This is no time to slacken the evangelistic outreach of the Church
Imagination boggles at what the Apostle Paul would make of the modern Church if he were to appear among us. He would find much to amaze him and not a little to dismay. High on his list would surely be our attitude toward evangelism.
Evangelism is not a game that those who like that sort of thing may play. It is not an extra for the unusually devout. It is an obligation resting on every member of the body of Christ. It is a duty that arises out of the nature of the Christian Gospel and does not rest solely on the last command of Christ (important though that was). Once God sent his only Son to the world, and this Son died on a cross to put away the sins of men. Since none less than God is involved, the action cannot be regarded as of merely local significance. And since the salvation that Christ brought about is not meant for any restricted group, Jews or anyone else, since there is no salvation in any other, the news of that salvation must be taken throughout the world. How else is the world to know what God has done? The Christian Gospel carries a built-in demand that it be taken to all mankind.
This was better understood by a previous generation. We today are apt to look back pityingly on the men who adopted slogans like, “The evangelization of the world in this generation,” or “Evangelize to a finish to bring back the King.” But they had a consuming passion for souls that puts our tepid generation to shame. We no longer sing with deep emotion.
Far, far away, in heathen darkness dwelling
Millions of souls for ever may be lost.
But we might well ask whether we measure up to the men who did.
Their convictions gave them drive. They carried on a missionary endeavor seldom if ever paralleled in the history of mankind. The last century, called by Kenneth Scott Latourette “The Great Century,” witnessed a flowering of missionary and evangelistic zeal that any generation could be proud to claim.
True, the situation has altered radically. Missionaries can no longer go into certain countries. Ancient religions that earlier appeared moribund have been revived. Islam still presents a solid wall of opposition (though with one or two perhaps significant cracks). The overthrow of colonialism and the emergence of nationalism have often generated a heat against all foreigners, missionaries included. Much of the educational and medical service that used to be the special preserve of the Church now rests securely in government hands. In the more restricted sphere that is still allowed missionaries, they must often walk delicately. They are learning, sometimes painfully, to work under the direction of nationals who are not always wise.
But when full allowance has been made for all this, it is still true that today is no time to slacken the evangelistic outreach of the Church. Although some doors of opportunity have closed, more are open than the Church is using effectively. And control by nationals, though it sometimes brings frustration and difficulty, more often gives the preaching of redemption an indigenous and effective turn.
Modern developments in communication present today’s missionary with opportunities previously undreamed of. Radio waves know no frontiers and can carry the Gospel to places the missionary could never penetrate. Many a missionary can now through one broadcast reach more people than Jesus spoke to during his whole life.
This is the era of the printed page. Millions are streaming out of the darkness of illiteracy and demanding something to read. Where the Church responds adequately, what it produces is read avidly. And, like the radio wave, the printed page will penetrate where its author cannot. Moreover, it has an advantage over the spoken word in that it remains with the reader and can be read again and again.
An area that has so far been little explored is the usefulness to the missionary effort of scientific aids like the computer. Yet it is already obvious that they will be very valuable. Computers can store up the accumulated experiences of missionaries in widely separated areas and periods and relate them to one another. In time, computers may well be used to indicate lines of activity that are likely to prove fruitful.
New avenues of approach are open. Christians in the Peace Corps have the opportunity for indirect witness, while others who serve in their professional capacities in non-Christian countries are usually free to engage in direct evangelism. In areas where the Church is suspect, such approaches are often acceptable.
It cannot be denied that, while the difficulties are formidable, the opportunities before this generation are great. It is accordingly important that we realize our responsibility. Today’s heathen were not reached by previous generations of missionaries and will not be reached by any following ones. Only Christians now alive can evangelize this generation. It is we who must make the effort and do so now.
Some deepening of concern for evangelism is evident. The Wheaton Congress on the Church’s Worldwide Mission was a notable event whose repercussions will be felt for a long time. The World Congress on Evangelism to be held in Berlin later this year is further evidence of this concern. Leaders in evangelism from all over the world will gather to consider what can best be done to present the Gospel now. In the providence of God, this may well provide the charge needed to galvanize God’s people into the activity that the present situation demands. The very holding of such a congress will focus attention on the importance of this aspect of the Church’s responsibility. But only the efforts of Spirit-filled men will discharge it.
The Radiant Joy Of Faith
G. A. Studdert-Kennedy, a British chaplain in World War I, wrote a poem beginning, “Our Padre were a solemn bloke/We called ’im Dismal Jim.” But it is not only “Dismal Jim” who understands Christianity as a gloomy affair. To many church members, Sunday worship is a grim sort of thing. They don uncomfortable “Sunday clothes” and get themselves into a decently uncomfortable frame of mind. They take themselves off to a severe building, dim and gloomy inside, with decently uncomfortable pews.
Caricature? Yes. But caricature is the exaggeration of something real. For most of us there is something gloomy about things ecclesiastical.
The origin of this idea is a bit of a mystery. Certainly the New Testament is not the source. It is interesting to observe that little children were found near Jesus. When he wanted to illustrate a point in a sermon, he “took a little child.” He did not have to send for one; one was there. It is hard to think of children clustering round Mohammed or Buddha. But they came to Jesus. Now, children do not hide their real feelings, and they do not like gloomy, solemn people. The personality of Jesus as revealed in the Gospels was attractive. He enjoyed life. He was a popular dinner guest. Ordinary people gladly listened when he spoke.
And what he began his followers carried on. The word “joy” and its derivatives occur with startling frequency throughout the New Testament. The Greek word for “grace” is akin to joy and might even be defined as “that which causes joy.” One of the words for forgiveness comes from the same root. Forgiveness is a happy thing.
A Christian as the New Testament describes him is a man with a zest for living. So exhilarated were the disciples when the Spirit of God came upon them that some thought they were drunk. Their joy did not arise from having an easy and comfortable life. When Paul and Silas were beaten, thrown into jail, and their feet put in the stocks, they sang at midnight. “Under the circumstances …” we sometimes say in considering a situation. But the first Christians were not “under” the circumstances; they had learned to be on top of them. They lived lives of compelling joy, savoring day by day the sheer thrill of being Christ’s.
Men today have forgotten that the Christian life is a zestful life. One of the devil’s best propaganda jobs is convincing people that life, to be really enjoyable, must have a tinge of naughtiness. Goodness is insipid; a “do-gooder” is a kill-joy. Many are convinced that those of the last generation made life a misery for themselves and their neighbors by being too much caught up with religious regulations, mostly of a “don’t do that” variety. So they have thrown off restraints and persuaded themselves that license leads to happiness.
But the truth is, as C. S. Lewis said, that the devil never invented a single pleasure. Any “pleasure” in sin is a perversion of the true pleasure that comes from walking in the ways of God. Healthy eating and drinking, for example, result in simple and wholesome pleasure. The gluttony to which Satan tempts men does not bring new pleasures. It dilutes old ones and introduces new miseries of its own.
Many today identify the serious with the dull. Yet the really serious things of life are not dull. The scientist given over singlemindedly to his research is engaged in a very serious quest. But he is not bored. He is rather supremely satisfied, and cannot imagine himself in a whirl of activities pursuing only personal pleasures. That for him would lead straight to frustration and boredom.
And that is where many of us are going. We are made for God and delude ourselves if we think otherwise.
Christians live according to their Maker’s specifications. This is what gives them their drive and their joy of living. They do not waste energy in aimless performance of tasks they were not designed to do. In the service of God their instincts and abilities and energies find proper outlet. They have life and they have it more abundantly—and joyously.
Water Is No Luxury
Luxuries are often confused with necessities in our culture, and so we lose sight of what is really indispensable to life. Men can live without wall-to-wall carpeting, split-level houses, television sets, and automobiles. But no man can live without water.
An article in the Saturday Evening Post is captioned, “Our Dying Waters.” The title, while shocking, tells the truth. Few industrialized nations have been more generously endowed with water resources than the United States; yet no such nation of modern times has defiled these resources more extensively.
Because our editorial offices are in Washington, we are well aware of the pollution of the Potomac as it flows by the District of Columbia. And what has happened to this beautiful river is happening to hundreds of others in America, including the mighty Mississippi, which some now call “the colon of mid-America.” The contamination of our waters is more than an aesthetic matter. A dirty river does not simply defile the landscape; it also menaces life and health.
Why are rivers being turned into sewers and subsurface waters being ruined by pollutants? As with most human problems, the answer goes back to sin—in this case selfishness and irresponsibility. Disposing of wastes by dumping them into the waterways of the nation may be cheap, but it is also deadly.
God commanded Adam to subdue and cultivate the earth, not to despoil and ruin it. It becomes a matter of Christian as well as national concern when our physical environment is progressively spoiled through a callous disregard of the responsibility to preserve and pass on undefiled our God-given natural resources. Surely the time is long overdue for Americans, and especially Christians, who ought to exercise their stewardship of God’s creation, to wake up and do something about the pollution of our waters.
The World Congress And The Churches
The World Congress on Evangelism this fall will bring 1,200 delegates and observers to the Kongresshalle in Berlin, that frontier between two diverse worlds. If this congress is to be more than just another meeting, it must make its influence felt in the churches around the world. The congress itself, while of great importance, will chiefly be a summons to action. Out of it must come the clear sound of the trumpet calling and enlisting men and leading to the renewal of evangelism among the people of God.
Those who cannot go to Berlin can still do much to support the congress and to appropriate its benefits for themselves and their churches. The first thing is to pray not only for the congress but also for renewed spiritual life in all the churches.
Secondly, churches might well hold an “Operation Andrew” campaign during the period when the congress is in session, October 26 to November 4. Let every Christian determine to witness to at least one person a day. Let him hand out tracts or Bible portions. Let him tell others what Christ has done for him and means to him. Let these autumn days be a time of rejoicing in the Lord.
Thirdly, let ministers preach on personal witnessing and tell their members what they ought to do and how to do it. Then let them lead their flocks by doing it themselves.
Fourthly, ministers can acquaint their congregations with the prize-winning hymn on evangelism (printed in this issue of the magazine along with the hymns that received honorable mention).
The Berlin congress comes at a good time. Vacations will be over, and people will be preparing for the winter routine. They should have something to reach out for, an objective to attain, a height to climb. The fellowship of Christians transcends the barriers of space and time, and if all will work together this planet can be shaken for Christ in 1966. This is one way all Christians can demonstrate their unity, that the world may believe.
The recent death of Professor F. Kiss of Hungary removed one of Eastern Europe’s most distinguished Christians. For fifty-two years he had lectured as an expert in anatomy. Converted at the age of thirty, he traveled widely, both as a representative of the Free Churches of Hungary and in connection with his profession. He was to have delivered an address at the forthcoming World Congress on Evangelism in Berlin, and we herewith share some of his prepared comments.
“The first Christian evangelistic effort took place in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. The evangelist was the Apostle Peter, and his audience inhabitants of Jerusalem and other Jews who had made a pilgrimage there from all parts of the empire. Those same people who had so recently cried out, “Crucify him!,” now heard a message about the crucified Jesus and learned that they bore the main guilt for the crucifixion.
“There are ten important points. Peter referred to Jesus’ mission, to the guilt of those who rejected him, to the resurrection, to the gilt of the Holy Spirit, and to God’s exaltation of Jesus. Finally he called for repentance and baptism. The results were true conversions, the linking of new believers in a spiritual fellowship, and a sharing of material resources. The risen Jesus put his seal on this by adding new believers daily.
“I can suggest nothing better than that where possible we return to this first evangelistic effort as our pattern. I am well aware that many today consider the message of Peter, and present-day evangelism with it, to be drunkenness and folly. Among them the most dangerous are those liberal professors of theology and critics of the Bible who through their speaking and writing deny the divine authority of holy Scripture and of Jesus, God’s Son become man. Forty years ago Sadhu Sundar Singh referred to such men as those who ‘hang themselves with the rope of unbelief on the tree of knowledge.’ That is still tragically possible today.”
W. E. Hocking’S Death
The death of W. E. Hocking at 92 ends the long career of an influential philosopher of religion whose writings widened the sway of post-Hegelian idealism in American Protestantism. Hocking taught at California, Yale, and Harvard universities, all centers of philosophical idealism in the forepart of this century.
His work on The Meaning of God in Human Experience deplored the decline of reason in religious experience. But it broadly anticipated two facets of later existential thought: that the “I” and “Thou” are inseparable in experience, and that God is disclosed not only in the universal but also in the particular. While Hocking avoided existentialist irrationalism, his rationalistic and syncretistic approach obscured the full claim of special revelation and redemption.
Hocking’s visit to the Far East resulted in Re-thinking Missions, a Laymen’s Report later indicted for its weak sense of “apostolic consciousness” and its absence of a demand for universal conversion.
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