It’s All about Evangelism: The Billy Graham Center
by Lon Allison
We at the Billy Graham Center are passionately committed to evangelism in the U.S., the West, and the Majority World.
We exist to: Accelerate Global Evangelism
We envision: Every Believer, Everywhere, Making Christ Known until He Returns
Many readers of EMQ are not aware that the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College oversees the publication of this excellent journal. We are privileged to do so. EMQ is the flagship of our publication department, and we are pleased to see so many leaders throughout the missional global community utilizing this resource. It’s hard to believe that it was forty-five years ago that Evangelical Missions Quarterly was launched by the American evangelical mission community! For more than four decades God has used EMQ to inspire and equip countless missionaries, mission leaders, and others committed to the cause of global missions.
As this new year commences, I want to tell you what motivates us to produce EMQ and the more than seventy other ministries of the Billy Graham Center. Let me invite you into a discussion held recently in the BGC conference room. Four evangelist-scholars—Jerry Root, Rick Richardson, Larry Moyer, and myself; two missiologists—EMQ editor Scott Moreau and Evvy Campbell; and Wheaton College President Duane Litfin were discussing evangelism. One raised the question, “Why do the epistles speak so little about evangelism?” It was a good question. After all, the epistles were the instruction to the young Church of the first century. Surely they would be loaded with the “why” and “how” of evangelism. However, we all admitted the subject didn’t receive a lot of ink in the epistles. Many reasons were suggested. Although there is more than one answer, the one I want to espouse here is: the epistles didn’t talk about evangelism extensively, because they didn’t need to. The understanding and practice of evangelism was ingrained in the “DNA” of the early Church.
Scott suggested we should always read the epistles in the light and background of the Book of Acts. Acts provides the context for the epistles. “The Acts of the Apostles” (or the title I prefer, “The Acts of the Holy Spirit”) abounds with evangelism. It is the subtext for every chapter and story. Yesterday, in my time of study, I went through every chapter of Acts and recorded every time evangelism results were mentioned. By results, I do not mean the practice of evangelism—I mean the actual results of evangelism activity. I found thirty-one unique records of God’s saving activity born through the Church. In some of the records, numbers are given (e.g., three thousand were added on the day of Pentecost). Other times, names of persons converted, as well as places, are included. Sometimes, there is just a summary of a story with language like, “And day by day, the Lord added to the number of those being saved” (2:47).
I imagine the practice of evangelism was as common to first-century believers as holding regular worship services is for the Church today. My pastor doesn’t teach much on the “why” and “how” of corporate worship on the Lord’s Day. He doesn’t need to. It is part of the fiber of our lives as Christians. So too was evangelism for the early Church.
I am heartened by the evangelistic example of the early Church. However, I am also saddened that, by and large, the Western Church has lost the passion and practice of evangelizing as a “way of life.” Statistics abound, but one thing is consistent in all sources (whether Barna, Gallup, or other): the Church in the U.S. and the Western world is in serious decline, and even where it is growing, it is not growing through conversion growth, but primarily through the reshuffling of saints between churches. There is not space to explore the reasons, but there is space to tell readers that we at the Billy Graham Center are passionately committed to evangelism in the U.S., the West, and the Majority World. We will not shrink back or slow our pace. In fact, in the beginning of this article I stated our “Purpose” and “Vision” for the next many years. We envision “every believer, everywhere, making Christ known until he returns.” Our departments and ministries are committed to this dream. In fact, we’ve chosen a new verb to propel our purpose: we exist to accelerate global evangelism. This includes indigenous people in the U.S. and the burgeoning numbers of ethnic immigrants. It includes the unreached and unconverted masses of people on every continent. It is a massive task, and we are careful to not believe we achieve this alone. We are but one agency working as a part of the world’s finest institution—the Church of Jesus Christ.
Accelerate is a strong word. It has several connotations, but one has to do with “more.” The driver who accelerates an automobile intends to go faster and farther. We intend the same. God save us from getting comfortable in this task! People are dying throughout the world without the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. This is no time for slowing or even staying at a steady speed. As I close, please slowly, reflectively, and audibly consider these words, for they are our dream for every reader of EMQ: “Every believer, everywhere, making Christ known until he returns.” Please pray for us at the Billy Graham Center. Pray we are resourced to do our part in this grand vision, and pray we are faithful to persevere.
We promise to keep praying for you and bringing the best information and knowledge concerning evangelism and mission to you that we can. We promise to join you in global efforts, especially the work of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, the World Evangelical Alliance, and others. God be near you, dear brothers and sisters.
Dr. Lon Allison is executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. He is associate professor of evangelism in the Wheaton College Graduate School, and has taught evangelism courses at North Park Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Northern Seminary.
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