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End Is Not Near Enough for Pastors

Evangelical ministers meet in Inglewood to discuss ways to convert millions and hasten the Second Coming.

February 08, 2006|Louis Sahagun | Times Staff Writer

Pastors of some of the largest evangelical churches in America met Tuesday in Inglewood to polish strategies for starting 5 million new churches worldwide in 10 years -- an effort they hope will hasten the End Time.

The Rapture and Second Coming of Jesus has always been the ultimate goal of evangelicalism.

But when that would occur was any Christian's guess.

The Global Pastors Network's "Billion Souls Initiative" aims to shorten the path to Judgment Day by partnering church resources with the latest communications systems to spread the Gospel of Jesus.

In an interview at Faith Central Bible Church in Inglewood, James Davis, president of the campaign, said, "Jesus Christ commissioned his disciples to go to the ends of the Earth and tell everyone how they could achieve eternal life.

"As we advance around the world, we'll be shortening the time needed to fulfill that great commission," he said. "Then, the Bible says, the end will come."

Added Davis: "The current generation may actually live long enough to see this."

Faith Central Pastor Kenneth C. Ulmer, who leads an Inglewood congregation of 10,000, agreed, but said church leaders have differing opinions of what to expect.

"Meeting our goal has messianic dimensions. It will certainly mean some kind of new world order," he said. "I believe when that time comes, the power of peace will be greater than the power of war, the power of love will be greater than the power of hate, and fullness will be greater than poverty and hunger."

The pastors' group, which represents combined congregations numbering in the tens of thousands, was launched in 2001 by Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. Bright died in 2003.

Over the last five years, more than 20,000 church leaders have attended Global Pastors Network events across the nation. Among them were key executives of Pat Robertson's 700 Club, National Evangelical Assn. President Ted Haggard and the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

"Next year," Ulmer said, "will usher in a new dimension for us. We'll be kicking it all into gear internationally with a wedding of technology and vision.

"We'll be sponsoring major events in Singapore, the Ukraine, South America and Africa," he said.

The movement is already taking on political dimensions.

In late January, ex-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani spoke to the pastors' group in Orlando, Fla., on what it takes to be a leader in times of crisis, which is the subject of his new book.

Giuliani, a practicing Catholic and supporter of abortion rights and gay rights, is weighing a possible 2008 presidential bid.

"There were those who questioned some of Giuliani's philosophies, and some members would rather not have invited him," Ulmer said. "But for most of us, he was invited to inspire, inform and enrich our leaders."

In a motivational sermon Tuesday, Davis recited a series of daunting statistical projections for steering the world's population away from what he called "false religions."

If Christian churches do not partner, he said, they can expect to evangelize 83% of the world's population by 2200.

"But if we work together and grow each year by 12% -- and start 370 new churches per day," he said, "then we'll have passed 5 million churches in 10 to 15 years. We'll have to pool our resources to make it happen."

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