- WEA General Assembly 2019
Brian Stiller, the WEA’s Global Ambassador, is full of energy and optimism about the current and potential impact of evangelical Christians worldwide. He shared the following thoughts a few hours before the General Assembly opened on November 7.
Sixty years ago, there were 90 million evangelicals in the world. Today, there are 650 million. We are the fastest-growing religious community in world history.
After some difficult years of transition, the WEA is at a point of renewal. We recognize our responsibility, as representatives of one-quarter of the world’s Christians, on a whole range of issues, not the least of which is to bring unity at least within our community.
The lines are converging within the evangelical community. Our Christology is clear, unabridged, and unequivocal. We also recognize that if God loves justice, we ought to love justice too. This conviction gives a new sense of responsibility to evangelical leadership today.
My sense is that the 2019 General Assembly will be marked in history as a turning point for the world’s evangelicals. Our coming together in Jakarta is symbolic of a worldwide desire for fellowship, unity, to be a public voice, and to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord. Leaders from national alliances in 90 countries have come together to create a voice, an identity, and a public platform for action. What happens here will ripple its way around the world through those 90 alliances plus the other 40 who were not able to come here.
I was in Ethiopia recently. There the Evangelical Alliance, active in 11 regions of the country with 65 staff and resources from both internal and external donors, has provided a national witness and a public voice that is respected. Currently, Ethiopia has an evangelical president—which does not make things easier for the alliance, because one must be careful about linking Jesus and Caesar too closely. Yet in this country, our national alliance is a force for Kingdom ministry.
For a very different view of our influence, take Sri Lanka. This is a Buddhist-majority country where the government used the massacre of Christians last Easter as a basis for lashing out at a Muslim minority that was not involved in the bombings. The Evangelical Alliance there stepped in to protect the Muslim minority against government backlash. In a country with a small percentage of evangelicals, this staff of about 100 is working to identify cases of persecution, provides an administrative center for different forms of ministry, and is a respected voice to government and the broader community.
What is the value of the WEA in such situations? I learned the answer to that question when I was visiting the Upper Nile region of Egypt a few years ago. A little evangelical church was being troubled by the surrounding Muslim majority. The pastor went to the local imam and said, “We are not a little sect, we are part of a world body of 650 million.” That changed the conversation immediately. The WEA provides a global identity.
Similarly, a bishop in the Church of Pakistan told me, “Being evangelical defines what we believe and what we do. But having a worldwide body like the WEA allows us to link to that global identity, giving others a clearer understanding of who we are.”
Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @WEAGA2019 and use the hashtag #jakarta2019 to share your excitement!
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