by Ralph D. Winter
For a host of eminent leaders from all over the world, Berlin both portrayed and provided a new dimension of truly international missionary concern.
In 1966, right in the middle of a time of gloom and pessimism, Billy Graham stood up at the Berlin World Congress on Evangelism and boldly said, "The elements of spiritual fire are here and could make this congress as significant in the history of the church as the World Missions Conference which was held in Edinburgh in June 1910…One of the purposes of this World Congress on Evangelism is to make an urgent appeal to the world church to return to the dynamic zeal for world evangelization that characterized Edinburgh 56 years ago." Now, fourteen years later, I believe we can already look back at that meeting and assess it as a prophetic impetus of great significance. Billy Graham explicitly adopted the challenge of the Student Volunteer Movement to evangelize the world in "this" generation, and signaled a new era in which many events would combine to give an unprecedented basis for a repetition of that earlier movement.
But the Berlin Congress represented more than one man. It was programmed by Carl F.H. Henry, then editor of Christianity Today, and organized by Stan Mooneyham, later to become the president of World Vision. Charles E. Fuller of the Old Fashioned Revival Hour was also present at Berlin. Although commonly thought of as an evangelist, he had always been deeply committed to missions. His father had supported fifty missionaries for years, and before coming to Berlin Dr. Fuller had just completed the establishment of the School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary.
For a host of eminent leaders from all over the world, Berlin both portrayed and provided a new dimension of truly international missionary concern. Specifically, Berlin provided to the Western church a new awareness of the strategic significance of the very existence of key churchmen in the non-Western world, and the conviction that partnership across the world in vigorous new evangelistic outreach was the most urgent need in order to fulfill the Great Commission: the world could and should be reached by the world church.
By the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization at Lausanne, however, a new note had definitely emerged. If Berlin had trumpeted, "Let’s finish the job; a new era is dawning; the world church must be involved," Lausanne went further as it forced on the nature of the task by stressing peoples. It even raised the issue of populations unreachable by anything less than cross-cultural evangelism (due to there not yet being any evangelizing church within such people groups). The June, 1980, Consultation on World Evangelization at Pattaya, Thailand represents a logical step further. The Strategy Working Group of the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelization has adopted three basic concepts that were implicit in 1974, but will be explicit in 1980:
(1) It has accepted the MARC definition of peoples: "a significantly large sociological grouping of individuals who perceive themselves to have a common affinity for one another because o£ their shared language, religion, ethnicity, residence, occupation, class or caste, situation, or a combination of these."
(2) It has itself developed a technical definition of unreached peoples: "a people of whom less than 20 percent are practicing Christians, that is, active members of a Christian church."
(3) It has begun to use the U.S. Center for World Mission’s technical definition of hidden peoples: "Those particular unreached peoples which cannot yet be reached by an evangelizing church within their own cultural tradition."’
Berlin 66 brought key papers together; Lausanne 74 sent preliminary papers out ahead of time to all participants, requiring evaluation of them prior to attendance. Pattaya 80 breaks wholly new ground by enlisting far more people in much more extensive preliminary research. International coordinators were appointed for almost two dozen different major groupings of peoples. These coordinators appointed conveners all over the world to set up local study groups on their subjects and prepare detailed papers in advance for the consultation.
Berlin, Lausanne, Pattaya. However, just as more than one current flowed from Edinburgh 1910 meeting, many other significant events were triggered by the Berlin mainstream. Amidst the mounting flurry of preparations for Lausanne 1974, but with the 1910 conference of mission agencies in mind, Luther Copeland, a former missionary but now a Southern Baptist missions professor, played a key role in the development of an idea for 1980 that was significantly different from the scheduled 1974 congress. In 1972 he proposed it, in 1973 he wrote about it, and in 1974 at Wheaton, just before Lausanne, he presided at a discussion of mission professors that formulated it in a written Call.
It is suggested that a World Missionary Conference be convened in 1980 to confront contemporary issues in Christian world missions. The conference should be constituted by persons committed to cross-cultural missions, broadly representative of the missionary agencies of the various Christian traditions on a world basis.2
By the meeting in Lausanne many people were wearing buttons reading "World Missionary Conference 1980." Many who accepted and wore these buttons may have done so just for fun, and perhaps without any specific understanding of the precise meaning of the Call. Even so, a side meeting drew at least forty who discussed the proposal in detail.
In any case, there was never any doubt m the minds of the mission professors who drew up the Call that this kind of un sponsored, ad hoc meeting would be significantly different from the 1966 and 1974 meetings, and even different from the 1966 and 1971 Wheaton and Green Lake meetings of mission agencies from all or part of the North American sphere. The precise provisions of the Call, plus its reference back to the exact name of the 1910 conference, echo the intent to propose a conference (1) based upon organizational delegates (not invited individuals); (2) from mission agencies (not churches); and (3) focused upon crosscultural outreach beyond frontiers (not the outreach of missions and churches into societies within which there are already churches). They also knew the conference would have to (4) be on a world level, and (5) be sponsored by an ad hoc type of committee rather than by any one organization.
Most of the professors drafting the Call were aware that Edinburgh 1910 represented what was historically perhaps the apex of public acceptance of the role of the mission agency. Most also knew that the agencies gathered in 1910 had been very successful in both previous and subsequent missionary efforts leading to the founding of "younger churches" throughout the non-Western world, but that quite ironically this very success had begun more and more to distract attention from the essential church-founding agencies to the agency-founded churches. That is, the very presence and increasing prominence of overseas churches attracted the attention of home church leaders who began to look past the missionaries and recognize their own overseas counterparts. This is the chief reason why church leaders rather than mission agency leaders gradually and increasingly dominated the international gatherings that followed in the train of 1910. A very recent reminder of this fact was the composition of the World Council’s Commission on World Mission and evangelism meeting at Bangkok the year before the Call was formulated. At that meeting, theoretically in the official stream flowing from 1910, only 8 percent of the participants represented mission structures. By contrast, the proposed 1980 meeting would restore the centrality of the mission agency (whether Western or non-Western) in pioneer, cross-cultural evangelism.
The 1910 meeting also provided a model for the proposed meeting of agencies in 1980, giving it an exclusive focus on the frontiers. Charles Forman summarizes John R. Mott’s purpose for 1910: "His conception of the Edinburgh conference was to develop through it a plan which would recognize the unreached regions and the untouched classes and would assign responsibility for each class or area to a particular mission so that there would be no over-lapping.3
As a result, the 1910 framers drew a lot of flak by inviting only those agencies working among predominantly non-Christian peoples. It was this concern for frontiers rather than the appeasement of the Anglicans (as some supposed) which led to the exclusion of agencies working only in Latin America, Europe and the United States.
Thus, in 1980 we have three conferences. In response to the 1974 Call, the World Council pulled its neat Commission on World Mission and Evangelism meeting back from 1981 to 1980, and located it in Melbourne. The Berlin tradition, now named the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, thinking nothing was coming of the 1974 Call for a world conference of mission agencies, but undoubtedly aware in any case of its exclusive emphasis on hidden peoples and its essentially ad hoc basis, went ahead to sponsor its own world-level meeting in January of 1980, eventually scheduled at Pattaya, Thailand. The original (mission agency) 1980 meeting was in fact being talked of for August.
Thus, when the LCWE moved its date to June, the august date for the original proposal was moved to the very end of October, and by then was being planned as a meeting at Edinburgh.
But will these three meetings conflict, duplicate, overlap? Or is it like a three-ring circus where you can try to keep your eyes on elephants, lions or tigers? Melbourne is a meeting composed basically of official church representatives.
Pattaya is a meeting of invited, individual evangelical leaders. Edinburgh is a meeting of official agency representatives. In purpose at least, Pattaya and Edinburgh are both going to deal with the issue of the hidden peoples, those unreached groups that cannot yet be won by evangelism from within. Pattaya will deal seriously with hidden peoples; Edinburgh exclusively with them. However, in constituencies and potential results, they are very different. Due to its small size and diverse constituency, Pattaya could invite only a small proportion of the world’s mission leaders. For example, only 12 people from the United Kingdom will attend – most of them not representing mission agencies. By contrast, all those 100 mission societies of the United Kingdom that could probably qualify to attend Edinburgh are invited to that meeting. Similarly in the United States, not more than one-tenth of the 170 member organizations of the IFMA-EFMA can have individual, unofficial representatives at Pattaya. These two associations represent only one-third of all the U.S. mission agencies, most of which can probably qualify to send delegates to Edinburgh.
As far as potential results are concerned, the best way to see the differences between Pattaya and Edinburgh is to see Pattaya as assembling data, developing strategies, and alerting church leaders. Four months later Edinburgh will build on the Pattaya documents as well as the preparatory studies of the participating missions. Edinburgh will allow the mission agencies to grapple with the question of what they are going to do about the specific opportunities defined at Pattaya. At Pattaya we will see the conscience of evangelical leadership crying out on behalf of the world’s unreached and hidden peoples. At Edinburgh we will see the active agencies of mission sitting down to consider the concrete implementation of all that has been discussed at Pattaya and anywhere else.
Melbourne, on the other hand, has already produced a whole series of articles in successive issues of the International Review of Mission, ever since the announcement of the May, 1980, meeting in the July, 1978, issue. The theme, "Your Kingdom Come," is vital, but the issues as already tackled in these preliminary articles are difficult to summarize in a sentence. Perhaps I will not be found too seriously at fault if I generalize that Melbourne will focus on bringing about God’s will in the many "worlds" within which the church is already to be found. One wonders if there will be much attention given to the many other "worlds" (I count 16,750 where the church is not yet.) Due to the very nature of churches as organizations, and the structural absence at Melbourne of the mission "orders" of Christendom, which have a life beyond the organizational realities of the world’s churches, we do well not to be too optimistic about Melbourne either searching out the hidden peoples or taking specific responsibility for reaching them.
One mistake we surely will not repeat at Edinburgh 1980. The basic principle of formation of the 1910 conference was to focus the attention of the mission agencies of the world upon the remaining frontiers. Since in 1910 the vast bulk of all mission agencies were of course in the Western world, it is not surprising that at the 1910 meeting o£ 1,355 delegates, only 17 were nonWesterners. It would be logical to conclude that the 17 were delegates of the small number of non-Western mission agencies that existed in 1910. None of them were! Bishop Azariah, who had helped to found two mission agencies in India, was one of the 17, but not even his agencies were extended an invitation. Did he prefer to attend as a delegate chosen by a Western society?
But the 1910 principles of formation were not at fault; it was their implementation. What is to me the most incredible single error of judgment in mission strategy in the 20th century is the fact that although there were in fact by 1910 a handful of younger missions (what we now call Third World missions) – not merely younger churches – it is a simple matter of historical fact that not a single one of these precious little green shoots springing up was invited.
If Edinburgh 1980 does no more than properly implement the structural principles of the 1910 conference – without any continuation of its blind spot – it vain be eminently timely, since that blind spot is all too much still with us. Western agencies simply have not been diligent either in planting younger missions, nor in recognizing and assisting them. For example, a new organization, International Missionary Advance. is intended precisely to foster the development of Third World mission structures. There are some Western missions that specialize in transferring funds to outstanding individuals in foreign countries, individuals who are for the most part evangelists to their own cultures, not missionaries to cultures without any church. Sometimes these "nationals" are part of some sort of indigenous structure. But the science of church planting is infinitely further advanced than is that of mission planting.
Already dozens of non-Western mission agencies are planning to send delegates to Edinburgh. Such societies will sit down as equals with the Western societies. The conference will bring together executives of those structures most significant in the attempt to provide a church for every people by the year 2,000.
1. A more formal definition of "hidden peoples" was drafted in September 1979, by the Convening Committee of the World Consultation on Frontier Missions. See Progress Report, Sept. 15. 1979: "Those cultural and linguistic sub-groups, urban or rural, for whom there is yet to indigenous community of believing Christians able to evangelize their own people."
2. Winter, Ralph D., "1980 and that Certain Elite," Missiology, An International Review, 1976, No. 4, p. 151.
3. Beaver, R. Pierce, The Gospel and Frontier Peoples (Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library, 1977), p. 91.
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