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11 March 2016

International church leaders meet at evangelical forum

International church leaders meet at evangelical forum

The World Evangelical Alliance met last week in South Korea, with 90 international leaders coming together to discuss key issues for the Church today.

Steve Clifford, general director of the UK Evangelical Alliance, attended the conference, which sought to strengthen partnerships across organisational and geographical boundaries.

The theme for the International Leadership Forum was Partners in the gospel: building His Church, and concluded with strategic responses to global issues.

Steve said: "What an amazing privilege to meet with representatives from the evangelical community across the world, and to hear their stories of God at work.

"For some, the persecution of Christians is a daily experience, for others there is a challenge of making Jesus known in an increasingly hostile secular environment.

"Whatever the situation, the good news is that the gospel is being preached and people are becoming followers of Jesus."

The delegates, which included the WEA's executive leadership and heads of regional and national evangelical alliances, concluded the forum with four strategic responses to current problems.

The first centred around Bible engagement, following a2014 survey by the WEA that showed Christian leaders in every region are deeply concerned about Bible illiteracy and a lack of understanding of the relevance of God's word.

The WEA has been in conversation with Bible agencies, national evangelical alliances and church networks, with delegates discussing how to encourage further strategic collaborative efforts to help churches at grass roots to focus on Bible engagement.

Evangelism, discipleship, healthy churches and missional lifestyles was another theme explored, with groups at the forum focussing on the different needs and challenges of fulfilling Great Commission, including: strategic approaches, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ individually, discipling new believers, the need of healthy pastors for healthy churches for healthy societies, the pastoring of pastors and the use of healthy church models.

They developed a range of action steps that aim to eventually strengthen local churches in their call to share the gospel and be good news people in every sphere of society.

Women, girls and the Church were also discussed. As women and girls make up half of the population of the world, it's a problem that the Church is at times still more influenced by cultural rather than biblical views on the role of women.

The focus group will now "create and promote a practical guide for the WEA and its constituency to engage, equip, encourage and mobilise men and women to be champions of women and girls in the Church, so that the WEA reflects a vision for how women can equally contribute to Church and society for the sake of the Gospel".

The forum also drew together a Christ-like response to persecution.

Persecution of Christians is on the rise in many parts of the world, yet the response of Christians to persecution varies greatly.

The group committed to helping national evangelical alliances with advocacy training, research and documenting of religious liberty violations, strengthening legal services, expanding partnerships with civil society, promoting prayer for the persecuted Church and the sharing of persecution stories to raise awareness.

The WEA serves 600 million evangelicals, so is therefore uniquely positioned to engage with the wider Christian community in dialogue for intra-faith and inter-faith relations.

For many years, the WEA has held these dialogues to build bridges of understanding – while recognising the differences of faith and values – of the various faith bodies.

The group focused during the forum on developing language that's understood in differing contexts around the world, as well as addressing specific issues concerning the relationship of the Church with people of other or no faith.

Bishop Efraim Tendero, secretary general of the WEA, says: "This year's International Leadership Forum was very strategic for us at the WEA for various reasons.

"Besides the gathering's importance in bringing together the various parts of WEA's family to strengthen the personal and professional relationships among us, being in Korea allowed us to strengthen our relationships with the vibrant Christian community of this country.

"We are grateful that we received an overwhelming positive response from both the participants from all over the world and the churches in Korea."

The group used the setting to further comment on the current situation in Korea.

During the opening ceremony, the forum welcomed 700 Korean church leaders and other guests.

Many denominational leaders as well as representatives of the Korean government greeted participants.

Bishop Efraim said: "Korea is the only nation that is still divided and the pain felt by its people and the separated families on both sides are difficult to describe in words alone.

"It's our hope that God will make possible what seems impossible to man: to grant peace and an end to the division of the Korean peninsula."