by James W. Reapsome
Practical as well as theological considerations of missions and evangelism were considered in the small group sessions at the International Congress on World Evangelization.
Practical as well as theological considerations of missions and evangelism were considered in the small group sessions at the International Congress on World Evangelization. Participants received study papers prior to the congress for the strategy and theological study groups they selected.
In addition to taking part in the strategy and theology sessions, each participant also attended demonstrations of evangelistic methods. These sessions furnished illustrations of effective methods that can be duplicated, with cultural adaptations, in each person’s home situation. Leading the demonstrations were people who have had effective ministries in widely scattered areas of the earth.
Subjects for the sessions, of which there were 33, ranged from holiday and beach evangelism, to the use of television and video tapes, to neighborhood Bible studies, to mobilizing whole denominations.
(Because of the basic interest of our readers in the subject of cross-cultural evangelization, we include here a brief summary of some of the points raised in that group.-Ed. ).
In his paper, a prominent African evangelical leader warned that the congress would be little more than a "grand picnic" unless it led to new relationships between missions and churches. Samuel O. Odunaike of Lagos, chairman of the Nigeria Evangelical Fellowship and second-term president of the Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar, also called for creation of an international association of evangelical missionary agencies.
He expressed genuine appreciation for the work of various missionary agencies in his land, and he also suggested that there is more work that can be done by personnel from overseas, provided they cooperate with overall evangelical strategy. He pointed out that too often in the past, however, missionaries had actually hindered the progress of evangelization by their failure to work with each other and with indigenous Christian leaders. He explained that the frustration was sometimes not the fault of the individual missionaries but rather the result of directives from their "home boards."
Other speakers on cross-cultural evangelization came from backgrounds in four other areas of the world: David J. Cho, a Presbyterian pastor in Seoul, Korea; Ernest W. Oliver of London, secretary of the Regions Beyond Missionary Union and formerly a missionary in India and Nepal; R. Keith Parks, Southeast Asia secretary for the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board, Richmond, Virginia, and formerly a missionary in Indonesia; and J. Allen Thompson of Coral Gables, Florida, general director of the West Indies Mission and formerly a missionary in Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
Ernest W. Oliver summarized his paper, "Missions Strategy,"by saying, "We must not confuse the choice of a strategy with the choice of methods to be employed." "The continuing strategy of the Church of Jesus Christ today must be that of the minority incessantly launching and sustaining its mission of making disciples of all nations."
After a half-hour of small-group discussion in a half dozen languages, several representatives of the groups gave reports. The subject of moratorium received repeated discussion. A participant from Kenya said that the matter of a moratorium on missions should not be thrown out, but should be carefully considered. "Missionary agencies must not be allowed to dominate," he said. "When does a missionary have the right to enter a country?" A South African participant said that the matter of moratorium needed to be understood in its proper light. "It’s not that the mission be stopped," he said, "but that the missionary be involved with us, becoming part of the growing church."
David J. Cho called for "decisive action to shift from a hemispheric to a global structure" of missions. Stating that the Acts of the Apostles present no example of a subordinate relation between "sender and receiver" he indicated that established national churches should attempt to share the gospel with other nationalities as soon as they receive it. "Organic relation" and "mutual confidence" were key terms in the "associative structures" he recommended.
In the lively group discussion of five key questions following Cho’s address, owe question received the most attentions "What are the problems of leadership among nationals and missionaries in your countries?"
One group answered that missionaries feel responsible to their home churches rather than to the people to whom they are sent. "They sometimes fail to integrate with the national church, and, through lack of confidence in national church leaders, they are reticent to ;urn over responsibility for leadership and finances to them."
In answer to the same question another group listed these problems: "suspicion because of political differences"; "finances originating from abroad with authority resting in the national church"; "different standards of living for missionary and national pastor"; "national leaders illprepared for new responsibilities, resulting in the neglect of good projects. " One participant said "foreigners" should set an example for national pastors by doing manual labor rather than be a "white collar worker."
In his study paper, "The Holy Spirit in the Charismatic Life and Renewal of the Church Today in Evangelism," Dr. Harold B. Kuhn of Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Ky., traced the origins, growth and dynamics of the current charismatic movement, particularly those features that relate to evangelism and missions. He did not deal with and evaluate all aspects of Pentecostalism. After sketching the movement’s historical antecedents, he showed how more recent Pentecostal movements have affected the Christian world, especially the Neo-Pentecostalism that has influenced mainline religious bodies.
"While Pentecostalism has had its vocal manifestations and its `motor movements,’ its deeper and more characteristic quality has been, and is, its emphasis upon the blessed Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit," Dr. Kuhn said. He detailed how, under the Spirit’s guidance, the charismatic movement has made a dynamic contribution to the evangelistic and missionary thrust of evangelical Christendom.
"A single-minded emphasis upon the Holy Spirit as Baptizer, Energizer and Empowerer has produced an outreach into areas largely neglected by the more conventional and `respectable’ branches of the Christian movement which is amazing in its scope," he said. "Pentecostalism has always regarded itself as an instrument of church renewal. Its very life has consisted in a thrust toward persons, whether near at hand or whether afar off . . . . Could it be that the broad charismatic movement has something exceedingly important to say to any group which takes the Great Commission seriously?"
One of the thorniest problems confronting missionaries is the resurgent interest in indigenous culture, and how this relates to planting the church through largely Western thought forms and cultural patterns. Two study papers related to this issue.
Petrus Octavianus, president of the Indonesian Missionary Fellowship, Batu, East Java, showed the place of culture in the Bible and said God desires to communicate with man in his culture. The biblical foundations and absolutes that are supracultural must be identified and must be maintained in any given cultural situation. He said it is necessary for missionaries to recognize and understand the culturo-religious setting of the major religions in Asia, and, what is far more difficult, to separate original cultural factors (which are neutral and can be maintained) from elements that are opposed to the Christian revelation and must be rejected by Christians.
He urged the adaptation of the Christian faith to Asian cultures. This can be done by studying various patterns of worship in Asia. He cited a church in Japan that has worship services in forms of "tatami" (a form of assembling) which seems to fit well the Japanese tradition.
Regarding evangelism, he said, "Instead of the individual conversion pattern brought over from the West, I recommend the multi- individual mode of conversion, which allows people to become Christians within their social structure, so that they need not feel they must become Westerners when they return to Christ."
Dr. Byang H. Kato of Nairobi. Kenya, general secretary of the Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar, touched on both "cultural contextualization" and syncretism. "Since the gospel message is inspired, but the mode of its expression is not, contextualization of the modes of expression is not only right but necessary," he said. He defined the term as "making concepts or ideals relevant in a given situation." He said the incarnation of Christ is a form of contextualization. "This in turn should motivate us to make the gospel relevant in every situation everywhere, as long as the gospel is not compromised, " he explained.
"Contextualization can take place in the area of liturgy, dress, language, church service, and any other form of expression of the gospel truth. Musical instruments such as organ and piano can be replaced or supplemented with such indigenous and easily acquired instruments as drums, cymbals, and corn-stalk instruments of various descriptions. Clergy do not have to wear Geneva gowns or even a dog collar," he said.
He continued: "Not only should the message be preached in the language best understood by the congregation, but terminology of theology should be expressed the way the common people can understand. But theological meanings musk not, be sacrificed at the altar of comprehension. Instead of employing terms that would water down the gospel, the congregations should be taught the meaning of the term as originally given."
Dr. Kato warned that the spirit of syncretism (the attempt to blend and reconcile various religions) is predominant in Africa today, both inside and outside church circles. Secular writers, the study of comparative religions in African universities, and governments seeking to unite all religions are major factors in this development. "The persistent urge for cultural revolution in Africa, with external influences from communist and Arab countries, will energize the challenging force of syncretism," he said. This may mean persecution for African believers when they obey God rather than men. At the same time, he counseled that they should "make Christianity culturally relevant without destroying its ever-abiding message."
The study group wrestled with how to state a biblical theology that is not culturally conditioned. Some participants warned of "unconscious syncretism because we are weak at constantly reforming our biblical theology." Therefore, it was said, we must constantly go back to biblical theology to see where we have allowed syncretism to creep in. On missionary described how he wrote an "African theology." A participant from Ghana spoke forcefully of the need for missionaries "to get alongside an African grappling with some issues" and allow him "to feed back into you." It was clear that there is an urgent need for evangelical scholarship in Africa to meet the demands of contextualization and the threats of syncretism.
HOW TO GET THE WHOLE CONGRESS IN PRINT AND ON TAPE
A 1,000-page volume of the plenary papers and responses, strategy and theology papers, and small-group reports from the International Congress on World Evangelization will be published by the Grason Company, 1313 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, Minn. 55403, for $12.50.
In addition, three tape cassette albums of all the plenary sessions and the Lausanne evangelistic rally are available for $24.95 each ( an album contains site hour-long cassettes).
A discussion study book series designed for congress follow-up, entitled "Reaching All," includes six titles: "Reaching All the World," "Reaching All Power," "Reaching All Needs," "Reaching All People," "Reaching by All Means," and "Reaching All Together." These cost 95 cents each, or $4.95 for the set. A companion "Reaching "All" tape cassette album of six cassettes costs $24.95.
Prices are postage paid. All orders should be sent to the above Grason Co. address with payment. Special quantity prices are available on request. Billings are accepted from churches and missions.
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