by Robert L. Niklaus
Reports from around the world.
PERU: Lima Churches use Integrated Approach
Integration can apply to more than race relations. An integrated approach in evangelism could include many factors from media usage to building programs. Linked with careful planning, this approach could result in many new disciples for Christ.
This is what two churches in Lima, Peru, hope to prove at the conclusion of their current continuous evangelistic campaign for fifteen months. The two congregations, Lince and Brasil, are aided by two missionary coordinators made available by the Christian & Missionary Alliance.
The integrated approach in Lima includes paid newspaper ads, television plugs and daily radio programs. Bumper and window stickers, and a colorful Spanish version of the "Have a Good Day" pamphlet are distributed widely. Christian films are projected during the summer months. New believers receive packets of literature containing daily Bible readings and correspondence courses. All of the media material carries the campaign’s theme, "Lima’s Encounter with God."
Six months of spiritual preparation in prayer cells and training in Bible study and witnessing preceeded the citywide campaign by the two churches last October. Notable evangelists from different Latin American countries and different denominations are being brought in for the "Encounter with God" effort. Inviting South America’s best musical teams is another basic priority of the planners.
Permeating this integrated approach to evangelism is the positive expectation of the Lince and Brasil churches that their efforts will be fruitful. Interspersed between twelve months of two-week campaigns are three months of consolidation to instruct new believers and prepare them for baptism. Both congregations have committed themselves to costly building programs to accommodate the one thousand believers they anticipate having in each church by 1975.
Although the base for this integrated approach to evangelism is Lima, the campaign coordinators have included ten other Peruvian cities in their efforts. The evangelists minister two weeks in Lima and then two more creeks in other cities with churches cooperating in the campaign.
Lima was not chosen by chance for this "Encounter with God" effort. The Lince church had already proven itself as an aggressive evangelistic center. Back in 1961-62 the congregation launched a twelve-month campaign and brought in an evangelist for fifteen clays of each month. Later in 1967 the Lince congregation cooperated fully with Peru’s Evangelismin-Depth efforts. EID leaders said the church’s involvement probably brought to them the best results of the campaign. A second city church, now located on a street named Brasil, was started soon after by the Lince congregation.
The Lima effort is considered by C&MA leaders as a pilot project. The experience and lessons learned there will form the basis of integrated evangelistic campaigns in other countries. One of the two missionary coordinators in Lima will incorporate lessons learned from the Lima pilot project into a basic strategy to be used elsewhere in South America. The second missionary coordinator will remain in Peru to expand "Encounter with God" activities.
Because the Lima effort is a pilot project, no one is yet predicting what the end result will be. Will each church achieve its goal of 1,000 believers by 1975? Will each church then be able, as planned, to hive off believers to start new churches?
The results thus far, one-third through the campaign, are promising. In five months the Lance congregation has gone from 200 to 500; the Brasil congregation moved up from 70 to 200. As of March, "Lima’s Encounter with God" has resulted in 400 believers.
U.S.: Columbia: Church, school, mission leaders confer
Forty leaders of churches, schools and missions met in consultation and pinpointed growing problems which contain "serious tensions of destructive potential" for evangelical overseas endeavor. In its resulting "Statement of Concern" the group called for a re-appraisal of the "system by which church, mission and schools cooperate in the joint strategy of continuing obedience to the Lord’s command to disciple the nations."
The three-day Columbia Consultation on ChurchMission-School Relationships was convened in March to coincide with the dedication of a graduate center at Columbia Bible College in South Carolina. The eleven pastors present represented eleven local congregations giving a combined $1.25 million for missionary work. The twelve mission executives administer organizations with over five thousand missionaries.
The Columbia Consultation concluded that although the local church is "God’s primary agency in world evangelization," it is not considered such by many students and missionaries. Often they have very tenuous relationships to local churches, and the work of missions suffers as a result.
Keynote speaker, J. Robertson McQuilkin, president of Columbia Bible College, articulated this problem: "Schools and missions have experienced a `de-churching.’ A less elegant term for the problem would be dismemberment," with the missions and schools like arms attempting to operate independently of the church body.
Fund raising was cited as a major source of this dechurching trend. Believing that some fund-raising methods are divisive and competitive, the consultation encouraged a reexamination of "some of the trends including methods of raising support that appear to move mission and school personnel away from the local church."
The Columbia Consultation called upon churches, missions and schools to make a reevaluation in four major areas: theology, strategy, personnel and logistics. Such an appraisal is needed, the forty evangelical leaders warned, if the basic system of missionary outreach is to survive the pressures coming on it in the near future by a radically changing world situation.
CHAD: "Chaditude" Forces Conscience Issue
"Chaditude" is the name of the game in the central African republic of Chad. This is the goal of a government-sponsored cultural revolution aimed at restoring Chadian culture and customs to what they were before the shattering intrusion of colonialism.
Baptist Mid-Missions people found the game rough going last November when eighteen missionaries were expelled, all BMM churches (almost 100 in number) closed and fifteen senior pastors imprisoned. Evangelical Newsletter reported in April that only two medical personnel remain and carry on their work at the Koumra Medical Center.
Government officials accused the missionaries of opposing the cultural revolution. But mission leaders say the African believers themselves are refusing the "Chadization" of their religion. Included in the cultural revolution are initiation rites alleged to teach renunciation of the past, cultural rebirth and adherence to idols. All adult citizens are required by law to undergo these initiation rites.
One Baptist pastor is reported to have declared that no one on earth could force him back to "praying to the big stick."
Dr. C. Raymond Buck, BMM Foreign Secretary, visited Chad earlier this year and reported that the problem is becoming ecumenical as well as political and cultural. "I discovered," he wrote, "that the `Evangelical Church in Southern Chad’ was the name of a newly formed (by government authority) ecumenical church organization there. Under new government ruling, all religious activity can only be carried on under the direction of the ecumenical `Evangelical’ church."
The other four Protestant missions working in Chad apparently have not yet suffered as severely in the cultural revolution as the BMM missionaries and African members. This may be due to the fact tribal customs are not as strongly held in other areas and therefore the conflict is less severe.
In addition, government pressure on the BMM churches can be traced directly to Ngarta Tombalbaye, President of Chad and a former BMM church member and school teacher. Seeing nothing wrong with the initiation rites, and originating in the area where BMM works, he is especially determined that his own region fall in line with the government’s policy.
Dr. Buck was granted an interview with President Tombalbaye. He reported the head of state’s position thus: "He stated very clearly that no Chadian would be exempt from the initiation requirement and that non-Catholic Chadians would not be permitted to engage in religious activities apart from the prescribed church.
"He insisted that he did not consider the initiations to contain anything contrary to the Christian faith; and he stated that national unity required Christian cooperation with the initiation rites and with membership in the United Church. "
President Tombalbaye’s "Chaditude" campaign carries strong traces of the "Authenticity" drive of his close friend Mobutu Sese Seko, President of Zaire. In 1972 the Zairian President drastically pared the 300-plus religious bodies down to six in the name of national unity. But he had the good sense not to tamper with the doctrinal beliefs of the different religious bodies.
Other black African nations can be expected to follow the example of Zaire and Chad in "africanizing" their institutions. All the black African nations colonized by Europeans suffered in varying degrees a loss of identity and cultural heritage. Some can be counted on to mount their own cultural revolution.
Christians within those nations can be counted on to go along with worthy attempts to restore authentic bantu values to their national life – up to a point. But should the cultural revolution include religion as well, these Christians must answer the question just how far they can go in return to ancestral rites and beliefs which predate the advent of the gospel and may well be in conflict with it.
In Chad the Christians are hoping the government will not force them to choose between God and "Chaditude" with its religious implications. The month of June may hold the answer. It is the deadline fixed by the government for conformity by all loyal citizens to the cultural revolution.
UGANDA: Christians Caught in Amin’s Purge
Uganda may be the next central African nation to follow in the bloody tradition of Sudan and Burundi where hundreds of thousands of Christians were slaughtered in recent years.
If such a holocaust should come, the man responsible will be a frank admirer of Hitler: General Idi Amin. He is also President of Uganda, and a zealous Moslem. Since deposing President Milton Obote in 1971, General Amin has gradually removed Christians from high civilian and military posts. At the same time he has cultivated economic and military ties with Arab nations.
Such moves hardly reflect the religious makeup of the nation. Recent estimates put the proportion of Moslems among Uganda’s ten million people at less than 10 per cent and Christians at more than 50 per cent.
In recent months General Amin grew suspicious of some Christians still in high positions. His foreign minister, a Christian from the Lugbara tribe, was dismissed in February, accused as a plotter, and killed. Then the army chief of staff, a Kakwa tribesman like General Amin – but unlike him, a Christian, disappeared in March on orders of the President.
The army chief’s disappearance touched off a revolt among units of the Ugandan army. It was quickly mastered and a purge begun to eliminate officers and soldiers suspected of complicity. Most of them were Christians from the Lugbara tribe. Some observers suspect General Amin provoked the outbreak to provide an excuse to purge dissidents from the army.
This purge is only the most recent of General Amin’s moves to strengthen his position. The New York Times estimates that during the past three years of his reign, up to 90,000 potential opponents have been massacred or assassinated.
General Amin has already turned against missions operating in Uganda. After generously praising the humanitarian work of missionaries, he suddenly expelled fifty-eight missionaries (fifty-five were Roman Catholics). He moved next against twelve more religious societies, calling them "dangerous to peace and order in Uganda." Included among those were Campus Crusade for Christ, Child Evangelism Fellowship, The Navigators, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Emmaus Bible School and several Pentecostal missions.
General Amin demonstrated his penchant for drastic action by abruptly, forcibly expelling 25,000 resident Asians last year. Ugandan Christians are apparently his target this year.
Give his aggressive Islamic stance and record of brutal performance thus far, central Africa could witness another tragic open season on Christians.
WORLD: Results of Berlin Still Surface
Even while 2,700 church leaders pack their bags and head for the International Congress on World Evangelism in Lausanne, results are still surfacing from the Berlin Congress held in 1966. Two countries are significant because of their small evangelical communities. The third country is important because it is seldom heard from.
According to a story released in February, a thousand delegates attended a Congress on Evangelism last summer in Finland. Sessions were held in Helsinki and attracted participants from the whole spectrum of denominations in Finland from the State Church to the Pentecostals. Well known personalities from the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches attended as observers.
Basic theological questions were covered in nine main lectures attended by all the delegates. In addition, fifteen seminars took place and dealt with activities and problems of special interest to the churches of Finland.
Evangelicals of Spain and Portugal organized the Iberian Congress on Evangelization for the month of June. According to the organizers, the meetings will attract more than 1,000 participants from 500 congregations and 35,000 evangelical believers in Spain. The Congress is considered the "first Protestant activity of these proportions ever to be attempted in Spain."
Discussion and study papers will concentrate on current trends in society and the new opportunities for evangelism on the Iberian Peninsula.
At the same time, Christians in Japan will conduct their own Congress on Evangelism in Kyoto. Rev. John R. W. Stott of London will give the morning Bible readings. Japanese church leaders will speak on the challenge of evangelism in relation to historical patterns and presentday trends within the context of Japanese society. Small study groups will evaluate current evangelistic efforts. Post congress rallies and efforts are planned.
The unbroken series of regional and national gatherings since the Berlin Congress in 1966 will no doubt have a positive effect on the International Congress in Lausanne. More important, these gatherings since 1966 give hope that the Lausanne convocation will have a deepening effect on evangelism efforts around the world for years to come.
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