DALLAS Lay people are key to world evangelization, said the head of a global discipleship ministry, yet the majority of evangelical Christians have never actually led anyone to Jesus.
The Billion Soul initiative opened a seventh summit Tuesday in another major U.S. city at a time when the mission of proclaiming Christ has largely become a thing of the past in the evangelical community. Now, more churches are beginning to catch on to a new thrust that wants to see at least a billion souls saved in the next 10 years.
"Many Christians in America are not excited about soul-winning because they have lost the understanding that the world is unsaved," said Pastor J. Don George of Calvary Church in Dallas host site for the Billion Soul Summit.
In other words, "Many American Christians just have a blasé attitude about soul-winning because they have lost the concept of the lostness of men," added George, who is also a board member of the Global Pastors Network.
According to Larry Stockstill, pastor of the 10,000-member Bethany World Prayer Center in Baker, La., there are at least five billion people in the world who are unsaved. "God sees five billion deaths," he told hundreds of church leaders at the summit.
A staggering statistic that left more of the crowd shaking their heads was the more than 50 percent of evangelical churches in America that recorded no one coming to Christ in the past year, as reported by Evangelism Explosion President John Sorensen.
"We've become keepers of aquariums rather than fishers of men," Sorensen pointed out.
The first Billion Soul Congress in Lima, Peru, found more than 550 church planters and leaders and parachurch partners throughout South and Central America who committed to be fishers of men. While they are the first and only one of 12 congresses that are to be set up throughout the world in the next 30 months, the Christians of Latin America set a high standard in their contribution to planting 5 million churches for a billion soul harvest. Their goal is to plant more than 4.1 million churches and save 51.3 million souls in the next 10 years.
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.
Reports have followed a flourishing Christianity in Latin America and Africa versus a stagnant and dying Christian faith in the West. And Global Pastors Network President James O. Davis explained their strategic choice for the location of the first two congresses.
"First of all, geographically, it's not hard to get to Lima, Peru," he said. "But then secondly, we realized that the gospel is where it is today because it's easy and the reason why the gospel isn't in some places is because it's hard. Wisdom dictates then you start where you can ramp up rather than starting with the hardest places on the planet."
Alongside setting up congresses overseas, the Billion Soul campaign is being launched throughout major U.S. cities to mobilize American churches and to gather their financial support for churches around the world wanting to join the effort. The Billion Soul Harvest was launched in September 2005 and now involves 114 denominations and parachurch groups.
Breaking the evangelism apathy in America especially, the Billion Soul initiative is waking up more Christians and expanding their visions to save not just their church members, but the world.
"I think more today than ever before, people realize that they have to make a difference," said Pastor Joel Downing of Higher Ground Church in Pauls Valley, Okla., a summit attendant. "People are waking up and ready to go to work."