Eight years ago the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association and the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association called a Congress on the Church’s Worldwide Mission. The EFMA and the IFMA have as members most of the faith mission boards and agencies and the smaller evangelical denominations in the United States. This Wheaton (Illinois) congress was United States oriented, and was limited in the sense that the large denominations and their churches on the mission fields were not represented. Yet the gathering was significant, its results—including the “Wheaton Declaration”—encouraging.

Later that same year, 1966, the World Congress on Evangelism drew eleven hundred persons from some one hundred countries to Berlin. In a real sense the Lausanne congress is a followup of Berlin. But Berlin dealt quite specifically with evangelism per se, especially the theology of evangelism, and was not in a technical sense a missions-oriented gathering. It did not concern itself chiefly with the fulfillment of the missionary mandate throughout the whole world.

Now the focus shifts to Lausanne, Switzerland, for the Congress on World Evangelization (see the article “Lausanne May Be a Bomb,” page 12), to convene in July. Participants will come from almost every church group and nation; twenty-seven hundred have been invited, from more than a hundred and fifty countries. They will be evangelical in their theology, clear in their conception of the mission of the Church, and committed to finishing the task of world evangelization in this century.

One critic has called the Lausanne congress a “jet age junket,” and has questioned whether such a gathering merits the expenditure of large sums of money and whether the results will be worthwhile. No one can guarantee in advance what the results of the congress will be, of course. But one thing is certain: if there were no congress there would be no results at all. Although no one can be sure that the congress will have the results desired for it, not holding it would deny to the Church a great potential boost toward its God-given goal of world evangelization.

Without question the congress is meeting at what from the economic standpoint appears to be a bad time. However, Third World participants, who will make up a large proportion of the congress, would need financial help to attend no matter when the congress was held. The money they need could be obtained simply and easily if each of 2,000 churches in the United States would pay the costs for one participant. This would be a splendid investment in worldwide missionary outreach.

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There are good reasons to hold this congress and to do so at this time. The Commission on World Mission and Evangelism of the World Council of Churches met in Bangkok at the end of 1972, and from the evangelical perspective this meeting was a disaster. Salvation was defined as “a personal commitment to God’s liberating struggle.” The emphasis was on changing economic, political, and social structures, by revolution if necessary. Lausanne ’74 is needed to reaffirm the vertical dimension of man’s relationship to God, the divine command to preach the Gospel to all men, and the need for personal conversion. What happened at Bangkok makes Lausanne necessary (though Lausanne was planned before the Bangkok meeting and before it was known what Bangkok would say).

Holding the Congress on World Evangelization this year is also important because it will be followed in 1975 by the World Council’s Fifth Assembly, to take place in Indonesia. Evangelicals will join in the fervent hope that the conciliar movement will pay serious attention to what comes out of Lausanne and that it will take steps to recover in principle and in practice the historic mission of the Church. Indeed, the prospect of Lausanne may have had some influence on a statement from the recent Basel meeting of twenty-five members of the WCC’s evangelism and mission commission. This statement said the commission’s purpose is to assist “the Christian community in the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by word and deed, to the whole world to the end that all may believe in him and be saved.” This has a far different ring from that heard at Bangkok a year ago. We welcome the statement and hope that it signifies a change in practice. If Lausanne were to do nothing more than to help to bring the World Council back to the earlier commitment of the International Missionary Council and even to some of the statements from the WCC’s own early years, it would be a tremendous success.

Every evangelical should be aware of Lausanne and should get behind it in whatever way he can. Each day of the congress a leader from a different land will preside over the session. Dr. Oswald Hoffmann of “The Lutheran Hour,” an enthusiastic backer of the congress, will be the leader from the United States who fulfills this function. Dr. Billy Graham, whose vision led him to spearhead the effort in its formative stages, is honorary chairman of the congress.

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W. Maxey Jarman is chairman of a large committee set up to assist invited persons who must have financial help in order to attend. Churches and individuals who would like to contribute to the congress for this purpose can address him at 4410 Gerald Place, Nashville, Tennessee 37205.

Mission Retrenchment

In our view, the primary mission of the Church is the evangelization of the world. With this in mind we publish graphs (A and B) that compare the number of missionaries sent out by North American agencies in 1958 with the number sent in 1973. The statistics are from reports of the Missionary Research Library. The 1958 report was a mimeographed in-house production; the 1973 report was prepared by MARC in Monrovia, California, for the MRL.

The statistics reveal a shocking decline of missionary personnel in the churches holding membership in the National Council of Churches. Other groups, many of them with fewer members and less money, show increases. Underlying the decline in outreach among NCC churches is liberal theology with its depreciation of Scripture and its view that evangelism consists in combatting injustice by changing political, economic, and social structures.

The personnel figures must be interpreted in the light of the population graph (C), which reveals a greater need for evangelistic outreach today than at any time in the history of mankind. The ecumenically related churches, on the whole, are doing less than they were doing a decade and a half ago. But even the groups that are expanding or holding their own are not doing enough in view of the spiritual needs of the world.

Not For Girls Only

Put it down that Camp Fire Girls is not among the many groups in our pluralistic society retreating from religion. Here is one organization that refuses to be intimidated by the specter of religious controversy. New program materials, while very sensitive to the risk of offense, nonetheless emphasize the claim that religious loyalties may properly have upon every aspect of our lives. The trend is to say that there is no such thing as true religion so why bring it up? But we know better, whether we agree or not on what constitutes truth.

To Each His Own?

When challenged about allowing the Jesuit order to survive in Protestant Prussia when it had been suppressed by the Pope throughout Catholic Europe, King Frederic the Great reportedly replied, “In my Prussia anyone can go to hell any way he likes.” But what seemed right to a Prussian autocrat of the Enlightenment era and what is appropriate for a Christian institution may well not be the same.

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Recently, American University of Washington, D. C., appointed a part-time Buddhist chaplain to its student ministry. The move, according to a member of the Department of Philosophy and Religion, is an attempt to minister to the religious needs of both foreign students and the increasing number of American students who are interested in the major non-Western religions. Without approving the United Methodist university’s action in supporting a platform for non-Christian religious preaching and teaching, we would observe that if the presence of an increasing number of interested students is the criterion, then there are quite a few schools that ought to start hiring evangelical ministers as chaplains.

Test Of A Prophet

Periodically in the history of the Church, during times of national and international stress, there has been a resurgence of predictive prophecy. This has occurred in the stressful period in which we now find ourselves. Witness, for example, the phenomenal sale of Hal Lindsey’s book The Late Great Planet Earth. Witness also the predictive disclosures of well-known Pentecostal leader David Wilkerson, who first came to national attention through the events reported in The Cross and the Switchblade.

Last August Wilkerson announced he had a vision of “unbelievable disasters … roaring down upon us” with the “upraised fist of God … ready to destroy pride and to condemn the self-proclaimed greatness of mankind.” Wilkerson foresees “five terrible calamities” that will take place during this generation: (1) economic recession; (2) earthquakes and famines; (3) a flood of filth (pornography); (4) hatred of parents by youth; (5) a period of persecution of Christians, which will include the rejection of Catholic charismatics by the Pope and church leaders.

The first four parts of the vision have happened—and are happening in different parts of the world all the time. The last one has not happened, and this is the one that has drawn fire. Another well-known Pentecostal leader, David DuPlessis, discountenances the prediction that the Pope will oppose and persecute Catholic charismatics. Ralph Martin, a leading Catholic charismatic, thinks Wilkerson’s promotion of his vision borders on sensationalism.

We surely must acknowledge that God has given prophetic visions of the future to his servants in past ages. It would be quite hardheaded to declare that he cannot or will not do anything like that today. But how are we to know whether Wilkerson’s vision or anybody else’s is true or false?

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Scripture gives us a simple test for true and false prophets. What the prophet prophesies must take place—not some of it, but all of it. “And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ … if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, you need not be afraid of him” (Deut. 18:21, 22).

Wilkerson has made known his prediction; the days ahead will either confirm or deny it. We need not decide now whether to believe it or not. While we wait for the verdict of time we can do nothing about the vision and its possible fulfillment. But we can do something about ordering our lives according to Scripture and about carrying out God’s orders to preach the Gospel to every creature.

Belated Regrets

From time to time we have called attention to the reluctance of the World Council of Churches to speak prophetically about the grave limitations on human freedom in the Soviet Union. We have noted particularly its failure to affirm support of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the great Soviet writer.

After his exile the Ecumenical Press Service released a statement by an unnamed(!) WCC spokesman regarding Solzhenitsyn. We deeply regret that, in a grand gesture of too little and too late, the best this anonymous spokesman could do was to “deeply regret” what has happened to Solzhenitsyn. The statement then went on to lambast other countries around the world where “many thousands of people … are either in prison or being tortured or fleeing for their lives because of their expressed conviction on the right of human beings to life, liberty and justice.” The statement concluded by saying, “We hope the concern shown for Solzhenitsyn will be matched by vigorous action on behalf of those many others who are still suffering in detention throughout the world.”

We hope, as the World Council spokesman does, that there will be both concern and action for all who “are suffering in detention.” The World Council has consistently targeted right-wing dictatorships—in Africa and South America, for example. But it has failed to condemn with equal forcefulness the brutal incarceration in Siberian labor camps and in mental hospitals of tens of thousands of Soviet citizens—not to mention the plight of the Soviet Jews, or the absence of even ordinary religious freedom for those Baptist believers who are not, at this time, in labor camps.

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The World Council recently publicized the substantial monetary grants it has made to dissident groups around the world. But there have been no announced grants to Soviet dissidents who suffer from the worst and most vicious forms of deprivation, persecution, and brutal physical mistreatment.

We urge the World Council to abandon its policy of selective indignation. We hope for and would publicize widely a statement in which the WCC speaks as directly and vigorously about the deprivation of freedom in the Soviet Union as it spoke about—for example—the United States’ involvement in Viet Nam. And if the WCC wishes to match concern with action, let it invite Solzhenitsyn to address its forthcoming consultation on human rights.

Have You Learned The Secret?

The energy crisis has come crashing upon us in ways we scarcely expected. Inflation continues on the rampage. Recession is at least hovering nearby, and has actually descended upon thousands who find themselves newly unemployed. Christians now more than ever need to heed the testimony and counsel of the Apostle Paul, who told the Philippians: “Not that I complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want” (4:11, 12).

We need not only to memorize these verses but to absorb them into our attitude. It is all too easy to go along with the whining, complaining spirit that is common these days. Of course, murmuring about circumstances is nothing new. Earlier in the same letter the first specific item that Paul mentions after the general challenge to show forth salvation is: “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may … shine as lights in the world” (2:14, 15).

Paul said he had learned the secret of contentment, and this secret was not to call upon God to smooth out every rough path (or, in our terms, to keep one’s wallet and gas tank full). Paul, unlike some Christians, did not even come close to portraying God as a kind of superservant in the sky who would, if we only ask, eliminate every hardship. He did indeed tell us to “have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). However, his promise was not that God would give plenty but that he would give peace. This peace would surpass human understanding because it would not be like the world’s contentment, which is utterly dependent upon satisfactory circumstances.

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Paul testified that he could “do all things in him [Christ] who strengthens me” (4:13). By this he meant that when he contemplated the person and work of Christ and had fellowship with him through the Spirit, and when he was thankful for all that God had done and promised to do, he was supplied with the strength to be content, whether in prison (where he was while writing to the Philippians) or free, whether hungry or full, whether cold or warm. The same, power of Christ is available to his disciples today.

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