The world's largest evangelical body will hold its first general assembly in seven years this October and will be presenting many new structures and projects, according to officials.
The World Evangelical Alliance, a body representing 420 million evangelicals, expects 500 to 600 representatives to attend its General Assembly from October 25 to 30. Members will participate in the usual activities of vision building, training sessions, and strategic networking during the event.
"WEA held its last General Assembly in May 2001," said the Rev. Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, international director of WEA, to The Christian Post. "Much has changed in the world since that date. We are at critical moment in history when we need evangelical leaders to come together to face some of the most significant challenges and opportunities the Church has ever faced.
"We need a fresh vision for and commitment to the work of the Body of Christ around the world," he added.
Organizers were quick to point out that the conference will showcase many first-ever elements including living room discussions following the plenary sessions and follow-up tracks online to continue training members from afar.
The living room sessions will feature many experts instead of just one as in previous Assemblies. Organizers hope that the wider range of voices will better represent the diverse perspectives of its members, which come from different contexts, on a particular subject.
"An aspect that is different than other conferences is this one really focuses in on the role of national and regional alliances within the WEA community," said Sylvia Soon, WEA's communications coordinator. "How do we focus on their felt needs and help them to develop their organizations into Bible organizations?"
This year's General Assembly will engage WEA global partners more by inviting specific member organizations to head plenary sessions and have them be responsible for organizing experts for the living room sessions.
Four training tracks are planned for this year so far: developing dynamic alliances, achieving sustainable funding, creating strong partnership, and evangelicals in the public square.
Some key subjects that will be discussed include global evangelism through transformational churches, addressing global poverty, advocacy for the voiceless and the persecuted church, and public square engagement for effective change.
Besides the living room session, another new feature will be the follow-up tracks offered through the World Evangelical Theological Institute Association (WETIA) which will for the first time allow attendees to continue learning about issues discussed during the Assembly after they return to their homeland.
"One of the outcomes of this conference – which is again different from all the other conferences that we held – is the training tracks that we are offering will lead into distant-ed courses post-conference," Soon said, noting that the WEA is currently working with WETIA and Olivet University in San Francisco to put together these courses.
"We're really hoping that this conference will not just end and that will be the end of it, but we want this to be a springboard," she said.
Religions such as Islam and Buddhism will also be presented in larger talks about persecution in an effort to educate church leaders on faiths that will likely encounter in their ministry works.
Traditionally, the WEA holds a General Assembly every six years as called for in its constitution. But the WEA leadership felt it was too soon to hold the event in 2006 because Tunnicliffe had just assumed the position of international director in 2005, Soon explained.
Tunnicliffe said he hopes the WEA General Assembly will renew evangelicals' sense of historic commitment to the Gospel and how they address urgent issues facing the world, such as religious liberty and poverty.
"We need new inspiration and motivation toward full engagement in world evangelization with a transformational vision through thoughtful discussion of church growth around the world," the WEA head said. "We need to come together in Thailand for this important gathering."