Nearly fifteen years ago, a small group of evangelicals gathered in Montreux, Switzerland, for a few days of prayer, fellowship, and discussion. Among those present were Festo Kivengere, Clyde Taylor, John Stott, Stephen Olford, Bob Evans, Bob Pierce, Carl Henry, and I. During those days a few of us had a dream. The dream was that we could somehow be used of God to bring together the terribly divided evangelical forces of the world to finish the task of world evangelization.
Then came the vision and the burden for the 1966 World Congress on Evangelism, held in Berlin, which was followed by major regional congresses in Singapore, Minneapolis, Bogota, and Amsterdam, and by dozens of national congresses throughout the world.
In December, 1969, a group of us met in Washington to discuss the possibilities of another world congress. After a great deal of prayer and thought, we decided it was premature.
Then in March, 1972, a small group of us gathered at Vero Beach, Florida. We seemed to have a clear direction from the Holy Spirit that we should undertake the responsibility of what came to be known as the International Congress on World Evangelization. That congress, held in Lausanne, Switzerland, is now history. We give God all the glory, praise, and honor for the great things he did. Nearly all the response to Lausanne has been positive.
Don Hoke told the Planning Committee in Honolulu that at least three major things had been accomplished at Lausanne:
First, Lausanne ’74 gave a new look at world need.
Second, Lausanne ’74 gave a new look at world opportunity. It showed factually that “new winds of spiritual awakening and evangelistic events are blowing in many parts of the world.”
Third, Lausanne ’74 gave a new look at Christian responsibility. We have seen that the whole Church must be committed to reach the whole world. Christian leaders have a clearer, more balanced perspective on evangelism and social responsibility.
Now as a result of the approval of a plan submitted to the participants in Lausanne, each of you who is here tonight has been elected to the Continuation Committee, either as a member or as a consultant. This carries with it challenge, responsibility, opportunity, and even danger. There is every possibility that this committee could influence the direction of the Church in evangelism and missions for the next generation. Therefore tremendous opportunities and challenges confront us.
1. First of all we must build upon the determination and the new vision of the participants from Lausanne. I believe that a large portion of the world’s committed Christians are ready to “go” in evangelism. But they need leadership; they need encouragement; they need help. I personally need help in fellowship and advice from you—especially from the so-called Third World.
2. There is a new spirit of cooperation among evangelicals around the world. The final day of the congress, participants from two major European nations commented that at Lausanne for the first time in history evangelicals had begun to pray, plan, and work together.
3. I believe that the Holy Spirit is breaking into our nations and organizations in a new way around the world. For almost the first time in history, converts from non-Christian religions are beginning to be counted in the hundreds rather than one by one.
4. We must capitalize on the spirit of unrest and change throughout the world. Old political orders are tottering. Revolution and change are everywhere. The nations of the world are arming as never before. Many world leaders will admit in private that they believe the world stands on the very edge of Armageddon. But radical change and crisis are our challenge to seek creative means of evangelism. We may be living in “the last days.”
5. I believe that we must mobilize the young people of every continent who have recently been won to Christ. I don’t believe there have ever been as many committed young people world-wide as there are today. They are waiting to be challenged and led in the most decisive and the most thrilling crusade and revolution in history—to evangelize the world!
6. Churches outside America and Europe are wonderfully awakening to their responsibility in world missions. We heard at Lausanne of the more than two hundred mission boards in churches in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. It is our opportunity to help these new societies channel missionaries from Korea and Indonesia and Africa into countries where we Westerners cannot now go. It is our challenge as Westerners to seek new patterns of partnership whereby Christians from affluent nations can cooperate with these missionary societies in prayer, support, and fellowship.
7. I believe we must view nationalism not as a threat but as an opportunity. Jesus Christ was not a Westerner. We do not know what the color of his skin was. It was likely brown and swarthy, similar to the skin color prevalent in that area. He came from the world that touched Asia, Africa, and Europe—but he was God’s Son, who was sent to redeem “the Whole world.” We must seek means to help persons in developing nations find their authentic identity in Jesus Christ, not in pagan practices.
8. Much of the Catholic world is a new challenge to evangelicals in our day. I spoke to ministers in Belgium a few weeks ago, and heard from them of great changes of attitude among Catholics. During our recent Brazil crusade we could hardly believe our ears and eyes as we saw the sweeping changes that have taken place there, even in recent months. A missionary for almost thirty years in Colombia, South America, was preaching some time ago when a nun came to him and asked what she should do now that she had come to Christ. He replied that she should report her experience to her mother superior. She quietly answered, “I am the mother superior.”
9. We must pray for and be prepared for evangelism in parts of the world whose doors are seemingly closed; some are already slightly ajar, and others may soon open.
Unable to come to Lausanne, a group of men from East Germany held a mini-congress on October 10, attended by John Stott. We must reach out to these brethren in prayer and loving fellowship wherever possible. At the same time let us believe that God is going to open a door so we can work with him in evangelism behind the various political and religious curtains.
I agree with Peter Beyerhaus that a new era in the history of evangelization and world mission was ushered in at Lausanne. At this meeting here in Mexico, we must allow the Lord himself to say his decisive word through all the members and consultants on this Continuation Committee.
It is always interesting to me that the most scathing denunciation of any group that Jesus made was against the Pharisees, as recorded in Matthew 23. The Pharisees had started out as a God-honoring reform movement. Judaism was in disobedience. They refused to repent, and judgment, defeat, and exile fell upon them. Sects and parties like the Zealots, Sadducees, and Pharisees sprang up as “correctives” of the religious degeneracy that had prevailed. They sprang from a fervent passion to obey Scripture and carry out its teachings to the letter. Yet the movements all too soon succumbed to peripheral matters and other influences—until they themselves needed correcting!
Time after time in history one could point to corrective measures and movements that have arisen in the Church and have eventually followed the way of the Pharisees. For example, Protestantism became a giant corrective in the sixteenth century. But in the course of time, parts of it degenerated to a lifeless formalism, nearly as bad as that against which it revolted. Kierkegaard wrote:
Lutheranism is a “corrective,” but a corrective which has been made into a norm becomes confusing to the second generation. And with each generation that adopts it, things get worse and worse, until it is seen that “the corrective” produces precisely the opposite of its original description.
As Kierkegaard saw it, then, the central trouble with Lutheranism in nineteenth-century Denmark was this: it magnified belief and minimized practice.
On the other hand, during the last seventy-five years, theological liberalism and radicalism became not just innocent modifications of Christianity but in some instances a totally new and different religion, a religion that denied biblical supernaturalism, a religion that had no need for revealed truth and redemptive grace. Thus evangelicalism was raised up by God not just as a corrective but as a vigorous reaffirmation of historic first-century Christianity.
I believe that through many movements within the Church throughout the world and through many para-church organizations, God has once again raised up a strong evangelical leadership. I pray that we will not fall into the same trap into which our fathers fell. Theological orthodoxy is absolutely essential, but it is no safeguard against spiritual degeneracy.
The committee has a mandate from God himself. A person’s last will and command are usually considered his most important; our Lord’s last command and instructions were, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” He said, also, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
In a strange and wonderful way, the reason known only to God, our Lord tied in his second coming with these commands when he said, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”
We also have a mandate from the participants at Lausanne, representing men and women from six continents, committed to the Scriptures and dedicated to the task of world evangelization. While God has raised up many agencies for necessary tasks and responsibilities in his Church and in the world, this committee is distinctive by its call and mandate to further the cause of world evangelization. This mandate may be seen in the words of the Lausanne Covenant:
To evangelize is to spread the good news that Jesus died for our sins and was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures, and that as the reigning Lord He now offers the forgiveness of sins and the liberating gifts of the Spirit to all who repent and believe.… Evangelism itself is the proclamation of the historical, biblical Christ as Saviour and Lord, with a view to persuading people to come to Him personally and to be reconciled to God.
The strength of this commitee’s work will be not in its “corrective” declarations alone, although this must have a place, but in the positive, productive work that will rally true believers, wherever they are found, to the task of evangelization.
Lausanne built bridges that may both be an asset to world evangelization and a liability. There is a possibility that believers within the World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church, frustrated by the horizontal thrust of meetings like the WCC’s Bangkok 1973 and the Fourth Synod of Bishops, will turn increasingly and with greater vigor toward the common cause of evangelism declared at Lausanne 1974. In fact, we already have ample evidence that this is happening. We should thank God. Dialogue should be established where possible. On the other hand we should beware of the subtleties of Satan. It will take the leadership of the Holy Spirit and great spiritual discernment on our part: there is always danger that we may be “taken in.”
It seems to me that there are going to be two concepts before us here.
Concept One is that the paramount need of the world is for reconciliation with God, and that nothing will benefit men here and now more than for them to become convinced followers and obedient disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. We need more effective propagation of the Gospel, more speedy and sound discipling of the nations. It was this kind of evangelism that pulled evangelicals together at Berlin and at Lausanne. I do not see any possibility at this stage of being united on any other subject.
Under this concept, the Continuation Committee would be a global clearing-house and implementation center for evangelization for thousands of churches both inside and outside the conciliar movement. The committee would not attempt to be involved in all that evangelical congregations or denominations ought to do; it would devote itself wholly to evangelism and missions.
Concept Two would be something good and attractive but quite different. It would say that this committee ought to get involved in all the things that God wants done in our generation. The arguments for this are impressive. Evangelicals around the world do form a distinct body of Christians, and they could have a global headquarters and regional headquarters through which to promote a variety of good ends in a thoroughly evangelical way.
One person wrote in a letter to me,
Our needs are much greater than merely evangelism. Our world organization must serve men, aid development, attack imperialism, fight the population explosion, liberate the oppressed, and do God’s work in the world and all from an evangelical stance.
I do not oppose any of this: in fact, I am for most of it. But I do feel that the Continuation Committee would be off the mandate given us at Lausanne if we got involved in all of this.
I believe that the many good ends sought by proponents of Concept Two should be carried out, but by evangelical organizations dedicated clearly to those ends. Perhaps this could be done by the World Evangelical Fellowship, or by a new organization created especially for those general social-political-ecclesiastical ends—which we all agree need attention.
Because the vehicle for evangelism that has rallied us in Berlin and Lausanne is now one of the most powerful spiritual forces on the horizon, there will be forces at work both to the right and to the left that will try to divert—dilute—and divide! I would not at all doubt that there will be an attempt to capture this committee. What I counsel, therefore, is that we stick strictly to evangelism and missions, while at the same time encouraging others to do the other specialized work that God has commissioned the Church to do.
Now a word concerning the structure of the Continuation Committee. Forty-eight men and women already are on the committee, with a number of additional consultants who are specialists in various fields, and more to be added. In addition I would like to suggest that we have a hundred advisors taken largely from those nominated in Lausanne but not chosen by the Planning Committee. This would give us much wider and broader support in many countries, and this larger group might be brought together every three or four years for a week or ten days.
If we adopt Concept One, then I would like to suggest that we boldly plan for a world headquarters for evangelism and missions. I think a study should be made of the International Missionary Council, 1921–60, which I believe was headquartered in London and in New York. Because it stuck fairly closely to evangelism and missions, it posed little threat of developing into a vast bureaucracy. Were we to have a similar organization but one protected by a doctrinal statement, such as the Lausanne Covenant itself, the fear of another Vatican or another Geneva would vanish. It might have a quintuple headquarters in Europe, North America, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and East Africa. By microfilming, records could readliy be made available to all five headquarters, and the annual meeting could rotate from one to another.
Regional headquarters devoted strictly to evangelism and missions would inevitably be set up by the churches and missions concerned. As long as these, like the international headquarters, studiously refused to involve under the heading of “evangelism” all the other good things that God wants Christians to do and that often so terribly divide us, as long as these other responsibilities were given to groups specifically intended to handle these other parts of the total task, the dreaded central control and the pride and power that go with it would not develop.
In conclusion, let me once again plead that we not compromise the Bible as the authoritative, infallible Word of God, as happened after Edinburgh in 1910.
My second plea is that we not major on negatives. One of the joys of both Berlin and Lausanne was that they dwelt on the positives. They emphasized the positive approach to world evangelization. We did not attack other organizations; we simply stated what we believed the Bible taught concerning evangelism and missions.
While we meet here today in relative comfort and pleasant surroundings in Mexico City, the stark reality is that the battle is joined—the enemy is destructively at work. It is God vs. Satan, Heaven vs. Hell, Truth vs. Error, the Word of God vs. the word of men. But because of the victory Jesus Christ has already achieved, we know the outcome—the King of Kings will establish his triumphant reign.
Early in the 1940s, several of America’s leading scientists went to President Roosevelt and told him they had a formula that would end the war and change the world. On paper it was simply a few letters: “E=mc2.” The mathematical genius of Albert Einstein had conceived it, the American leading scientists had checked it, and from this simple formula came the secret of atomic power.
Amid all the visions, strategies, methods, plans, and programs that have come from Lausanne, the great secret of success will be a simple formula that must control all of the thinking and planning of this committee. It is: E=mp2 (evangelism=men times prayer to the highest power).
World evangelization will be “not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.” Our planning will be of no avail unless we begin, continue, and end in prayer. We must arouse Christians around the world to great waves of prayer upon whose crest evangelistic movements may flow into every nation.
Faced with Christ’s life, teachings and commands to evangelize, his disciples asked, “Lord, teach us to pray!” and “Lord, increase our faith.” Let these be our requests as we kneel before the Lord to launch the work of this Continuation Committee, which may be an instrument of the Holy Spirit to hasten world evangelization and the coming of the Lord in this century.
HOSANNAS: FROM THE REDWOODS
Triumphal, yes, triumphal
not just that You came once
(or once a year)
on a pacing donkey
but that You are here:
here in the canyon’s immensities, densities;
here in my hammering heart.
Not that I rip any palm fronds
but O, Lord Christ, I bring
my branches now.
I offer You
and violet stems;
ferns, bracken; rhododendron twigs.
I offer You new incense:
ginger leaves and stinging-fragrant tang
(this canyon’s newest mountain-myrrh)
I offer You
trillium and sorrel foliage:
each leaf a threeness speaking
of You: Three.
I offer You, Lord Christ,
from forever to ever:
this moment and this mote, myself,
of what You made.
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