by The Congress on the Church’s Worldwide Mission
Subscribed by the Delegates to THE CONGRESS ON THE CHURCH’S WORLDWIDE MISSION Convened at Wheaton, Illinois April 9-16, 1966
Copyright © 1966 Evangelical Missions Information Service
What urgency has prompted one thousand representatives and servants of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ to convene this Congress on the Church’s Worldwide Mission? What contemporary situation has compelled us to meet together to engage in serious study and consultation? What warrants the audacity that directs a comprehensive Declaration from ourselves to our constituencies, to fellow believers beyond our boundaries, and to a non-believing world? What challenges, what issues confronting Christians everywhere necessitate this kind of reaction and response? In response to these questions we make earnest and detailed reply. We are constrained to speak out of a love for Christ a jealous regard for His Glory in the Church, and a deep concern for men’s eternal welfare. Indeed, our response to God’s calling leaves no alternative. WE MUST SPEAK.
CERTAINTY IS NEEDED . . .
Many evangelical Christians are anxious and uneasy. Some are uncertain about the validity of biblical affirmations in this age of change. Why should we put heart, strength, and resources into the proclamation of Christ to every tribe, tongue, and nation of this burgeoning generation? This uncertainty demands that we make a Declaration to bring the biblical mission of the church back into focus. WE MUST REITERATE OUR CERTAINTY.
COMMITMENT IS NEEDED . . .
Disturbing secular forces are at work in the hearts of Christians eroding their commitment to Christ and His missionary purpose. We increasingly shrink from a "tough world growing tougher," turn deaf ears to appeals for costly advance, and rationalize: "Why not be content with past gains? After all, the church is now worldwide. Let the younger churches finish the job." We need honest self-criticism and ruthless exposure of our heart attitudes in the light of Holy Scripture. Self-examination must be followed by application of the correctives. The situation demands deep renewal of our commitment to Christ’s Lordship, and willingness to pay any price and suffer if need be, that this may be accomplished by the Holy Spirit in us and in His Church. WE MUST ISSUE AND HEED THIS CALL.
DISCERNMENT IS NEEDED…
Protestantism is afflicted with doctrinal uncertainty, theological novelties, and outright apostasy. Satan is active, sowing tares among the wheat, energizing false witnesses to propagate doubt and destroying true faith. Christians need the will and ability to "discern the spirits whether they be of God." The church needs the courage to implement the New Testament disciplinary process to guard its purity, its peace, and its unity. God’s people need the prophetic voice, calling for a separation from sin and error. WE MUST LIFT THAT VOICE.
HOPE IS NEEDED…
The world is in upheaval. Forces inimical to the Christian faith are growing stronger and more aggressive. Political movements, especially communism, call to the worship of collective man. They boast that man, unaided by any "god," will perfect society. They often lock step with ancient ethnic religions resurgent and militant in outreach. Pseudo-Christian cults multiply and grow, feeding on man’s innate desire for spiritual authority. A new challenge faces the church loyal to biblical Christianity. What of the abiding sufficiency of Jesus Christ in this context of struggle and mounting hostility to His people? A declaration of hope is urgently needed. WE MUST PROCLAIM THAT HOPE.
CONFIDENCE IS NEEDED…
God is sovereign in our times. We believe in Him, in the progress of His Gospel, and in His triumph in history. We see abundant evidence of His gracious working in the church and among the nations. We rejoice that we can speak of the church’s universality. We believe there are witnesses to Christ andHisGospel in every nation, pointing to the certainty of God’s ultimate triumph. "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matt. 24:14). The Scriptures emphatically declare that Christ shall return when the gathering out of His true Church is completed. All human history shall be consummated in Him (Eph. 1:10, Phillips). WE MUST AFFIRM THIS CONFIDENCE.
CONFESSION IS NEEDED…
Acknowledging our unworthiness, we address the worldwide household of faith, our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the nations. Although we, like them, are the objects of Cod’s grace, having been "washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God," we nonetheless feel the shortcomings of our service in the church.
We have sinned grievously. We are guilty of an unscriptural isolation from the world that too often keeps us from honestly facing and coping with its concerns. In our Christian service we depend too much on promotion and publicity, too little on importunate prayer and the Holy Spirit. We frequently fail to communicate the Gospel in a relevant, winsome fashion. We do not consistently develop Christians of outgoing evangelistic witness and high ethical concern. We ask our Cod and our brethren to forgive us.
But our confession must be more specific. When we make an honest, objective appraisal of our past ministry in the light of the Scriptures we find that we have often failed:
TO stress sufficiently the blessed hope of our Lord’s return as an incentive to personal holiness and missionary passion.
TO discern in any adequate fashion the strategic significance of the task of multiplying churches in receptive populations.
TO trust fully the Holy Spirit’s leadership in newly-planted congregations, thereby perpetuating paternalism and provoking unnecessary tensions between national churches and missionary societies.
TO apply Scriptural principles to such problems as racism, war, population explosion, poverty, family disintegration, social revolution, and communism.
TO encourage that form of cooperation that would eliminate costly, inefficient duplication of administrative structures, and increase the extent of our outreach.
These failures, which we recognize with contrition, require of us this objective appraisal, and an obedient response to the corrective authority of Scripture. WE MAKE THIS CONFESSION.
EVANGELICAL CONSENSUS IS NEEDED…
In addition to examining and rectifying our failures, we have an obligation to examine religious movements that challenge the uniqueness and finality of biblical Christianity. This Congress has been convened because of our concern for deeper insight and more balanced thinking about the peculiar threat they pose to our biblical faith.
The Roman Catholic Church, its outward stance and internal organization altered by Vatican II, and its previous intolerance tempered by an apparent desire for open dialogue, requires our careful assessment and response.
Contemporary Protestant movements that boldly contend for the non-existence of the Gospel revealed by God, that propagate a neo-universalism denying eternal condemnation, that substitute inter-church reconciling service for aggressive evangelism, that blur the biblical distinction between "Church" and "Mission," between Romanism and Protestantism, and that create ecclesiastical organizations moving in the direction of a worldwide religious monopoly, like wise demand a careful assessment and response.
Pseudo-Christian cults that feed on man’s innate desire for spiritual authority, in their intensive efforts to subvert the faith of untaught Christians, and in their deceitful parading of themselves as the true followers of Christ, likewise demand a careful assessment and response.
Non-Christian religions systems, such as Islam, Hinduism,andBuddhism in their new missionary vigor, pose an oppressive threat to the growth of the church, and likewise demand careful assessment and response. WE MUST DEFINE THIS CONSENSUS.
In line with apostolic precedent, we appeal in the many issues that confront us to the Bible, the inspired, the only authoritative, inerrant Word of God. The Scriptures constitute our final rule of faith and practice. With the Apostle Paul "we also believe, and therefore speak." Furthermore, the New Testament gives us the apostolic norm of balance between proclamation (kerygma) and service (diakonia). We ask only that those of like faith ponder our words in the light of Scripture, and thereby ascertain their truthfulness.
We regard as crucial the "evangelistic mandate." The Gospel must be preached in our generation to the people of every tribe, tongue, and nation. This is the supreme task of the church. We accept the New Testament description of "the gospel." By it we have entered into spiritual life. The Gospel concerns the God-man, Jesus of Nazareth, who appeared in time and through whom God acted in a unique fashion. Though crucified and put to death, He was resurrected bodily by God’s power. Christ died for us, shedding His blood as an atonement for our sins. In and through Him all men can be reconciled with God, made fit for His presence, and His fellowship.
In Him has been made possible a nest type of life, a Christ-centered, Christ-controlled life. Through the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ we call every man wherever he may be to a change of heart toward God (repentance), personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, and surrender to His Lordship. The proclamation of this "good news" has at its heart the explicit imperative, "Ye must be born again." God says He will judge the world by His crucified, risen Son. We believe that if men are not born again, they will be subject to eternal separation from a righteous, holy God. "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3).
WE NOW ADDRESS OURSELVES TO THOSE CRUCIAL ISSUES, PARTICULARLY RELATED TO THE CHURCH’S WORLDWIDE MISSION 1N OUR DAY…
The Underlying Issues. On this shrinking planet with all human affairs moving toward an age of universality never previoush witnessed, many voices call for a religion that has universal validity. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the message that has this validity. Syncretism, for our purpose, is the attempt to unite or reconcile biblically revealed Christian truth with the diverse or opposing tenets and practices of non-Christian re ligions or other systems of thought that deny it. Alarming are the deviant and heretical views within Christendom advocating a depersonalized theism acceptable to religions of East and West. Such syncretism denies the uniqueness arid finality of Christian truth.
Since syncretism readily develops where the Gospel is least understood arid experienced, great clarity must be sought in presenting the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and the precise message of His saving work as revealed in the Bible. For effective, relevant communication of the Gospel across cultural and religious barriers, we must first divest our presentation of those cultural accretions which are not pertinent to essential Gospel truth. The truth should then be communicated in the context of the meaningful and pertinent Linguistic and cultural terms of people that they may also come to a decisive understanding of the Gospel.
We must resist syncretism in spite of any opposition we may encounter and we must bear our testimony with humility and dignity.
The Witness of the Scriptures. The Old Testament prophets were unrelenting in their witness against the syncretistic practices of Israel. The New Testament apostles likewise combatted the syncretistic tendencies of their age, such as Gnosticism, in their defense oftheGospel. Our dominant thrust is that the one and only true God has disclosed Himself in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word, and in the Scriptures, the written Word. Biblical faith is unique because it is revealed. To add to it or to change it is to pervert it. "God, who . . spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son" (Heb. 1:1,2).
WE THEREFORE DECLARE:
THAT while seeking greater effectiveness in this communication of the Christian faith, acknowledging the uniqueness and finality of Jesus Christ, we shall expose the dangers of syncretism.
THAT in the communication of our faith we must avoid unbiblical cultural accretions and emphases that may tend to obscure Christian truth.
THAT we shall acquaint our total leadership more carefully with the religious beliefs and thought forms of the peoples among whom they live and serve, relative to syncretistic tendencies.
The Underlying Issues. During the first nineteen centuries of the history of the church any teaching suggesting that all men ultimately will be redeemed was vigorously rejected as heretical. In our day universalism is rapidly coming into the mainstream of teaching acceptable to some leading Protestant and Roman Catholic theologians. Many prominent church leaders increasingly champion this viewpoint. The new universalism is based upon a fragmented usage of Scripture, not on an exposition of the Scripture in total wholeness and context.
The teaching of universalism, which we reject, states that, because Christ died for all, He will sovereignly and out of love bring all men to salvation. It proclaims the essential and final unity of the human race, which will never be broken-now or in the future-by God or by man. All mankind is "reconciled"; those who have met Christ have an advantage above those who have not, but it is a difference in degree, not in principle. If men do not believe the Gospel in this life-even if they reject it-their guilt and punishment will ultimately be removed. They are simply not conscious of the riches they possess.
The issue with universalism is not simply one of elevating human reason above the clear witness of the Scriptures and biblical Christianity. The whole mission of the church is affected. The universalist merely proclaims a universal Lordship of Christ and summons men to acknowledge it in their lives. This can readily lead to syncretism and the eventual abandonment by the church of its missionary calling. Christ is being betrayed by those calling themselves His friends.
The Witness of the Scriptures. We fervently accept the universal character of the claims of Scripture: God loves the world (John 3:16); Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2); all things have been reconciled to God through Christ (Col. 1:20). Cod desires all men to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), and to unite all things in Christ (Eph. 1:10) so that every knee should bow and every tongue confess His Lordship (Phil. 2:10); that God may he "all in all" (1 Cor. 1.5:28). Scripture, however, must explain Scripture. Christ taught eternal punishment as well as eternal life, of the cursed as well as the blessed (Matt. 25:34, 41, 46). Paul taught eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord of all who obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus (2 Thess. 1: 8, 9). Although God’s claims are universal and His triumph will be universal, yet His saving grace is effective only in those who believe on Christ (John 1:12). There is a heaven and a hell; there are the saved and the lost. Scripture gives us no other alternative; we must take seriously all it savs of the wrath Lord judgments of the Gal and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
WE THEREFORE DECLARE:
THAT we will ourselves be more forthright and thorough in our preaching and teaching of the testimony of the Bible on the awful reality ofeternalloss through sin and unbelief.
THAT we encourage all evangelical theologians to intensify their exegetical study of the Scriptures relating to eternal punishment and the call to redemption and reconciliation.
THAT since the mission of the church inescapably commits us to proclaim the Gospel which offers men the forgiveness of sins only through faith in Jesus Christ our verbal witness to Him should accompany our service to the poor, the sick, the needy, and the oppressed.
THAT the repudiation of universalism obliges all evangelicals to preach the Gospel to all men before they die in their sins. To fail to do this is to accept in practice what we deny in principle.
The Underlying Issues. The word "proselytism" means "the making of a convert, especially to some religious sect, or to some opinion, system, or party." Recently the word has also been used as a charge against evangelistic efforts, especially among those who are members of any denomination or other ecclesiastical body. In reaction to the dynamic witness of evangelicals, some religious groups and nationalistic forces have demanded that "proselytism can and should be controlled."
The proselytism that includes forced conversion or the use of unethical means (material and ‘or social) is contrary to the Gospel of Christ, and should be distinguished from that which is biblical and genuine
The Witness of the Scriptures. Throughout the New Testament the apostles and other Christians ceaselessly proclaimed Christ and persuaded men to accept Him renouncing their old religious allegiances and joining the Christian church (Acts 5:29; 8:4; 13:15-41; 18:4-11; 19:8). The Jews through whom the revelation of God was transmitted and the idol-worshiping Gentiles alike were exhorted to repent, believe, and be baptized; they then became members of a church.
WE THEREFORE DECLARE:
THAT all followers of Christ must disciple their fellowmen. From this obligation there can be neither retreat nor compromise.
THAT we shall urge church and government leaders throughout the world to work for the inalienable right of full religious liberty everywhere This means freedom to propagate and to change one’s faith or church affiliation, as well as the freedom to worship God.
THAT we shall obey God rather than men in resisting the monopoly listic tendencies both within and without Christendom that seek to stifle evangelical witness to Jesus Christ.
THAT we shall not use unbiblical, unethical methods of persuading people to change their religious allegiance. However, when we seek the conversion of unregenerate men, even though they may be attached to some church or other religion, we are fulfilling our biblical mandate.
The Underlying Issues. Some remarkable changes have taken place within the Roman Catholic Church that have introduced a new climate in its relations with Protestantism, Orthodoxy, Judaism, and the secular world. Differences that were once clearly etched have now become blurred. In this revolutionary age churchmen increasingly call for Catholic and Protestant renewal, in order to solve cooperatively the human problems of our era.
Vatican II has accelerated this desire for renewal. New emphases on hiblical research have created formidable problems for Roman Catholic leaders.
Church authorities have never been so vocal in calling for an intensification of worldwide missionary activity. Many of their theologians display great interest in speculative universalism and existentialism. They also consider Protestants as "separated brethren" and desire friendly relations with them. And yet, whereas Roman Catholic practices may change, they say their dogmas are unchangeable. According to the Roman Catholic view, reunion of the churches must be on papal terms.
Though the Roman Catholic Church has a high view of Scripture, tradition continuesto havea determinative authority. Its reform of the Mass is only a reform of the liturgy of the Mass. It has not abandoned any of its unbiblical dogmas concerning Mary, papal infallibility, etc.
The Witness of the Scriptures. The Word of God pronounces its own judgment upon the sacerdotalism and sacramentalism of the Roman Catholic Church. The Scriptures teach:
The Bible as the infallible revelation from God (sola scriptura) (2 Tim: 3:15-17).
There is one Mediator between God and man, "the Man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5).
The finished work of Christ with no re-presentation of that sacrifice (Heb. 10:4).
Justification by faith alone apart from works (sola fide) (Rom. 1:17; 3:20-26).
The universal priesthood of all believers (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Heb. 10:19-22).
Mary herself needed a Savior (Luke 1:46-48).
In the celebration of the Lord’s Supper the elements remain in form and essence, bread and wine (1 Cor. 11:25, 26 with 1 Cor. 10:17).
Jesus Christ is the only Head of the Body which is His Church (Eph. 1:20-23).
WE THEREFORE DECLARE
THAT we rejoice in the wider use of the Scriptures among Roman Catholics.
THAT we shall pray that all those who study the Scriptures will be led by the Holy Spirit to saving faith in Christ.
THAT we shall urge evangelicals to seize today’s unique opportunities for witness among Roman Catholics.
THAT we recognize the danger of regarding the Roman Catholic Church as "our great sister church," even as we affirm the abiding validity of the scriptural principles of the Reformers, that salvation is through faith in Christ alone and that the Bible is the only rule of faith and practice.
MISSION-AND CHURCH GROWTH
The Underlying Issues. The church’s work is to preach the Gospel and plant congregations in every community. The implementation of this mission is being retarded by:
Too little sensitivity to the authority and strategy of the Holy Sprit.
Too much missionary control.
Too much dependence on pad workers.
Too little training and use of the great body of laymen.
Complacency with small results long after a larger response could have been the norm.
Failure to take full advantage of the response of receptive peoples.
Overemphasis on institutionalism at the expense of multiplying churches.
In today’s world vast untouched areas are still to be found near existing churches. Huge sections of cities containing but a few congregations are increasingly responsive to the Gospel. It is God’s will that churches be multiplied. Thus the missionary still has an essential place in the dynamism of church growth even as he continues to exercise a spiritual ministry in the churches already established. But his particular ministry will be in the vanguard of planting new congregations.
The Witness of the Scriptures. In the Acts of the Apostles local congregations were God’s primary agents for the widespread dissemination of the Gospel. The total mobilization of the people and resources of the churches in effective, continuous evangelistic outreach is indispensable to the evangelization of the world (Acts 17:1-4 with 1 Thess. 1:8, 9; Eph. 4: 16). Church planting has the priority among all other missionary activities, necessary and helpful though they may be.
Apostolic procedures point to a confidence in the local church under the control of the Holy Spirit (Acts 14:23; Rom. 15:14). True, on occasion, local churches experienced spiritual failure, but despite such setbacks the church moved on and outward. From the beginning the churches governed, supported, and reproduced themselves (Acts 19:10, 20).
WE THEREFORE DECLARE
THAT we reaffirm our confidence in and dependence on the Holy Spirit and call on the church to pray for that revival which is indispensable for its growth and outreach.
THAT we call upon all churches, mission societies, and training institutions to studydiligently thenature, ministry, and growth of the church as set forth in Scriptures.
THAT we urge that research be carried out by nationals and missionaries in all parts of the world to learn why churches are or are not growing and make such knowledge available.
THAT we urge the missionary enterprise to evaluate church growth opportunities now overlooked and to review the role, methods, and expenditures of our agencies in the light of their significance to evangelism and church growth.
THAT we should devote special attention to those people who are unusually responsive to the Gospel and will reinforce those fields with many laborers.
THAT we must pray earnestly that the Holy Spirit will bring the less responsive fields to early harvest. We will not leave them untended.
MISSIONS-AND FOREIGN MISSIONS
The Underlying Issues. In this day of unprecedented missionary activity urgent questions- are being asked. What is the role of the missionary? What is his relation to the national church? Is his allegiance primarily to the church that sent him or to the newly established national church with which he serves? Who is to administer funds coming from the sending churches? How should they be used? Should the churches be fully self-supporting? Should church and mission organizations remain separate and distinct, or should the latter lose their identity? The issue is whether missionary service as presently conducted is in accord with Scripture.
Currently many claim it is impossible to maintain on biblical grounds the concept of the missionary society as a sending agency distinct from any national organization of churches on the field. Such thinking tends to obliterate the distinctive ministry of "foreign missionary." This kind of emphasis may diminish interest in missionary vocation on the part of Christian youth.
The Witness of the Scriptures. In obedience to the Great Commission the church has the continuing responsibility to send missionaries into all the world (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 13:1-4).
The New Testament says many went forth according to our Lord’s command. As a result believers were added to the Body of Christ (Acts 8:12; 11:21, 24). New converts were gathered into congregations where they found fellowship and grew in grace (Acts 2:42; 9:31).
God gave to the churches prophets evangelists, and teaching pastors (Eph. 4:11). The apostles founded churches, they taught and functioned as advisors in the selection of local leadership (Titus 1:5); they strengthened and exhorted the churches (Acts 14:22; 15:41); they charged leaders with specific responsibilities of office (1 Tim. 1:18; 3:1-14); they also gave guidance in matters of discipline and doctrine (1 Cor.; Acts 15). The Holy Spirit works through missionaries similarly today.
In the New Testament no clearly defined structure for church-mission relationships can be adduced.
WE THEREFORE DECLARE
THAT we encourage church and mission leaders to define the role and to enlarge the vision of those called to pastoral or missionary service.
THAT the proper relationship between churches and missions can only be realized in a cooperative partnership in order to fulfill the mission of the church to evangelize the world in this generation.
THAT the mission society exists to evangelize, to multiply churches and to strengthen the existing churches. Therefore we recognize a continuing distinction between the church established on the field and the missionary agency.
MISSION-AND EVANGELICAL UNITY
The Underlying Issues. The unity of the Church of Jesus Christ is directly and significantly related to her worldwide mission. Our Lord’s earnest petition to the Father on behalf of His Church (John 17) was for her essential spiritual unity and its visible expression in the world. His concern "that they all may be one" was in order "that the world may believe that thou hast sent me."
Today many voicescall fororganizational church union at the expense of doctrine and practice (faith and order). Denominational divisions are seen as the great "scandal" of our day. Union becomes a major objective. However, organizational church union of itself has seldom released a fresh missionary dynamism, or an upsurge of missionary recruitment.
Christians having been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and who agree on the basic evangelical doctrines can experience a genuine biblical oneness even if they belong to different denominations. Such genuine biblical oneness cannot exist among those who have not been regenerated or among those who disagree on the basic evangelical doctrines even if they belong to the same denomination. Evangelicals, however, have not fully manifested this biblical oneness because of carnal differences and personal grievances and thus missionary advance and the fulfillment of the Great Commission have been hindered.
The Witness of the Scriptures. Concerning the nature of the unity of the church we learn from Scripture:
It is a unity given by God, to be preserved (John 17:21; Eph. 4:3-6) .
It is a unity of essence, a new regenerate society whose individual members have been given a new nature-life in the Spirit (John 3:6; 1 Cor. 12:13; 2 Cor. 5:17; 2 Pet. 1:4).
It is a unity of belief, centered in the Person and work of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:1-4 with Galatians 1:8; Eph. 4: 12-16; Col. 1:27-29).
It is a unity intrinsic to the fulfillment of God’s missionary purpose for the world (John 17:20, 21, 23; Eph. 4:16; Phil. 1:27).
WE THEREFORE DECLARE
THAT we are one in Christ Jesus, members of His Body, born again of His Holy Spirit, although we may be diverse in our structured relationships.
THAT we will endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace so that the world may believe.
THAT we shall encourage and assist in the organization of evangelical fellowships among churches and missionary societies at national, regional, and international levels.
THAT we shall encourage evangelical mission mergers when such will eliminate duplication of administration, produce more efficient stewardship of personnel and resources, and strengthen their ministries.
THAT we caution evangelicals to avoid establishing new churches or organizations where exis