Evangelism, Our Way

Church leaders from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union say they are getting too much of the wrong kind of help from the West in evangelizing their recently opened countries. About 170 delegates from 56 countries met for a six-day summit on “Evangelism in Post-Marxist Situations,” which coincided with the annual business meeting of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization in Budapest.

Ineffective results from mass evangelism and lack of follow-up are two of the problems facing churches in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, said Steve Weber, Eastern European regional director of Issachar, a research group that just completed mass surveys concerning recent evangelism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. “When Americans come over here to help, they often make the Soviet Christians feel they are inferior,” Weber said. “Some of the Americans want to hold mass evangelism services that Soviet Christians think are entertainment shows.”

Ministers from Bulgaria and Romania said revival is sweeping their countries, but warned Christians from other parts of the world about providing too much assistance in only a few areas of church life, such as evangelistic outreach.

Lausanne delegates adopted a set of suggestions aimed at the estimated 430 Christian organizations working in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Among its recommendations, the committee urged the groups to “avoid going to the cities where other groups are working.… Don’t speak at Sunday worship services, but use the time instead to teach and equip young leaders. Spend as much money on follow-up as on evangelistic campaigns and media events.… Follow the pattern of church planting in [South] Korea, which emphasizes establishing house churches.”

Christians Voice Support

Nearly 5,000 Christians from 75 countries visited Israel in late September for the twelfth annual Christian Feast of Tabernacles. The week-long pilgrimage is designed to educate Christians about the Jewish roots of their faith and to encourage support for Israel and the Jewish people, says Jan Van der Hoeven, spokesman for International Christian Embassy, which sponsored the event.

The gathering included about 1,000 evangelicals from the United States, 500 from Germany, and 800 from Scandinavian countries, as well as representatives from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

In early September, a separate group of about 120 American clergy and religious activists met with Israeli government leaders to express their support of Israel. The all-expenses-paid trip, led by Religious Right activist Ed McAteer of the Religious Roundtable, also promoted a Christian prayer breakfast for Israel. For the past ten years, the prayer breakfast was held in conjunction with the annual convention of the National Religious Broadcasters in Washington, D.C., but it will convene next March 23 in Jerusalem.

Missionaries Evacuate

Missionaries were forced to evacuate from Zaire late last month as rebellious government soldiers brought to an end the dictatorship that had ruled the central African nation for 26 years. About 3,000 soldiers—angry at not being paid for months—parachuted into the capital city of Kinshasa, closing its airport and looting the area. More than 110 people were killed in ensuing riots. No missionaries were reported killed. At press time, fighting had subsided as President Mobutu Sese Seko promised to share power with a transitional government.

Representatives of the Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF), the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and the Mennonite Central Committee all reported their facilities in Zaire had been looted and damaged. MAF’s Africa director, Bob Fetherlin, said MAF had lost between $500,000 and $1 million in materials during a 48-hour period, as their hangars, offices, and residences were “completely stripped.”

Briefly Noted

Formed: The Evangelical Alliance in Czechoslovakia, on June 11 in Prague. The newly established alliance will coordinate special evangelistic programs in the country.

Cleared: Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the exiled author of books on life in Stalin’s gulag, to return to his Russian homeland. The chief Soviet prosecutor officially closed the 1974 treason case against Solzhenitsyn, more than 17 years after he was expelled from the country to the U.S.

Recognized: Youth with a Mission (YWAM) as the first missions group to conduct work in all 223 countries of the world, says mission researcher David Barrett. Thirty YWAM workers recently sailed 1,200 miles from Tahiti to reach remote Pitcairn Island, population 58, where the mutinous crew of the HMS Bounty landed in 1790.

Opened: the special collection of the entire Dead Sea Scrolls held by the Huntington Library in California. The library is one of a few worldwide holding microfilm copies of the scrolls as protection against loss of the originals. Until recently, only a small group of scholars has had access to the scrolls. That monopoly was initially broken about two weeks prior to the library’s decision to release their copy, when two Hebrew scholars, with the aid of a computer, successfully recreated a full copy of the scrolls for publication (CT, October 7, 1991, p. 48).

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