, impart the vision, equip the Christian business community in their nation, provide opportunities for Christians to get involved and network with the whole body of Christ.
“Building Resources. We intend to found an International Business Corporation (IBC) through which the funding of the coming harvest will be met in very unusual ways.
“We declare our commitment of time skills and financial resources to the accomplishment of ‘a church for every people and the Gospel for every person by AD2000.’”
Presidents and Academic Deans
The 250 Presidents and Academic Deans (PAD), representing theological schools from 53 nations, gathered in Pretoria to consider ways in which the schools they lead can further the goal of “a church for every people and the Gospel for every person.” Theological educators have tremendous potential to bless, but also to hinder the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Therefore, it is significant that they called upon college Presidents and Academic Deans worldwide to commit themselves to put the vision of “a church for every people and the Gospel for every person” at the heart of their ministry training. As a result of this meeting, a new AD2000 track was established for the Presidents and Academic Deans to help take future concrete steps. See page 31 for more information on this meeting and a copy of their declaration.
The first consultation for children’s ministries challenged the gathered mission leaders to consider the strategic importance of reaching the vast numbers of young people in the “4/14 Window”—that age range of 4 to 14 years of age when a large majority of believers come to faith in Christ. The consultation leadership remarked, “More than 40% of the 10/40 Window are children below the age of 14. The 4/14 Window is the ideal strategy to penetrate and reach the 10/40 Window.”
“March for the Nations”
The gathering of 4,000 delegates at GCOWE ’97 concluded on Saturday, July 5th with a joyous “March for the Nations” through the streets of Pretoria. Twenty-five thousand Pretorians are estimated to have participated in this grand procession which began across from the Union Building, one of the national legislative seats in South Africa, and culminated with the reading of the GCOWE ’97 declaration for World Evangelization at Sammy Marks Square.
The rally at the square was a joyous musical celebration of missions vision and commitment. This joy, however, was punctuated by sadness when it was announced to the crowd that Pastor Ed Roebert, senior pastor of Hatfield Christian Church which was the host of the GCOWE plenary sessions, was struck down by a heart attack at the beginning of the March and died.
Pastor Roebert said at the beginning of GCOWE ’97, “It is significant that this global strategy meeting is being held in Pretoria—until recently, the city with the worst reputation in the world! God has reversed this situation and will use South Africa and Africa as part of the mission force to reach the world.” After GCOWE ’97, few would challenge the truth of these words.