On July 13-15, leaders from World Impact and around the globe convened at Atascadero Bible Church in Atascadero, CA for the 2023 Evangel Gathering.
This is an annual event that allows World Impact to partner with supportive ministries to foster community and relationships between our partners in Urban Church Planting, church leaders, and potential partners from disparate communities of poverty.
Hosted at Atascadero Bible Church, this year’s event theme was “Friendship and Flourishing for Missions.”
A Global Gathering
Church leaders from Zambia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Bangladesh, and Mexico were present. Delegates from 24 churches and ministries within 10 US states were also represented.
The intent of the annual gathering is to “stay connected and work with leaders of church planting movements,” according to Rev. Bob Engel, who serves as Director of Church Planting for World Impact.
However, that’s not strictly limited to leaders who have completed WI’s Evangel Dean training. Also invited are satellite directors, partners, potential partners, and leaders looking to plant churches inside and outside of [prison] walls.
"The Gospel of the Kingdom proclaimed by the empowered urban poor to every people group through indigenous churches and movements.”
This is why international and intersectional attendance this year is so important – we wish to continue to foster these relationships between church leaders across the globe.
A Healthy Church in Every Community of Poverty Requires Strong Relationships
World Impact’s vision is “a healthy church is planted in every community of poverty,” and so we are thankful to partner with Atascadero Bible Church for this conference. Atascadero Bible Church‘s partnership with World Impact has spanned 25 years. We are grateful for Pastor Jeff Urke’s generosity and hospitality.
Engel emphasized that this is an excellent way for churches to participate in the great commission by opening up their facilities and providing basic needs like meals and support. It provides them a glimpse of what our events do to foster community between these leaders, and it also allows host churches an opportunity to form their own relationships with leaders working in communities of poverty.
“The fellowship and networking are where it’s at, right? There are really no missions apart from [forming those] relationships,”
For years it has been the dream of World Impact to see healthy churches planted and multiplied within the prison system globally.
“There were many conversations and discussions at this weekend’s Gathering to that end – we would appreciate your prayers that the Lord of the Harvest will continue to create a way for World Impact to equip and train Evangel deans to offer Church Planting schools inside of prisons both domestic and international.”
They have brought Dr. Hank Voss and Rev. Eric Himelick to these Evangel events to provide workshop training for these leaders on hosting a cohort, focusing in on one of the spiritual classics of the early church leaders.
We come alongside our partners in urban church planting not to simply provide training or certifications – our goal in hosting these events is to make lasting connections and foster fruitful relationships that continue to grow all over the world.
Dr. Don Davis, World Impact’s new Senior Executive Advisor and founder of The Urban Ministry Institute, has been a foundational figure in both Evangel Dean School events and in training leaders to multiply healthy churches in communities of poverty.
His role in Evangel in the past has been formative, and he continues to serve as a presenter and organizer for Evangel schools and events. When asked about this past weekend’s event, he offered his thoughts:
“The co-sponsored Evangel Conference by World Impact and Taylor University at the Atascadero Bible Church was a strategic missions event. Church and Movement leaders worldwide gathered together for training, worship, dialogue, and networking to equip a new generation of emerging leaders for effective pioneer missions in friendship/apprenticeship relationships through the Spiritual Classics.
This unique event combined two interconnected streams: the pressing need for churches to be planted among unreached people here at home and around the globe and the power of cultivating equipping friendships through the use of the Spiritual Classics.
World Impact and Taylor University are partnering together to translate and offer a select set of Spiritual Classics through Taylor’s Sacred Roots Thriving in Ministry initiative.
I am thrilled at the prospect of equipping thousands of emerging leaders to freshly discover the rich heritage of the Fathers and Mothers of our Faith in conjunction with a new thrust of missions’ work among God-called church planters among the poor.
These two emphases will produce a new depth of impact that will lead to real velocity in raising up spiritually qualified church planters who will go on to plant healthy churches in broken communities around the world.”
A Means Rather Than a Means to An End
According to Rev. Engel, “The Evangel Gathering is not an end in itself, but a means” – to strengthen our purpose as a Christian missions organization to “continue relationships, whether through Taylor University’s partnership, working together with churches and Christian missions leaders, and with [forming] cohorts,” so that these vital relationships continue on past the event itself.
“It’s not just an event. It’s our commitment to forming relationships in missions.”
With such a globally diverse group of delegates and attendees, we are thrilled to see the Lord working to bring together leaders who would otherwise be, literally, a world apart.
In addition to working towards having Evangel Deans inside the prison walls, Ted Smith was also clear that Evangel’s commitment isn’t limited to resourcing and training leaders within prisons but also to create pathways for returning citizens to be empowered to plant healthy churches on the outside.
As Evangel continues to host both Dean training schools and events designed to bring urban church leaders together to form lasting relationships, we pray that the Lord will continue to provide pathways for building these vital connections to one another for those leaders we serve and for those we hope to serve in the future.
Do You Feel Called to Urban Church Planting?
If you feel that you are being called to participate in urban church planting, then you are a part of the movement that World Impact is looking to foster through the Evangel Dean School programs.
Reach out to our Dean of Urban Church Planting, Ted Smith, to learn how you can play a role in the mission of seeing a healthy church planted in every community of poverty.