DALLAS – Evangelizing a billion souls can be done within a generation, say church leaders. It's a reasonable goal for the more than one billion people who profess to be Christians, they add, but Christians need to do something different.
"We're not catching up with the five billion [unsaved souls]," said Larry Stockstill, pastor of Bethany World Prayer Center in Baker, La., at a church leaders gathering this week. "We got to do something different."
The simple answer: multiplication.
There are three types of people in the church, Stockstill explained at the Billion Soul Summit in Dallas – attenders (the crowd), members (the congregation), and multipliers (the core). Multipliers typically only make up 10 to 15 percent of a church. In his 10,000-member church, he described 1,500 of them as multipliers.
Evangelism Explosion President John Sorensen stressed the same concept, except he called it "spiritual multiplication." If every Christian shares the gospel, the more than one billion Christians would become more than two billion in only one generation.
But there are only two kinds of Christians, Sorensen categorized – those learning to witness and those witnessing. The greatest challenge to world evangelization is finding leaders who don't just talk about evangelism, but do it, he said.
The role of the church is not to keep people in the pews, but the goal is to get Christians out of their own church to spread the gospel and plant churches around the world.
"Anything that doesn't reproduce dies," said international speaker Sunday Adelaja, also pastor of the Embassy of God, one of the largest churches in Europe. Not only does this simple survival theory apply to the human population but also to churches.
"It's all about multiplication," said Global Pastors Network head James O. Davis, who helped spearhead the Billion Soul campaign.
In order to multiply, the megachurch pastors and ministry leaders went back to the basics to ensure churches and new church plants get their mission right.
"More and more churches are preaching less of the gospel," said Dr. James Merritt, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. "We must prioritize the message of the gospel" – the gospel being the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Billion Soul Harvest is looking to plant five million churches and save one billion souls in the next ten years. International evangelist Reinhard Bonnke said a billion is "a good start."
"Multiplication happens in our hands," he told summit attendants, alluding to the biblical story of the five loaves and two fish, but the miracle is Jesus’.
Since the inception of the Billion Soul Harvest in September 2005, the Global Pastors Network has held seven U.S. Billion Soul Summits, with its most recent one in Dallas on Tuesday. It has also set up international congresses, with its first in Lima, Peru. In November, the Billion Soul initiative will head to Johannesburg, South Africa, for its second congress with the involvement of church leaders from all of Africa - which many say is becoming the epicenter of Christianity. A third congress will soon follow in Fiji with Christian leaders from all 22 island nations.
To multiply for at least a billion souls, Stockstill told Christians to start by discipling one person.