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Advancing together

It’s time to invest in evangelists and send them out into the world, says Dr Rachel Jordan-Wolf

Jesus had a great plan to release His disciples to be like Him. He filled His close followers with His Spirit, equipping them to carry the message of the Father’s love to all, to speak of His life, death and resurrection, and to offer the great invitation to come home to God both now and forever.

He started this great movement with a group of ordinary people. The first disciples were noted for being ordinary men” and He chose them to fulfil the next piece of the story of God. It was a small group, not worthy of note in the world’s eyes, except for one qualification: These men had been with Jesus.”

Today it hasn’t changed. God continues to call people to Himself using the voices and lives of ordinary people. There is one simple qualification: that they have been with Jesus. If we follow Jesus, you and I are given this incredible opportunity to speak of God and to live as witnesses to His love.

Peter and John, filled with the Spirit of God, announced to an unsuspecting world the fantastic news that Jesus is alive. This news spread, together with the invitation to a new life: God’s intended life for all who follow Jesus; an invitation to full life, abundant life, which is freedom from death. This is freedom from death now as it creeps in on life, and freedom from death in its finality at the end of our time on Earth.

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Many today still live in the shadow of death during life. I don’t mean because they are suffering from life-threatening illnesses, but because they are hostages on their way to death whilst living: enslaved to themselves; to their own desires, needs, wants; to all the whims of the world and all its promises for quick fixes to happiness and fulfilment. We are those who take the message of true life, only found in Jesus, to this dying world and to those who are enslaved in it. This is our great calling.

Advance2020 is committed to encouraging these messengers of life: those who have a specific calling, some like Peter, to stand out in the crowd and announce the amazing news of real life, others to speak to individuals or small groups, but all to announce life in all its fullness that only Jesus brings. Advance2020 is also calling on ordinary followers of Jesus to be extraordinary messengers of this same message in 2020 right through our land – to
find a renewed voice and encouragement and energy from doing this together.

Jesus didn’t send just one person; He formed a group, a family of followers. There is so much encouragement when we do this together. Advance2020 is all about gathering those with a calling in evangelism together, to encourage and equip and cheer each other on. It’s about raising the profile of those with this calling, as it says in Ephesians 4:11: Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and the teachers…”

At different points in history the church has emphasised different ministries, for example pastors and teachers to care for those in the church. The Advance2020 team feel that now is the time to invest in the evangelists and encourage them. Right now, we have one of the biggest missionary challenges here in our country and we need evangelists. In an age of declining church numbers, we need those whose passion is to share the great, wonderful message of Jesus with those outside our churches.

Those who will ask the awkward questions: how much focus do we give to those outside our church? How much resource do we give to reaching them? And how much do we prioritise sharing the greatest news of all? We need evangelists to lead the way and demonstrate, encourage and enable others to join them as they share the good news of Jesus.

Advance2020 was the vision of Andy Hawthorne, who leads The Message Trust. He launched Advance groups to mentor evangelists and found that this had a dramatic impact on those involved. He dreamt of a much larger group, made up of groups of evangelists, all being encouraged and mentored, to give evangelists a renewed emphasis in the church. Andy called some of those he knew to help him launch and run Advance2020 and grow this crowd of evangelists.

The partners include the Luis Palau Association, HOPE Together, the Evangelical Alliance, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, and the Church of England. Together, this central group gathered a great group of evangelists, from all denominations, agencies and movements, for the Advance Summit in October 2019. The aim of the gathering was to encourage the evangelists and commission them together to step up for 2020 in their vision, plans and expectations. All the evangelists were encouraged to find more evangelists and to gather them, spreading Advance into an even wider movement.

We have just held a great commissioning day – an incredible start to a year of mission and evangelism in 2020, to
share boldly, to equip the church, to initiate new things, to be evangelists, and to not be stopped. We are advancing together, expecting great things.

A new fund was launched at Advance to support specifically evangelistic initiatives in 2020. The fund is also backing evangelism training for 11 to 17 year olds. Called Amplify, this is a year-long interactive programme
of residentials, local group mentoring and evangelism masterclasses. The Amplify year begins in September 2020 and will journey with 60 – 100 hand-picked young people from different churches and denominations across the UK. Find out more at www​.advance2020​.org/​a​m​plify

Many leading evangelists are planning missions during 2020. This year The Luis Palau team visited Edinburgh, London, Bristol and Birmingham, encouraging and uniting hundreds of faith leaders, speaking to local media and in churches, and building relationships with local business and civic leaders with a view to planning missions for 2020. J John and Franklin Graham are among other evangelists planning UK events for 2020.

Some of those at Advance2020 are working with local churches to reach out in missions to their towns, villages
and cities through HOPE2020. And for those who wouldn’t describe themselves as evangelists, but who have a heart for mission, HOPE Together is creating resources for local church mission champions, who will encourage and resource evangelism in their church. Mission champions might never stand on a platform to talk about Jesus, but they might run Alpha courses or the Talking Jesus course. They might be those who consistently keep the local church focusing outwards on those who don’t yet know Jesus.

For more ideas on how your area could get involved in running missions in 2020 go to www​.hopeto​geth​er​.org​.uk/
missionchampions
Advance is also promoting Prayer2020, a HOPE Together initiative calling the church to pray at 8.20pm on the twentieth day of each month, for 20 minutes throughout 2020: praying that people will come to
know Jesus and our churches will grow. If you want to find out more go to www​.hopeto​geteth​er​.org​.uk/​p​r​a​y2020

Finally if you know you’re an evangelist at heart, or you think you could be with some encouragement; if you know that your heart is for those outside the church; if you’re an ordinary follower of Jesus, but you’ve been with Him and you want others to know the greatest news of all, that Jesus has risen from the dead and that they can live a life worth living forever, coming home to God, then join us; we want to hear from you. Sign up for regular updates from HOPE Together at www​.hopeto​geth​er​.org​.uk/​s​ignup

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