For more than two thousand years, the Church has worked to fulfill the Great Commission of our Lord. By 1900, 45.69% of the world was evangelized; by 2000, more than 73.09% of the world has heard the gospel. Yet there are still more than 1.8 billion people who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ.1
Two scenarios can be imagined from this historic point in Church history. Globally, Christian leaders can choose to continue with our present strategies. If this occurs, by 2200, 83.25% of the world will have been evangelized. Although this appears to be great progress, we must take into account the fact that by that time the world population will exceed 10.5 billion. That means the unevangelized population would still number approximately 1.8 billion. Worse, at that rate, the Church will not have fulfilled the Great Commission even by 2300 and in the process, billions of souls from consecutive generations will have died in their sins.
In another scenario, the global Church could choose to synergize our efforts and share our resources. A growing number of evangelical and Pentecostal leaders believe it is possible to speed up church growth by helping each other to plant five million new churches and win a billion souls to Christ in the next ten to fifteen years.
According to National Evangelical Association president Ted Haggard, for the first time in modern Church history, we have a realistic opportunity to complete the Great Commission either in our lifetime or in the lifetime of our children. Dr. Bill Bright, who built the largest sustained ministry in the world through Campus Crusade for Christ and its affiliate branches, often said, “We have the manpower, we have the resources, all we lack is the motivation.”
Statistically, if Christian organizations do not partner together and instead continue to try to win the world alone (our procedure for centuries) then our children's children and their children's children will not come close to seeing our Lord's Commission finished in their lifetimes.
More leaders are becoming convinced that the way to follow our Lord’s command is by leaving “logos and egos behind,” as North American Mission Board president Robert Reccord terms it, and becoming serious about fulfilling the Great Commission.2 In such a scenario, we would not care who gets the credit as long as God gets the glory.
Recently, the Global Pastors Network (GPN) sponsored and conducted the first ever Global Church Planting Congress to synergize strategies and resources to help plant five million new churches for a billion soul harvest. More than five hundred leaders from seventy-two nations joined forces to “grow” the Church by networking together.
Dr. John Maxwell said the Congress represented the greatest gathering of people with church-planting as a priority in contemporary Church history. Many attending were unknown by their counterparts in America.
“Obviously, God is doing a work of which many in the United States are not aware,” Maxwell said. “America needs to realize that we need to be serving the body of Christ rather than showing the body of Christ.”
International delegates united in the first of five such global Congresses, to find commonality, vision, awareness and clarity of overall priorities for world evangelization. A GPN international networking strategy was developed and adopted. This strategy consisted of five action steps.
- Provide relationship-building opportunities for the fulfillment of the Great Commission;
- Promote shared resources for kingdom-minded leaders worldwide;
- Publish current research for successful evangelism and church planting;
- Prepare strategic recommendations for global partners; and
- Produce reports measuring the progress of the Billion Soul Initiative.
Campus Crusade for Christ president Dr. Steve Douglass has stated, “God is aligning his forces around the world for the greatest evangelism thrust in Church history.”
Pastor Billy Joe Daugherty of Victory Christian Center in Tulsa, OK, USA, noted that the Congress connected resources and leadership across international cultural and language barriers in a new paradigm that demonstrates the potential of synergy through relational ministry.
“Evangelism, discipleship and church-planting are a worldwide effort,” he said. “God is going to get it done with the people who are willing to do the work. The Congress reinforced the fact that we need each other to get the job done.”
David Sobrepena, general superintendent and president of the Philippines General Council of the Assemblies of God, has led church planting movements in his country by starting more than 1,500 churches in the past eight years.
“Church planting already is an integral and strong part of outreach in many countries outside the US,” he said. “The goal is bigger than the role – this vision to establish five million churches has to go beyond denominations and traditional methods.”
In the years ahead, the measurement of a pastor's ministry will not be the number of people worshiping at his local church, but the number of dynamic partnerships he has built worldwide.
God is raising up synergistic leaders like Sunday Adelaja in Kiev, Ukraine, who pastors one of the largest churches in Europe and plants churches throughout Europe and the United States. Another such leader is Suliasi Kurulo, who is planting churches in more than one hundred nations from his base in the tiny island chain of Fiji. Another is Mel Chit who, inside the closed country of Myanmar, has begun thousands of churches.
In the future, those who are not networking will eventually not be working. As the great evangelist Reinhard Bonnke said, “If we are interested in soul winning, then heaven is interested in our success. God's main purpose is winning the lost.”
1. GlobalChristianity.org statistics
2. Message at Beyond All Limits Conference, Orlando, Florida, January, 2002