Before his death in 2003, Bright formed the Global Pastors Network (GPN) with James O. Davis, founder of Cutting Edge International. The two spearheaded a leadership network that uniquely cut through denominational lines and united thousands of evangelistic-minded pastors across the globe. Under the umbrella of what became known as the Billion Soul Initiative, the GPN sought to assist those church leaders through training and networking—all for the ultimate goal of winning souls.
Yet in January 2007, Davis stepped down as GPN's president and shortly after formed a similar initiative called Second Billion. GPN quickly named a successor, Mark Anderson of Youth With a Mission (YWAM), and later that year announced a new branding on its soul-winning emphasis: The Call2All.
Along with the comparable names, marketing schemes and campaigns, both groups are also sponsoring kick-off events during the same week this month. GPN's North American Congress, held Jan. 29-Feb. 1 in Orlando, Fla., will include such high-profile leaders as Foursquare President Jack Hayford, YWAM founder Loren Cunningham, evangelist Luis Palau and Graham Power of the Global Day of Prayer.
Meanwhile, Second Billion's Synergize! conference convenes at Mount Paran Church of God in Atlanta Jan. 29-31. Among its 35-plus speakers are Ukraine pastor and initiative co-chair Sunday Adelaja, futurist Leonard Sweet, Church of God in Christ Bishop Charles Blake and Tulsa pastor Billy Joe Daugherty.
Gathering for Global Change
Although both events are expected to draw crowds of almost 3,000, Anderson has been quick to distinguish the purpose of GPN's meetings, which will be held at megachurch Northland, a Church Distributed.
"This is not your regular conference that's open to just anyone," Anderson told a small crowd during a pre-event meeting. "The goal here is to bring key leaders from around the country together for some strategic round-table discussion."
Indeed, despite high-profile speakers and participants in attendance, the gathering will focus predominantly on small-group discussions of evangelism methods. Anderson hopes the three-day congress—the first of 38 planned around the world over the next three years—will both unite leaders for a common cause and create a more targeted plan for fulfilling the Great Commission.
"Lots of pastors were frustrated with what GPN had become, a conference with a lot of big-name speakers," says Anderson, who still directs evangelism campaigns for YWAM. "Packing a venue doesn't translate into global change."
On the final night of the congress, a missions rally open to the public will be held at Orlando's Silver Spurs Arena. The following day, participants are encouraged to also take part in TheCall Florida, an all-day gathering incorporating prayer and fasting.
Among nearly 200 denominations and organizations participating in GPN's Billion Soul Initiative are such groups as the Assemblies of God, Foursquare International, YWAM and Every Home for Christ. Anderson says the Call2All aims to rally churches to engage their nations through prayer, fasting, witnessing, discipleship and caring for the poor.
To help those churches and other participants in refining their missions strategies, GPN is using a world-mapping system currently being developed by YWAM. "We have to know who the unreached are and where they are," Anderson says. "If you study missions, we have incredible overlap. Yet there are 2.7 billion people who don't have access to the gospel."
Northland pastor Joel Hunter likes GPN's emphasis on grass-roots organization. "When you're in a giant team with these significant ministries you don't feel like you have to know a lot about church planting yourself," Hunter says. "This opens up the whole field to people who want to participate."
Jim Scott, Foursquare vice president and chief operating officer, says the network fits with his group's historical support of interdenominational, global evangelism. It also encourages the Pentecostal segment to realize that it's not alone, says Scott, noting that the upcoming meeting can serve as a model for pastors nationwide. "If presidents [of denominations] can partner together in Orlando, then why can't pastors partner in a city?" Scott asks.
In similar fashion, Second Billion's Synergize! conference will jump-start a series of nine regional summits throughout this year. By including pastors from a wide variety of denominational streams, Davis hopes his organization will be able to identify the best methods and multiplication movements—which, according to him, will then impact church planting worldwide.
"Missionaries, evangelists and organizational leaders all want to help complete the Great Commission," says Davis, who claims 133,000 churches and partners as part of his network. "We cannot do this using the methods of a bygone era. We need to know what is working ... today."
That may be one of the reasons Davis recruited Adelaja to help co-chair the initiative. The Nigerian-born pastor has seen phenomenal success since starting a church in Kiev, Ukraine, in 1994.
Since then, Adelaja has been on the receiving end of materials and programs from U.S. ministries. However, he believes Ukraine's soul-winning model that has seen 2 million conversions in the last 13 years can be useful to the rest of the world.
"Instead of a 'West to the Rest' approach, our movement has a 'Best to the Rest' approach," Adelaja says. "Biblical principles are transferable, so what has worked in Ukraine can work anywhere and in any culture."
Both GPN and Second Billion aim for similar results. Both prioritize kingdom growth over personal agendas. And both have countless testimonies around the world of the progress they are making for the cause of Christ. Yet relations between the two groups have been strained since Bright's widow, Vonette, posted a letter last summer on GPN's Web site alleging Davis used her late husband's endorsement of the new initiative without authorization. "I am grateful that my husband was able to play a positive role in Dr. Davis' life," Vonette Bright wrote, "[but] I was truly saddened to see Dr. Davis use my husband's name and his personal experience with him in this manner."
Anderson declined to discuss the situation publicly. Without commenting on the letter, Davis attributed his departure from GPN to philosophical differences. He says it became clear that the strongest churches and church-planting movements are outside the United States—meaning an emphasis on soul-winning couldn't originate in the West. "In January of 2007, our vehicle changed, but the global vision remained the same," Davis says. "In February my wife, Sheri, and I will celebrate 25 years of full-time evangelistic ministry after making the transitions necessary to follow God's path." In addition to Davis leaving, longtime GPN chairman John C. Maxwell recently stepped down.
All About Souls
The existence of two groups with identical goals doesn't bother some participants. A few leaders, such as Hayford, have endorsed both. Douglas LeRoy, assistant world missions director of the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.), says his denomination is participating in both networks. "There are 2 billion people who still haven't heard about Christ," says LeRoy, Second Billion's co-chair of the unreached peoples taskforce. "Any initiative focused on reaching those groups—our churches respond to that."
Hunter also hopes twin ministries will multiply results. "Maybe some of the stuff we can't get done, they can," Northland's pastor says. "You can't have enough soul-winning efforts."
A freelance writer in Huntington, W.V., Ken Walker is a regular contributor to Ministry Today and Charisma. Marcus Yoars is the editor of Ministry Today.