by Missionary News Service
“The Church of Jesus Christ is entering upon the greatest time of world evangelization,” Dr. George Peters said to approximately 400 leaders gathered at Green Lake Wis., September 27 to October 1.
"The Church of Jesus Christ is entering upon the greatest time of world evangelization," Dr. George Peters said to approximately 400 leaders gathered at Green Lake Wis., September 27 to October 1. "I am confident that the remainder of our century will see absolutely unprecedented miracles and movements in the world, make the gospel available to vast multitudes and will see more people enter the kingdom of God than the last three centuries combined have witnessed."
Peters was addressing a mission executives’ study conference sponsored by the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association and the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association. Coordination of the conference was handled by Dr. Vergil Gerber, executive director of the Evangelical Missions Information Service. Among the 400 participants were twenty-four North American pastors, forty-four educators and students, and sixteen leaders of churches abroad.
Speaking on the matter of the mission and the sending church Rev. Jack Shepherd stated that "the mission must operate in the knowledge that it is dependent upon and subordinate to the church which is the sending authority under Christ’s lordship."
Dr. Louis L. King expressed a key thought that was evident throughout the sessions: "There is frank recognition the great job which remains to be done cannot be accomplished by either the mission or the national church working alone but, only by the combined operations of both working together to fulfill the Great Commission."
Dr. Edmund P. Clowney gave daily Bible expositions on the nature and ministry of the church, creating an awareness that all discussions should be under the authority of the Scripture.
The conference was structured for group interaction and much of the time was given to small group discussion and plenary sessions which provided for audience participation and panel discussions.
North American pastors and overseas pastors alike lamented the fact that more of their number were not present to share the experience. Both groups expressed appreciation for the opportunity to observe the mission executives honestly wrestling with the complex problems of relationships.
One of the consultants from abroad was told that this conference was an attempt on the part of the missions to grapple with their relationship problems and "set our house in order" in preparation for more dialogue with national leadership overseas. He replied that the executives should not be afraid to let the overseas leaders observe them in their dilemmas. "You have gone up in our estimation as we see you honestly wrestling with problems," he said. Such openness with fellow-leaders from abroad contributed to the establishment of an atmosphere of "confidence" and the improvement of relationships.
The overriding thrust of the conference was the realization that a great task of evangelization awaits the total church. A deep longing was manifest to have the best relationships with the churches which have been established around the world, the purpose being to release energies for reaching the unevangelized. While patterns and forms were discussed at length, the emphasis was on proper attitudes and relationships. From these should flow the forms and patterns that will work in a given situation.
On the closing day a panel of leaders from abroad addressed the full conference giving their views on mission-church relationship. One leader spoke of the urgency of training persons adequately in preparation for assuming leadership roles in the church. He also noted that the attitudes of many rank and file missionaries were much less progressive than those expressed at the conference.
Interest was expressed in the new mission activities which are springing up overseas. Among the delegates at Green Lake were Koreans from sending agencies in Korea which raise funds and personnel among the Korean churches and send missionaries to other nations. It was estimated that almost 100 such agencies exist among the former "receiving churches" of the world.
Such mission agencies of the Christian and Missionary Alliance churches in various nations met last year and formed a loose association for the exchange of information. There is a need for closer contacts among these and the sending agencies of North America and Europe.
In the closing session of the conference each delegate was given time to write down ways in which he as an individual had been changed by the conference. Each then wrote down the things he intended to do by way of implementation. Those who wished to do so were invited to turn in their list to the group coordinator, who would check with them in six months to see how they were making out in implementation.
In a final public affirmation the delegates stated unitedly that we affirm the continuing mandate of a world-wide church to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ." The joint statement confessed "our tendency toward paternalism, authoritarianism and lack of trust in our relations with our Christian brethren."
Mission societies were urged to "share with their missionaries and their constituencies what is being done around the world to develop new patterns of church-mission-church relations; to evaluate their relations with home and overseas churches through fellowship and consultation in biblical and related studies; to foster reciprocal ministry between churches at home and overseas on the basis of mutual love, acceptance and oneness in Jesus Christ; to discover forms of church-mission-church relationships that allow for the fullest scriptural expression of the missionary nature and purpose of the church."
The complete text follows:
We, the delegates attending the Evangelical Missions Information Service-sponsored study conference on Mission-Church relationships, held at Green Lake, Wisconsin, September 27 – October , 1971
affirm … . .
the continuing mandate upon the world-wide church to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ;
our confidence in Jesus Christ, the head of the Body, to build His church, despite the imperfections in the human instruments;
our reliance upon the Holy Spirit to provide the church gifts for ministry, to guide the church in form and outreach, and to call men to obedience to the Gospel;
and we confess …
our failure to work more consistently toward the development of fully responsible church at home and abroad;
our tendency towards paternalism, authoritarianism and lack of trust in our relations with our Christian brethren;
our slowness in building scriptural bridges of unity and fellowship between North American and overseas churches;
and we therefore urge mission societies. . .
to discover forms of church-mission-church relationships that allow for the the fuIlest scriptural expression of the missionary nature and purpose of the church;
to share with their missionaries and their constituencies what is being done around the world to develop new patterns of church-mission-church relations;
to evaluate their relations with home and overseas churches through fellowship and consultation in biblical and related studies;
to foster reciprocal ministry between churches at home and overseas on the basis of mutual love, acceptance and oneness in Jesus Christ;
and we express thanksgiving and praise to God for . . .
those men of God who came and ministered to us;
the enabling presence of the Holy Spirit in times of prayer and discussion together;
the joy of learning together in Christian fellowship;
the new insights freely shared with us by our overseas brethren as well as the counsel and direction from North American pastors and professors;
new facts and new hope upon which to develop, under God, our future relationships with the churches, through His grace and for His glory.
WHAT WE LEARNED AT GREEN LAKE
We learned that we have problems – lots of them.
We learned much about the nature and extent of those problems with our supporting churches in the U.S. and with our mission-founded churches overseas.
We learned that we could not agree on the best structural blueprint to achieve the autonomy of the churches we have planted.
We learned that we couldn’t even be sure what the biblical pattern for mission-church relations is.
We learne how hard it is to subject our preconceptions to the scrutiny of the Bible and to the insights of overseas churchmen.
We learned that it did us good to air our problems, to thrash them around in the open, without being pressured to come up with instant solutions.
We learned about changes in mission practices that encouraged us to believe that we are making progress toward better relations with our fellow believers overseas.
We learned that it’s not easy to listen when others are rebuking us.
We learned that praying together gave us bonds of peace and unity of the Spirit.
We learned how much our confusion and uncertainty are due to our failure to do our homework in the biblical texts.
We learned that we’re short on fresh ideas, long on old ones.
We learned that some old basic problems keep surfacing again and again, every time we meet.
We learned that God is patient and longsuffering with us.
We learned that the church is Christ’s, not ours, and that he is building nourishing, and cherishing it, even through our difficulties in clearly understanding what our role is.
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