THE World Congress on Evangelism held in Berlin is now history, and whether it will be the spark that ignites the flame that will sweep the world or just another Christian meeting only the future will tell.
The facts are that it was not just another meeting. It was unusual in many ways and those who were there will doubtless never be the same again.
This meeting was unusual because it was attended by representatives of so many religious faiths representing many denominations. But all delegates and most observers were, in the understood sense, evangelicals. Among those in attendance were Lutherans, members of the Church of England and the Dutch Reform Church, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, and many, many others, but all were bound together by a common interest in proclaiming the everlasting gospel to the world.
One Hundred Countries Represented
This meeting was unusual also because its delegates came from so many countries, more than one hundred in all. Each evening during the congress two or three speakers representing the various countries of the world presented the growth of the Christian church and also the tremendous challenge that the church faces in so many lands of earth. While thankfulness was expressed for the gains that had been made, it was frequently pointed out that the task before us is beyond the reach of any human organization. For instance, in the Orient, with its teeming millions in population, approximately 2 per cent constitute the Christian church representing all Christian faiths. This means that 98 per cent of the population of these countries have not yet been reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the task that lies before us. This was the purpose for this World Congress on Evangelism. How can these millions be reached?
We were also reminded of the millions of young people who are growing up in our various societies today who have no religious training or background and who are desperately in need of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. How can these be reached? This was one of the questions faced by the congress. We were also reminded that even in Christian countries such a small percentage of church members are regularly attending church that there is very grave doubt that those who do not are in the truest sense enjoying a Christian experience. Work needs to be done for them and these, too, must have the gospel of salvation brought home to their hearts so that it meets their individual needs.
Only One Subject
This congress was unusual because the whole time was devoted to the study of only one subject—evangelism. All aspects of evangelism were covered--personal, mass evangelism, literature evangelism, communications evangelism, youth evangelism, and many other areas of the giving of the gospel.
After the public presentations in the large auditorium the group divided into several smaller groups to discuss various phases of evangelism. These were very beneficial and produced some excellent suggestions and ideas. The discussions were spirited but very worth while. In all of these meetings there was no promotion of any specific type of activity. Just an attempt to understand the means whereby the world can be reached with the gospel of Christ.
This meeting was unusual because of the nature of the messages presented. The great need of the indwelling presence of Christ and the power of the Spirit of God in the life and service of the ministry was forcefully emphasized. The messages were fundamental, spiritual, scholarly, Christ centered, Bible based, and earnest. Almost without exception these messages could have been preached in any Seventh-day Adventist church and would have been well accepted. There seemed to be a great desire to understand God's Word more fully and to determine what His will and plan is for our lives today.
Prayer in the Midst of Bustling Crowds
The congress was unusual because of the spirit of prayer and devotion that was in constant evidence. Prayer groups, each consisting of eight to ten delegates, met in the various hotels each morning and a half hour was spent in earnest prayer. Prayer sessions were also held in the major meetings of the congress, and always the burden of the prayers seemed to be for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and a willingness to be obedient to the truths of the Word of God. It was not unusual to see two or three delegates praying together between meetings in the midst of the bustling crowd. These prayers were for light, for power, and for a burden for lost souls.
This gathering was unusual because of the spirit of love and fellowship that was in evidence. Men of so many faiths, believers in different doctrines, were bound together in a common interest to evangelize the world with the good news of salvation. Doctrinal differences were forgotten as each sought to help the other to understand how to effectively win souls for the kingdom of heaven. The exchange was most beneficial and very rewarding to those who were present.
This meeting was unusual because it did not seek to glorify past achievements or present strength but to take an honest, frank look at the gigantic task that faces the church and realize that it is "not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit" that the work will be finished.
The Task That Faces the Church
The speakers at the various meetings were some of the most outstanding preachers in the Christian world. The burden of their message seemed to be the tremendous task that faces the church in the light of the little time that remains until Christ comes. Over and over again the thought of the coming of Christ was set forth as the blessed hope of the church, and always we were impressed with the fact of the shortness of time that remains until that blessed event. The messages dealt with the life of the minister, the need for him to put away all sin from his life and to allow Christ to dwell in his heart by His Spirit. Emphasis was given upon the importance of obedience to the truth and to the revealed will of God. The importance of Bible study and prayer in a minister's life was also emphasized.
Friendly and Warm Contacts
As one looks back upon the Congress on Evangelism held in Berlin he is impressed with several very important thoughts. (1) These men were gathered together to earnestly study how they could be more effective in their ministry for Christ. (2) A spirit of love and unity existed. (3) The task before us is gigantic, and only by the power of God can it be achieved. (4) IVe must study God's Word and seek to understand His will and bring our lives and teachings into harmony with it. In every respect it was a good congress. Those of us who were present and represented the Seventh-day Adventist Church as observers were very kindly received and our contacts with these men of other faiths were most friendly and warm. Most seemed to know a great deal about Seventh-day Adventists and without exception spoke very highly of our work and people.
Tremendous Growth of Population a Challenge
The scene of the meeting was the beautiful Kongresshalle in Berlin. This was built in honor of Benjamin Franklin by American money following the war. It is a beautiful location for such a meeting and adequately took care of the needs of all the groups that met for discussion.
As one entered the main lobby he was impressed with the great clock that ticked off the seconds of the congress, but which also reminded us of the population increase of the world. On a plaque in front of the clock were these words: "Growth of the church averages: 8,100,000 per year, 22,000 per day, 925 per hour, 15 per minute."
Then followed these sobering words: "The world population is growing ten times faster." At the close of the congress the clock was shut off and the figures were presented which showed the net increase in world population while we were together. They were as follows: 128 per minute, 7,704 per hour, 184,896 per day, 1,764,216 for the nine days and thirteen hours of the congress. What a challenge this device presented to all present.
The closing service was a most impressive one. Billy Graham made an earnest appeal to all ministers to renew their faith, their consecration, and their zeal in the presentation of the gospel of salvation. It was a moving message.
After the final service in the Kongresshalle the delegates and observers marched out of the auditorium behind the standard-bearers and the flags of the various countries represented. It was a symbolic act of penetration, and signified the renewed acceptance of the great commission of our Lord to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. With the singing of the well-known hymn "Blest Be the Tie That Binds" and prayer, the World Congress on Evangelism came to a close.
It was a significant meeting. Earnest Christian ministers met to seek an answer to the world's great need of the gospel of salvation. 'What the result will be only eternity will reveal. No one can deny the challenge of a world task—it is very great—nor that God's power is needed if this work is to be accomplished.