BY RALINDA B. GREGOR, EXECUTIVE EDITOR
A relatively new initiative of the Anglican Communion is seeking to breathe new life into evangelism and church growth efforts by sharing best practices and resources and providing ways to link individuals, parishes and provinces for collaboration and mutual support. The Evangelism and Church Growth Initiative (ECGI), established last year as part of the Mission Department of the Anglican Communion, held its second core group meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this past February and developed an ambitious yet realistic set of goals to accomplish by the end of 2012.
|The members of the ECGI at a meeting in Canterbury, England. (Anglican Communion Office photo)|
Rather than being a top-down effort, the ECGI seeks to be a bottom-up way to provide resources for evangelism, according to the Rev. Dr. Julian Linnell, director of the U.S.-based Anglican Frontier Missions and a member of the ECGI core group. “It’s not about politics; it’s about mission,” Linnell said. “As an initiative, it provides a stimulus to cement a movement of evangelism. It’s like a pilot light fed by the juices of grassroots networking and sharing of ideas,” he said.
The focus of the ECGI is reflected in the new title of its newsletter, Witness 6.7 which refers to Acts 6:7: “So the Word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly.” Through the witness of Christians and the power of the Holy Spirit, the word of God spreads and transforms individual lives and communities, explained Bishop Moon Hing Ng, deputy convener of the ECGI and bishop of West Malaysia, who wrote about the new title in the March 2011 issue of the newsletter.
The newsletter, published six times a year, is one way people can share their good news about evangelism efforts, and the ECGI invites submissions from individuals, churches and ministries throughout the Communion. An ECGI Facebook page will be launched in June and will provide a more immediate and personal way for members to share stories, resources, prayer needs and best practices.
The core group has already posted more than 60 resources for evangelism on its web site, arranged according to their usefulness in addressing groups that might be considered early modernity (people who share with you a similar cultural, historical, religious background; people who are familiar with the Christian faith but have not embraced Christ), late modernity (people with a church background but moved away from church, people without a church background, people with a spirituality that is not Christ-centered), and post-modern (people whose culture, religious, and historical background is completely different from yours who have no past or present connection to Christ), as well as general resources that apply to all contexts.
Instead of posting only Anglican resources, the ECGI lists the best tools from a wide variety of Christian writers, denominations and organizations, such as the Jesus Film, the Perspectives Course on the World Christian Movement, and the Joshua Project website that displays extensive data about unreached people groups. The ECGI core group is working to build bridges and link arms with mission groups and networks outside the Communion as well as within it, Linnell said.
One of the ECGI goals that Linnell is most interested in is a survey of unreached people groups within the provinces of the Anglican Communion. Experts estimate that nearly 29 percent of the world’s 6.75 billion people are unreached, and only .01 percent of missions funding goes towards evangelizing the unreached! Linnell and others are compiling a list of large (population greater than 1 million) unreached people groups—those who share a similar culture, language and/or ethnic background who live in areas where there is no church and they are unlikely to come in contact with any Christians—within each of the provinces. For each people group, the ECGI will attempt to determine what the needs are in those groups, where the Christian churches are, and what missionary efforts are occurring among Anglicans and other groups, Linnell said. The ECGI is also working to develop a secure site on which to share this information because many of those unreached peoples live in areas that are hostile to Christians. By sharing this information, missionary organizations, churches, and dioceses can work together to more effectively minister to unreached people groups.
Undergirding this entire effort and woven through it is prayer. In fact, the first objective of the ECGI is to “facilitate prayer and mutual encouragement.” There are prayer points in the newsletter, and the launch of the Facebook page will allow for more immediate prayer requests from members.
“The work of the Holy Spirit brings about revival and renewal, but this does not happen without much prayer,” Linnell said. He hopes people will not only sign up to receive the newsletter and join the Facebook page, but will also pray for the work of evangelism throughout the Communion. He also hopes that North Americans will have the humility to learn from others who are evangelizing in challenging places such as Nigeria and Indonesia and will focus more resources on mission to the unreached.
For more information and to sign up, go to http://www.anglicancommunion.org/ministry/mission/ecgi/resources/index.cfm. †