In the aftermath of two recent Christianity Today editorial articles, US news shows are buzzing with debates about WHO speaks for evangelicals. The word “evangelical” come from the Greek word “evangel” which means good news. Evangelicals have the good news of Jesus’ death on the cross to reconcile believers with God forever AND the good actions to address poverty and injustice to demonstrate God’s goodness and love for His creation.
Dating as far back as the mid-19th century, charity and justice organizations such as the Salvation Army were founded as evangelical movements. There are about 82 million evangelicals in the US, but 620 million evangelicals in the world making up almost 30% of the world’s Christians. Because the word “evangelical” is often misused by the US media to describe a very specific political viewpoint it has become a confusing term in North America. Yet, the word “evangelical” is greatly respected and revered in most of the world where it often means “people who significantly make a positive difference in society.”
It may surprise many in the US that there is a global organization who for over a century has been the primary official voice for evangelicals with governments and media. It is called the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) www.worldea.org. The WEA held its first meetings in 1846 and currently has official national evangelical alliances in 130 nations. Many of the evangelical denominations, churches, organizations and individuals in each of these nations are members of their national alliance so their unified voice will influence their government and media. The WEA also has official representatives for evangelicals in the United Nations in both New York and Geneva, as well as offices in Washington DC, and Brussels. You may recall this past year that news articles about the bombings of evangelical churches in Sri Lanka often quoted Sri Lanka evangelical alliance leaders. Often you see news articles about human rights, charity, health and environmental movements quoting WEA or national evangelical alliance leaders.
It is one thing for a magazine to write opinion articles but as an official voice, the WEA and national evangelical alliances must consistently survey their members, create forums and facilitate collaboration to build a unified voice. It is hard and complicated work to do it well. To do this job better, the WEA has recently embarked on a massive new initiative to train their national leaders to create more healthy national alliances who better serve their members and the global evangelical movement.
This year Bakke Graduate University (www.BGU.edu) was asked to facilitate this new advanced leadership development initiative for the WEA. BGU was selected because it has demonstrated innovation and effectiveness in training advanced leaders involved in cultural transformation in the 65 nations where it serves. BGU was selected because over the past two decades it has learned how to create hybrid of on-site and on-line leadership development programs that connect advanced leaders in peer learning, on-going mentoring, and strategic collaboration projects. BGU was also selected because it “plays well with others” and is committed to creating avenues so that other schools, organizations, and movements can be part of this extensive global leadership development initiative.
Much of the training will focus on the specific roles of national alliance leaders to build unity among evangelicals in their nation, and to be a proactive voice of justice and peace, often with governments who are primarily Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or atheistic. Similar to BGU’s decentralized approach, the leadership development will be led by regional leaders to contextualize it to their needs.
It is our prayer, and the vision, of our focused work, that in the future when you tell someone you are an evangelical, their response is NOT “Oh, you are one of those angry political people”. Instead, it is our prayer and hope that their reaction is, “Wow. You are one of those people who care about the poor and do work to address injustice in the world. I wish I could learn how to make a significant difference with my life in the way you people do. Can you tell me more about what motivates you people to do all that?”
BGU has a huge task ahead. It is something we will be working on for many years. We need help to do this. We need more dedicated and focused prayer. We need more BGU graduates and other influencers with the needed humility required for cross-cultural service who are willing to steward their gifts and callings to train these advanced global leaders. We also need financial support.
Would you prayerfully consider a year-end gift to help BGU continue this strategic work? BGU has a matching grant of $75,000 this year which will match your gift one-to-one.
I would also invite a longer conversation with you about this. Please email me at email@example.com if you have ideas, suggestions or questions and we’ll set up a time to talk.