How do we reach 8 billion people by 2033? “One person at a time,” Empowered21’s global co-chair tells Singapore church leaders
by Janice Tai // June 4, 2022, 12:42 pm
Dr William Wilson sharing the Empowered21 vision with church and marketplace leaders in Singapore. Photo credits: Levan Wee and Janice Tai.
Empowered21’s vision is clear and bold: that every person on earth would have an authentic encounter with Jesus Christ through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit – by Pentecost 2033.
The year 2033 would mark the 2,000th anniversary of the resurrection of Jesus, the giving of the Great Commission and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
It would mean reaching a total population of some eight billion people within a span of 10 years – a task which initially filled Dr William Wilson, global co-chair of Empowered21, with despair.
“I knew God had given us this vision. But that particular day,” he shared, of a day of quiet up in the mountains, “the plausibility of this vision and its impossibility gripped my heart.”
Speaking to an audience of over 100 church and marketplace leaders at a meeting on Friday (June 3), Dr Wilson, who is also the President of Oral Roberts University in the United States, said he asked God: “How is this going to happen?
“I believe that will happen. I believe it can happen, but how in the world could this ever happen?”
Presuming that a person would be able to start counting from Day 1 of his existence and continued counting for 24 hours a day as fast as he could, it would take him 100 years to reach a billion.
“You will reach eight billion people by reaching out to one person at a time.”
“It would take 100 years of lifetime just to count to a billion, much less reach a billion people! How could reaching eight billion people possibly happen?” Dr Wilson groaned in prayer before God. After all, he and his team were serious about working towards the vision, instead of having it just as a ‘pie in the sky’ target.
It was then that he felt the Holy Spirit say to him: “You will reach eight billion people by reaching out to one person at a time, one person at a time.”
The impact of one
Since that day, the Lord has been taking Dr Wilson on a journey both experientially and theologically around the passion to reach everyone in what he calls “the re-personalisation of the Great Commission”.
While Empowered21 is a global relational network, it places renewed emphasis on the individual and the power of one person.
Dr Wilson explained: “We know that Jesus spoke to the masses. He spoke to the 5,000s and the 1,000s, and ministered to the multitudes.
“In Jesus’ ministry, He unlocked the power of one over and over again.”
“But you’ll notice in Jesus’ ministry, He unlocked the power of one over and over again.”
Illustrating his point, he cited the example of the time when Jesus and his disciples sailed across Galilee, braving stormy seas, only to be confronted by a wild man when they reached the Decapolis area. (Mark 5:1-20)
Jesus cast the evil and unclean spirits out of him, these went into pigs, which then ran off a cliff and drowned.
The man found himself in his right mind at the feet of Jesus. Afraid of what they had seen, the people there began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
“Jesus gets ready to get back into the boat,” Dr Wilson continued. “I am sure his disciples were saying, ‘Are you kidding us? We came all the way across the sea through a storm and mobilised our entire team for one crazy man. Now we’ve got to go back all the way back.’
“And it looks like all these things were done just for one maniac.”
However, Dr Wilson noted, two chapters later when Jesus returned, the same people ran up to Him to ask Him to heal the sick, such as a deaf and mute man.
“Their attitude changed because of the testimony of the maniac, whom Jesus told earlier to share about what God had done for him. He could show people the scars and his testimony, and the whole region was changed and became open to the Gospel.
“Jesus had unlocked the potential of one.”
Dr Wilson pointed out other examples of Jesus taking time out for one person, such as the woman at the well, which resulted in the whole city being mobilised and coming to see that Jesus was the Messiah. (John 4:4-42)
“Jesus may have been carrying the sins of the whole world, but He took time for this one thief who had wasted his whole life.”
There was also the case of Jesus ministering to the thief on a neighbouring cross before He died.
“Jesus may have been carrying the sins of the whole world, but He took time for this one thief who had wasted his whole life, and told him that he would be with Him in Paradise. (Luke 23:43)
“The truth is, more people may have been saved by that one man’s testimony than any other testimony in the Bible, because people at the end of their life say, ‘Oh, there’s still hope for me.
” ‘God saved that man on the cross, maybe I can be saved even at the end of my life’,” said Dr Wilson, who was invited to speak to key leaders in the Singapore church by Mr Wee Tiong Howe, chairman of the Marketplace Leadership Institute. The meeting was held over lunch at a ballroom in Hilton Singapore Orchard.
The gospel is for individuals
Noting that “people go to heaven one person at a time,” Dr Wilson added that the Church sometimes gets so caught up in pinpointing every geopolitical nation and every language group when thinking about evangelism that they forget that the gospel is for individuals who need Jesus Christ, desperately.
“They don’t go by groups. They don’t go by families, they don’t go by schools, they don’t go by churches.
“You can only go to heaven through one door. It’s only one Person wide and that Person is Jesus Christ.
“Jesus’ heart is on the one that is lost among the 99 and He is not satisfied till the person comes home.”
“And you can only get in and know Him one person at a time. That is why His heart is on the one that is lost among the 99 and He is not satisfied till the person comes home.”
With the world emerging from the scourge of the pandemic, Dr Wilson said the Holy Spirit is preparing the way for new hearts to be turned to God, given that people have had to confront death and their fear of death.
To achieve its aims of global evangelism, Empowered21 has 14 regional groupings across the world that pursue their own initiatives and events. Pastor Lawrence Khong, chairman of LoveSingapore, is the co-chair for Empowered21 Asia.
Empowered21 also has international networks that support front-line evangelists, as well as teams that delve into discipleship and prayer support.
In June next year, Empowered21 intends to hold a large-scale conference in Amsterdam to focus the heart of the Church on the Great Commission and on the personalisation of the Great Commission.
“There’ll be no one particular strategy for evangelism. What we’re encouraging is your ministry, your effort, your denomination, your network of churches, to think and pray and fast about what God would have you do these 10 years before 2033 to make an impact on people,” said Dr Wilson.
Singapore’s role in world evangelism
In an interview with Salt&Light on the sidelines of the meeting, Dr Wilson noted that in the last 40 years, Singapore has been much like an Antioch, being a gathering place and a connecting place to the world.
“Now, God is raising up some other cities as well. Singapore is going to have to make a conscious effort to move into the future and not rely on the past,” he said.
“Singapore has a choice to make.
“Singapore will need to make a conscious effort to not focus on herself, but to allow God to help her focus on the world.”
“There are great churches and ministries here. And Singapore has the wealth, capacity and the brilliance of leadership to be very integral into the future.
“But I think Singapore will need to make a conscious effort to not focus on herself, but to allow God to help her focus on the world and use what she has to reach others.
“So, she could still be an Antioch, but that remains to be seen.”
In closing the meeting, Dr Wilson reminded the leaders in the Church and marketplace in Singapore to focus on the main things – people and the Gospel – and not be sidetracked by other peripheral distractions.
“There are a number of organisations around the world who do great work. Most of them have gotten sidetracked by all kinds of peripheral issues.
“They’re good issues. They’re not bad issues. But the church may be spending much of its time, its money and effort on things that will not matter anymore,” he said.
“I pray you will lead your people to focus on the eternal question and to join the dissatisfaction of the Good Shepherd who is dissatisfied as long as one is missing.
“Join in your heart with that dissatisfaction and I believe we can see the greatest harvest in the history of the world. For, who knows, when we reach one, what could happen, and the impact they can make for His name?”
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