Not all conferences are just TALK. Some, through the creation of effective working groups, lead to actions that change the world! That’s my hypothesis for this series, and my prayer for GAFCON 2013!
GAFCON II is not all about rousing Plenary Sessions and worship, and fellowship, but it truly is a WORKING CONFERENCE.
You can find the schedule for the conference here.
Of note is that throughout the week (today – Friday) there are a number of “mini-conferences” taking place. The topics for these mini-conferences are:
- The Challenge of Islam – led by Bishop Michael Nazir Ali
- The Work of the Holy Spirit – led by Dr. Stephen Noll
- Marriage and Family – led by Dr. John & Ruth Senyonyi
- Children and Youths – Rev Zac Vernon
- Gospel and Culture – Dr. Alfred Olwa
- Being Women of God – Christine Perkin
- Aid and Development – Rev Dennis Tongoi
- Theological Education – Dr Andrew Shead
- Episcopal Ministry – Bishop Wallace Benn
These mini-conferences are a big part of why I believe GAFCON 2013 is important and an event we should uphold in much prayer.
Let me share a somewhat personal example* of what can come out of a conference and conference working groups. Although I am too young to have atttended the first Congress on World Evangelization in Lausaane Switzerland in 1974, I have heard a lot about it from a number who were there. John Stott is quoted as describing Lausanne’s Impact as follows:
‘Many a conference has resembled a fireworks display. It has made a loud noise and illuminated the night sky for a few brief brilliant seconds. What is exciting about Lausanne is that its fire continues to spark off other fires. ’ [from here]
THAT IS MY PRAYER FOR GAFCON 2013 – that it will spark many such fires in terms of effective partnerships and ministries that will lead to the growth of the worldwide Church – both in maturity, and in numbers!
At Lausanne 1 in 1974, one of the key “fires” that sparked other fires was a talk by Dr. Ralph Winter of the US Center for World Mission, presenting the huge unfinished task of reaching some 14,000+ unreached people groups without any indigenous form of Christian witness. That presentation highlighted how little work was being done at the time to reach Muslims around the world with the Gospel of Christ.
At that time many were deeply stirred by what God was doing in their midst, but were moved to penitence by their flawed and limited commitment to the missionary task. At Lausanne they entered into solemn covenant with God and with each other to pray, to plan and to work together for the evangelization of the world. Their concern was: “Let the Earth Hear His Voice” and their focus was on “unreached people.” Of particular interest to many of the participants was the large bloc of unreached Muslims. (from here)
This was more than mere talk or good intentions, it led to ACTIONS. In 1978, a week-long consultation was convened at Glen Eyrie, Colorado, to explore the responsibilities of North American Christians toward the Muslim World. As one of the participants writes:
At the opening session of the conference, this mood of expectancy was overshadowed by a painful reality. The keynote address raised the question: “Why is not the Muslim world better evangelized?” The probing went deeper. Related questions were asked: “Why is it that barely two percent of North American Protestant missionaries are involved in this work? Why their limited understanding of Islam and Islamic culture?”… It was inevitable that as the conference progressed workshops and discussion groups increasingly faced the future. When they did so, many issues surfaced that called for exploration and old questions arose that demanded new answers. In the process all of us became aware of the wide variety of tasks that will have to be undertaken if the Church seriously desires to evangelize the Muslim world. […] Each specialty group was commissioned to ask itself: “What specific contribution can and should we make to further the Muslim evangelization?” On the first time around, more than thirty major and relevant tasks were defined as needing urgent attention. And the momentum kept increasing. [reference]
The results in the 35 years since the Glen Eyrie Consultation on reaching Muslims have been nothing short of extraordinary:
- New mission agencies birthed to focus exclusively on reaching the Muslim world,
- new training resources developed,
- multiple thousands of missionaries sent to Muslim people groups just from North America alone,
- a mobilization of prayer for Muslim peoples
But most exciting, God has poured out His Holy Spirit, and today there are large-scale people movements of Muslims turning to Christ in at least 17 different Muslim countries. As one author has termed it, a new wind is blowing through the House of Islam.
So… that’s a small case study of what can happen from a conference. Words, leading to conviction and repentance, translated into action, and very importantly MUCH PRAYER, and then God working to reveal His glory as His people offered themselves and their efforts to His service.
May that be what is said happened at GAFCON 2013. May there be a testimony of many fires sparked around the world from this gathering as people met and listened and prayed and strategized together in each of the mini-conference sessions!
[*Although I did not attend Lausanne 1 in Switzerland, I had the joy of attending Lausanne 3 in Capetown, and so I have studied the Lausanne Movement history. Also, I am working overseas as a direct result of the recruiting efforts, encouragement and training of those who were at Lausanne 1 and the Glen Eyrie Consultation.]