by James W. Reapsome
Billy Graham opened and closed the International Congress on World Evangelization, and in between he preached at a Sunday afternoon public evangelistic rally at Lausanne’s Olympic Stadium.
Billy Graham opened and closed the International Congress on World Evangelization, and in between he preached at a Sunday afternoon public evangelistic rally at Lausanne’s Olympic Stadium.
In his first address he noted that people have never been so open and receptive to the gospel. He reaffirmed the necessity of evangelism and rejected the idea of a moratorium on the sending of missionaries. He hoped the congress would frame a biblical declaration on evangelism; that the church would be challenged to complete the task of world evangelization; that the relationship between evangelism and social responsibility would be clarified; and that a new fellowship among evangelicals of all persuasions around the world would be developed.
"I believe the Lord is saying to us, `Let’s go forward together in a world-wide fellowship in evangelism, in missions, in Bible translation, in literature distribution, in meeting world social needs, in evangelical theological training,’ " he said.
In his much more devotional, and briefer, closing address he touched on nine spiritual qualifications of "the messengers as we leave Lausanne."
The plenary program was built on seven "Biblical Foundation Papers" and five "Issue Strategy Papers." In addition, there were seven other major addresses, three panels, two special multi-media presentations, and a closing communion service. Each day’s program began with a brief Bible study and a time for personal interaction and prayer. Prayer groups were also held at hotels, motels and dormitories throughout Lausanne and environs each night.
Dr. John R. W. Stott of London at the outset was given the task of defining the nature of biblical evangelism, which he did under five categories: mission, evangelism, dialogue, salvation and conversion. Our pattern of mission he found in the Father’s sending of the Son, and in the Son’s sacrificial service to men. Evangelism he defined not in terms of methods and results, but in terms of the announcement of the good news about the death and resurrection of Jesus and the offer of salvation.
Dialogue, he explained, is not "uncommitted openness," but "a serious conversation in which we are prepared to listen as well as speak." It is a token of Christian humility and love. Salvation is not material, but moral; it is personal freedom from sin and its consequences. Although humanization, development, liberation and justice do not constitute salvation, nevertheless Christians should pursue these goals and should repent of "opting out of such social and political responsibilities."
The announcement of salvation requires a response: conversion. Under this category Dr. Stott roundly rejected universalism. He also stressed the necessity of distinguishing between Scripture and culture, in terms of the convert’s new lifestyle- a subject that was to be touched on throughout the congress.
Dr. Susumu Uda, a professor at the Japan Christian Theological Seminary and pastor of the Kugayama Presbyterian Church, discussed biblical authority and evangelism. The church is the church only as long as it proclaims the biblical message. There is "no foundation for Christian faith and action" without the divine revelation known as the Bible.
He related his position to both other religions and modern "political theology." In the case of the former, when the biblical facts about God and man are lost sight of, "man’s religious imagination will eventually end up either in blending God and nature (i. e., Shinto’s polytheistic finite gods), or blending God and the self (i. e., self-deification in Buddhism)." In the case of the latter, without the authority of Scripture, "all Christian elements tend to be swallowed up by incorporation into certain political thought and action, such as the Marxist idea of social revolution."
Dr. Donald McGavran, senior professor of missions at the School of World Mission, Fuller Theological Seminary, highlighted ten dimensions of world evangelization that he drew from the 1,500 responses he received to his paper. Among them:
* "Evangelization is complete when the multitudinous neighborhoods of mankind have in each of them a believing, obedient congregation."
* "Any responsible Latfricasian missionary society (i.e., the 200 sending agencies from countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia), engaged in church multiplying evangelism, could to advantage use substantial aid from sister missionary societies in Eurica Europe and North America)."
* "Unprecedented receptivity reveals winnable multitudes," yet "there still are many resistant populations . . . In such lands, seed-sowing evangelism is still greatly needed."
* "We must multiply lay Christians for outreach and train unpaid leaders who go out among their fellows to find the lost."
Dr. Harold Lindsell, editor of Christianity Today, described in gloomy terms "the death wish of mankind," showing that man is committing ecological, scientific, moral, sociological, intellectual and theistic suicide. Yet, he said, "The final holocaust is delayed until his (God’s) purpose is fulfilled, his gospel preached and all nations reached with the good news."
Dr. Rene" Padilla, associate general secretary for Latin America, International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, sparked considerable debate. In his address, "Evangelism and the World," he touched on four important areas of tension, growing out of "a theological evaluation of a type of Christianity which, having as its center the United States, has however spread widely throughout the world." He concluded that the mixture of the "American way of life" with the gospel was wrong, because it fails to sort out those elements of the culture that should be retained and those that should be abandoned for the sake of the gospel. One element that should be abandoned, but hasn’t, he feels, is the "integration (of) racial and class segregation into its strategy for world evangelization."
"A gospel that leaves untouched our life in the world . . . is not the Christian gospel, but culture Christianity, adjusted to the mood of the day," he said.
Second, he explained his "reservations about the emphasis on numbers in relation to the Christian mission." He said, "The real question with regard to the growth of the church is not successful numerical expansion-a success patterned after worldly standards-bud faithfulness to the gospel," by which he meant making clear to prospective converts the costly claims of Christ, "even though that means a smaller membership." He also warned of making technology "a substitute for Scripture under the assumption that what we need is a better strategy, not a more biblical gospel and a more faithful church."
Third, he appealed for an end to North America’s and Europe’s "monopoly on the interpretation of the gospel and the definition of the Christian mission." He said, "Those of us who live in the Third World cannot and should not be satisfied with the rote repetition of doctrinal formulas, or the indiscriminate application of canned methods of evangelization imported from the West."
Dr. Padilla’s fourth plea was for the application of the gospel to all areas of life. He explained: "I do not expect the ultimate salvation of man or society through good works or political action. I am merely asking that we take seriously the relevance of the gospel to the totality of man’s life in the world. The only other possible alternative is to say that God is interested in our calling him ‘Lord, Lord,’ but not in our obedience to his will in relation to such crucial issues as social justice and oppression, famine, war, racism, illiteracy, and the like."
A brief, general survey of "positive aced negative forges for evangelization around the world" was liven by Dr. I. Ben Wati (India, Dr. Robinson Cavalcanti (Brazil), Jan van Capelleveen (the Netherlands` and Dr. Byang Kato (Kenya).
Incisive, practical comments on strategy, message, methods and motivation were made by Canon Michael Green, principal of St. John’s College, Nottingham, England. He stressed two dangers in the congress with regard to strategy: (1) Triumphalism- "The impression that we Westerners alone… have the right message and the right know-how . . . The sense that efficiency on the evangelistic production lines will inevitably produce results. The preoccupation with numbers . . . . Dave we forgotten the appalling fall-out from shallow evangelism which is all too often man-centered and need-oriented? Have we reflected that by success-measurement techniques the cross would be rated the greatest failure in history? . . ." (2) Isolating Evangelism- "You cannot remain true to the New Testament and say, ‘Evangelism is primary; fellowship, worship, and service are quite distinct and have nothing to do with it.’ . . . We are called to be the church as well as proclaim the good news." He said that in the early church at Antioch both fellowship and social concern were "evangelistic." "In a profound sense, the church’s social concern, worship and fellowship either incarnate or deny the message that is preached."
He urged variety in both presenting the message (putting the gospel into thought-forms people use) and in evangelistic methods: personal conversation, open air work, "body life," home meetings, and neutral ground.
On motivation, among other things: "When I realized that men without God were lost now and would be lost forever-even nice folks, even my family and friends-I vowed that I would burn up my one life in telling others of the fabulous good news that Jesus has brought to our world. "
Dr. George Peters, professor of world missions, Dallas Theological Seminary, was forced by lack of time to give only the sketchiest analysis of the 1,600 responses he received to his paper, "Contemporary Practices of Evangelism." This was a disappointment to many.
However, in choosing to summarize by way of questions raised by his respondents, he did shed light on where missionaries are hurting today:
* Where can we get help on different patterns of evangelism?
* What can we do so that evangelism will become the lifestyle of the church?
* Is programmed evangelism really Spirit-directed evangelism?
* With a proliferation of evangelistic practices, how can we find the most appropriate method for our culture?
* What are the roadblocks hindering effective evangelism?
Three panelists evaluated "in-depth evangelism" in different parts of the world: Rev. Elias Cheng (Cameroon), Dr. Nene Ramientos (the Philippines), and Dr. Orlando Costas (Costa Rica). Dr. Stanley Mooneyham, president of World Vision International, used a slide-tape presentation and personal interviews to demonstrate places of unusual evangelistic breakthroughs.
The heart of missionary work was given this auspicious title: "The Highest Priority: Cross-Cultural Evangelism," and Dr. Ralph Winter, professor of the history of the Christian movement, School of World Mission, Fuller Theological Seminary, gave the strategy paper on the subject. (The substance of his thesis appeared in Evangelical Missions Quarterly, January, 1974.-Ed.) He estimates that 87 percent of the non-Christian people of the world can only be reached by cross-cultural evangelism (i.e., by the sending of missionaries from one culture to another).
However, he concludes, "Most Western missionaries by now are almost totally preoccupied with a developing national church and are involved in what could be called cross-cultural nurture and renewal, rather than crosscultural evangelism, while the national pastors are often so taken up in ordinary nurture and renewal that they do not have the energies for evangelism of any kind."
After the statistics, Dr. Winter discussed at length what he called "the most important single issue in evangelism today": setting up churches according to cultural distinctives. He faced head-on the objection that such a church-planting policy destroys unity in Christ, but he answered on both biblical and cultural grounds. He pointed to New Testament churches (in Galatia, for example) that had their own lifestyles. He claimed that the apostle Paul did not insist on "a policy of local integration," but "on the equality of diversity." He denied that the practice of his theory would mean setting aside unity for the sake of evangelism.
Admitting the issue is "delicate," he called for liberty, allowing each culture to have its own church. At the same time he asserted that the richness of the Christian tradition depends on cross-cultural contact.
Dr. Jacob Loewen, an anthropologist from Zambia, responded to the "highest priority" on cross-cultural missions by noting what is required for effective communication across cultural lines and by examining some of the problems associated with cross-cultural missionary work, among them: the recipient accepts the missionary’s cultural "wrapper" as part of his message; converts become imitators of the missionary; missionaries "stay longer, try harder, and usurp the power of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer."
Three other panelists commented on Dr. Winter’s paper. Dr. J. Philip Hogan, executive director for foreign missions, the Assemblies of God, U.S., spoke chiefly of the Holy Spirit’s overruling human categories, designs and plans. He said, "The charts and maps of the missiologists couldn’t have planned the Indonesian revival . . . . The best we can do is to seek where God walks and get in step with him."
Rev. J. David Cho, general director, Korea International Mission, Seoul, disagreed with what he called Dr. Loewen’s "negativism," and said that the failure of missionaries is not due to their lifestyle but to their lack of dedication. He appealed for an end to "home and abroad" distinctions and advised missionaries to Korea to "immerse" themselves in Korean culture.
Dr. Pablo Perez, Mexico City, visiting professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, thought that the thesis of Dr. Winter tended to "perpetuate culturally-determined prejudice." He emphasized that in the early churches at Antioch and Ephesus the Jews and Asians were brought together.
"Culture is not the determining factor, so culture can’t set the guidelines for the configuration of the church," he said.
Rev. Gottfried Osei-Mensah, pastor of Nairobi Baptist Church, Kenya, had the formidable task of bringing together two main schools of thought with regard to the Holy Spirit’s work in the believer. He admitted considerable confusion among Christians about the nature of the Spirit’s power and how it can be appropriated in evangelism. Yet the supreme work of the Spirit is to witness to the reality of Christ’s claim to be the Son of God and Savior of mankind. Therefore, he said, it is not necessary to be of one mind concerning the doctrine of the Holy Spirit before Christians can look to him together for power in the work of evangelization. Apart from the differences, there are common needs related to the person and work of the Spirit:
"If the role of the Holy Spirit is to teach, ours is to be diligent students of the Word . . . . One of the first steps in mobilizing Christians for world evangelization should be the promotion of personal and group Bible studies in our churches, in addition to expository preaching from our pulpits." The Spirit is our Master, therefore "the evangelical Christian’s reverence and submission to Christ’s authority in every aspect of life need to be more evident." The Spirit is our Helper, but "twentieth century evangelicals have paid lip service (to him) for too long . . . . Prayer has become a meaningless post-script to our plans and programs."
However, he did not sidestep the fact that in his part of the world some who have been baptized with the Holy Spirit have spent considerable zeal "evangelizing" Christians. "The resulting confusion hay done much damage to a fine work of the Holy Spirit in many schools and colleges of tropical Africa. At the same time, there are some who have found a spiritual and psychological release through this experience," he said.
The work of the Holy Spirit was the focus of four testimonies at the Sunday morning session: Rev. Larry Christenson (U.S.), Rev. Thomas Houston (U.K.), Bishop Festo Kivengere (Uganda), and Rev. Juan Carlos Ortiz (Argentina?. Their thoughts had to do with both personal and church renewal. Miss Corrie ten Boom of the Netherlands gave a longer address on the power of Christ during her wartime experiences.
The second week of the congress began with the discussion of world evangelization and the kingdom of God by Dr. Peter Beyerhaus, professor of mission studies and ecumenical theology at the University of Tubingen, West Germany.
World evangelization needs "a strong, inspiring motivation," which Dr. Beyerhaus finds in Christ’s appeal, "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand." He explained that during the present stage of the kingdom (what he called the Kingdom of Grace brought by Christ’s first coming) and prior to the future stage of the kingdom (the Kingdom of Glory which awaits Christ’s second coming, Christians are to invite people everywhere "to join the Kingdom of Grace now and thereby to become aspirants of the forthcoming Kingdom of Glory." He sees evangelism as "the one basic function which gives meaning to the present interval." He made clear, however, that he does not expect all mankind to join the church and thereby transform the world into the Kingdom of Glory.
He did not discuss details of eschatology, but gave major emphasis to "two dangerous alternatives" to his view that "the final phase of church history will not be marked by great revival movements, or by the complete Christianization of the nations." The first danger is the ecumenical movement, because "it is inspired by the ‘utopic vision’ of a united world community," and because it lacks proper regard for the biblical prophecies in connection with the return of Christ. The second danger "is the enthusiastic expectation of an imminent second Pentecost" by which "all mankind will be converted and thus the Kingdom will be ushered in in glory." Evangelism based on this expectation is wrong, he said, because it "puts exceeding trust in . . . an abundance of miracles"; it "induces the evangelist to try to get hold of extraordinary power"; it "replaces the biblical hope for the returning Christ by this unbiblical expectation"; and because "the main evangelistic impact is no longer the convincing force of the gospel on the conscience of man. Rather it is the irresistible pull of an anonymously radiating soul-force not entirely different from the demonic spirit forces in non-Christian religions."
Dr. Samuel Escobar, general secretary, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, Canada, discussed evangelism in the light of man’s search for freedom, justice and fulfillment. Acknowledging that there are "hundreds and hundreds of anonymous servants of God" working to help people in their social needs, he went on to give a biblical defense of this service against a backdrop of criticism that such service should be abandoned "for the pursuit only of numerical growth of congregations."
He said the "biblical model of evangelism" should produce a "radically different community" of believers who will have "a revolutionary effect in changing a society." He illustrated this with the three things the apostle Paul did about slavery, and then showed how John Wesley and others wrote and worked for political action that led England to abolish slavery.
He made clear that he does not agree that working on the social implications of the gospel will necessarily lead to forgetting evangelism. He called for more teaching about the ethical and moral demands of the Christian faith, so Christian laymen will be able to penetrate society with a new way of life. In the light of the Christian expectation of a new creation, he urged Christians "to encourage one another in the search to make this world a bit less unjust and cruel."
In an unusual feature for a missionary-centered congress, internationally-known journalist and political and social commentator Malcolm Muggeridge gave an incisive, witty analysis of what he called the "apocalypse" in which we are living. This he described as "an advanced stage of decomposition" for Western civilization. However, he added, "Each symptom of breakdown, however immediately painful and menacing in its future consequences, is also an occasion for hope and optimism, reminding us, as it does, that truly God is not mocked, and that men can no more live without reference to him now than could the children of Israel find their way to the Promised Land without his guidance and support."
Rev. Howard Snyder, dean of the Free Methodist Theological Seminary, Sao Paulo, Brazil, aimed some sharp arrows at contemporary church life in his discussion of the church as God’s agent in evangelism. "In many areas, the church today is encased in rigid institutional structures which impede growth," he said. "Perhaps eighty percent of such structures are not formal and official, but are simply traditional and cultural."
Therefore, he called for institutional renewal to accompany personal renewal. If that doesn’t happen, "the old institution may have to be abandoned and new structures formed." The shape of the new model should be "charismatic," which he defined as "characterized by community, interpersonal relationships, mutuality, and interdependence," with no special reference to glossolalia.
Getting to the heart of missionary agencies, he found "no biblical basis for a fundamental distinction between denominational and para-denominational structures . . . . It is not fundamentally important whether foreign missions, for example, are carried out by denominational mission boards or by independent missionary agencies . . . . Of course, it is fundamentally important that all evangelistic and church-planting efforts take care to contribute to the visible and spiritual unity, rather than disunity, of the Body of Christ."
He called for biblical evangelism that allows each believer to discover and use his spiritual gift. But he said hindrances must be removed if the church is to grow: "not only individual sin, but also human traditions, worn-out structures, and fundamental misconceptions about the nature of the church."
How to "touch the need of our generation" was the theme of Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer, leader of L’Abri Fellowship, Switzerland, a place where countless youths from the "counter-culture" have found Christ. He developed four points: (1) clear doctrinal content and no compromise with liberal theology, including neo-orthodox existential theology; (2) giving honest answers to honest questions, to show that the norms of Scripture apply to all of life, including science and art; (3) the necessity of true spirituality "in our personal and corporate lives," so that there will be evidence to back up the propositional truths of the faith; (4) "observable community among the true Christians," covering all of life, including caring for material needs.
He concluded: "In front of us as evangelicals is the danger of compromise of the Scripture. We must back away from this, but beware, behind us is a sterile orthodoxy without the practice of a beauty of community that reaches across all languages, all colors of skin, and all social strata-a community which touches the whole spectrum of life, including the intellectual and cultural and the material needs."
Rev. Michael Bordeaux of London, head of a research center on religion and Communism, was interviewed by Chua Wee Hian, general secretary of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, on the subject of Christian witness in communist countries. There are an estimated one hundred million believers in these countries, and they live under "different degrees of freedom": it is possible to teach children and have Bible study classes in Poland, Yugoslavia, Romania and East Germany, but Christians are harassed and persecuted in the Soviet Union and Albania. Perhaps up to 3,000 Christians are in prison in the USSR. Bibles, gift parcels, and prayer are needed, as well as a recognition of the truth that "when one member suffers, all suffer . . . "
The situation in China is hard to ascertain; various regions, cities and towns have different policies. In a few towns there are public worship services; in others there are small group meetings. A big problem: "Most are still afraid of the suspicious neighbor. No one knows who is the friend or the foe," explained Chua Wee Hian.
The last biblical foundation paper was given by Rev. Henri Blocher, professor at the Free Evangelical Seminary, Vaux-sur-Seine, France, on the nature of biblical unity. He charged at the outset: "Too often, as evangelical Christians, we cover the shame of our differences with Noah’s coat. We sing, ‘We are one in the Spirit,’ and it’s sincere, it’s true, and it’s necessary. But we forget the equally necessary biblical emphasis on the expression of unity and on agreement in thought and deed. We prudently leave a number of tabooed questions to the side; such prudence is not of the Holy Spirit." Whereupon, he grasped the nettle and tried to face the "taboos" from the aspect of what he called "the trinitarian model" ( Eph. 4): oneness in the Spirit, oneness through diversity, and the balance of objectivity and subjectivity.
After exegeting "one baptism," he gave practical guidelines according to "the rule of proportion," that is, refusing the all-or-nothing solutions. Allowing for differences, he appealed that they should not destroy "everything." The differences "do not oblige me to treat my brothers of another persuasion as if they were anti-christs, or as if they were false teachers not to be greeted," he said. "Secondary divergencies must not keep us frown walking together …. God desires us to express more perfectly the unity already given us by the Son in the Spirit, without in any way lessening our love of the truth. We must will as he wills, in spite of our differences-and, at the same time, specifically acknowledge these differences."
E. V. HILL
Rev. E. V. Hill, pastor of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Los Angeles, on the closing night of the congress delivered a stirring sermon that brought together several threads of thought from the preceding days. He preached mightily and emotionally, according to his own racial and cultural heritage, and with biblical authority as he sought to link the proclamation of the gospel with meeting both the spiritual and social needs of men.
The following morning at the last assembly, prior to the communion service, Bishop Festo Kivengere of Uganda spoke on the meaning of the cross. After the service, Billy Graham gave his closing challenge and John R. W. Stott explained the work of revision the committee had done on the Lausanne Covenant (see separate article) and counseled the participants to read, think and pray before signing it. "Christian integrity and authenticity mean more to us than publicity and statistics," he said.
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