PATTAYA, Thailand – The World Evangelical Alliance has excelled in the last six years in presenting the world with a credible and faithful witness of the Gospel, says its international director.
Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe told delegates at the WEA's General Assembly in Thailand this week that the challenges for evangelicals in the world are great, pointing to radical secularism, postmodernism, and declining Christianity. At the same time, there is growing interest in spirituality, climate change, HIV and AIDS, the global financial crisis, trafficking and migration.
Yet the opportunities are also great, Tunnicliffe insisted, noting the rapid spread of Christianity in the Global South.
"We see this tremendous growth and this seismic shift in the Church around the world and we are excited to [witness] what God is doing as He raises up women and men around the world in so many different places," he said.
"It is my prayer that we in our community will be women and men who live with divine purpose within our lives, that we will be good leaders envisioned by God to make a difference in the world."
For the past several days, more than 500 evangelical Christians from over 100 nations have been meeting for the World Evangelical Alliance General Assembly in Thailand.
During this year's general assembly – the first in seven years – participants have been helping to form a new shared vision for WEA and a 5-year roadmap to achieve the vision. They have also been informed about some of the most pressing global issues and the Evangelical responses to them, received practical training to help national alliances become more effective, and networked to build a stronger Christian body.
"The most important thing that you can do with your [life] is to integrate it into the never ending story of God's Kingdom," Tunnicliffe said Wednesday. "God's already at work in the world. He's doing things. We just need to align with what He is doing."
According to the Evangelical leader, the vision of the WEA is to see the global church joined together in every community, effectively living out and proclaiming the good news of Jesus.
"Foundational to that vision is an understanding of integral mission – or holistic transformation, a proclamation and demonstration of the Gospel," Tunnicliffe said.
"It is not simply that evangelism and social involvement are done alongside of each other but rather, in integral mission, proclamation has social consequences. We call people to love and repentance in all areas of life," he added.
The WEA director insisted that engagement in social issues would not compromise the WEA's commitment to bringing people to Christ.
"If anyone tells you that we've gone soft on world evangelization, you can tell them that we are totally committed to world evangelization because it is only Jesus Christ that changes people's lives," he said.
Part of that commitment includes the WEA's ongoing partnership with the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization – the historic movement for evangelization initiated in 1974 by a number of evangelists including John Stott and Billy Graham.
"We are also working on guidelines in area of evangelization and proselytization because we are under deep attack," Tunnicliffe added.
Tunnicliffe celebrated the achievements of the WEA in the six years since its last General Assembly in 2002, including the launch of Micah Challenge, a major movement of Christians working with their governments in 41 countries to ensure the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
During this year's General Assembly, the WEA launched a new Leadership Institute to train the leaders of its 128 national alliances and launched new initiatives in the area of peacemaking and HIV and AIDS. Wednesday night also saw the appointment of a new WEA ambassador to the Holy Land.
Looking to the future, Tunnicliffe said the WEA would open up more national alliances and spelled out Iraq and China as areas of particular focus. Tunnicliffe is planning a major tour of China in 2009 at the invitation of the Chinese Government and the state-sanctioned Three Self Church to strengthen relations with the churches and evangelicals there.
"There are so many believers in that country, we have to connect with them. We need to expand our categories of membership. Those who are evangelicals need to come under our tent. We welcome them," he said.
In closing, Tunnicliffe stressed the need for evangelicals to fulfill the vision of world evangelization together.
"For us to move into the future to tackle the challenges, we must do it together," he said. "Let's challenge the biggest problems in the world together not for our sake but for God's sake, for the sake of the next generations, for the sake of our nations. Let's work together as Kingdom-minded people for His glory."
The WEA General Assembly in Thailand officially concludes Thursday.