More than 1,500 leaders from around the world representing nearly 130 countries and 58 languages are gathered in Thailand for the 2004 Forum for World Evangelization Sept. 29 – Oct. 5. The gathering, convened by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE) in partnership with the Great Commission Roundtable, is the fourth time in the past thirty years that Lausanne has called such a comprehensive global gathering. The Christian Post will be posted regular updates on the 2004 Forum, as they are made availabe by the LCWE.
On Thursday morning at the opening Convergence session JESUS Film Project President Dr. Paul Eschleman, who leads a seven-member team of ministry leaders and theologians appointed by the 2004 Forum Planning Committee to “listen” to the emerging trends and commonalities among Issue Groups, identified four common topics that each of the 31 Issue Groups share in their efforts to advancing the gospel.
The topics, which can be summed up in one sentence, include (1) mobilizing the Church (2) to share a clear and relevant message, (3) using a variety of methods (4) to reach the most-neglected, resistant or distinct groups.
The 31 specific issues that the groups will address are based on 31 significant roadblocks to evangelism that have been identified through a comprehensive worldwide research effort.
After a year's worth of work, the 31 Issue Groups, which fall into three major categories ("The Whole World", "The Whole Church", and "The Whole Gospel"), will address world globalization as it reaches marginalized people groups (“The Whole World”), seek ways to empower the Body of Christ to participate in reaching out to everyone with the Good News groups (“The Whole Church”), and try to find ways to meet the needs of people and share Christ through all appropriate and available means (“The Whole Gospel”).
Eschleman also identified 12 aspects of evangelism that are being addressed at the Forum that the Convergence group will monitor:
- Prioritizing the unreached people groups of the world.
- Accelerating church-planting initiatives in the most neglected areas.
- Emphasizing the building of prayer movements
- Developing new approaches to Bible translation – especially for oral learners.
- Increasing the use of media – and preparing the next generation to be “storytellers.”
- Translating training and discipleship materials.
- Creating micro-economic structures to ensure the church is financially independent everywhere.
- Accelerating the training of younger leaders and empowering women.
- Facilitating the Two-Third’s World vision of sending 100,000+ new missionaries to the world.
- Cooperating – especially in reaching the cities.
- Focusing on the most open people group – children and young people.
- Living and preaching a holistic gospel.
Meanwhile, the 2004 Forum for World Evangelization Issue Groups met face-to-face for the first time on Thursday. Though many of the members of the 31 groups had never met personally, they had been actively corresponding for months via the Internet, telephone and mail. Many groups used their first meeting in person as a chance to get to know one another – with members introducing themselves, sharing the particular challenges they face in ministry and how God has been working through their ministry toward advancing the gospel.
In the two subsequent sessions of the day, Issue Groups transitioned into the next phase of strategy development. Guided by the 2004 Convergence Team that Eschleman leads, several Issue Groups defined why their issue is important to the task of world evangelization. They also addressed what they felt were the most important ideas for action or understanding that Christian leaders should implement or influence others to implement in the cause of world evangelization.
The 2004 Forum Convergence Team will continue to visit individual Issue Groups over the next few days and provide reports each morning to participants to help track the progress of groups meeting at the Forum.