International Congress on World Evangelization

MORE THAN 3,700 delegates and observers representing 150 countries and almost all of the Christian denominations gathered in the beautiful city of Lausanne from the sixteenth to the twenty-fifth of July, 1974. The purpose was to study together the problems involved in world evangelism and methods to accomplish the common goal. The motto of the congress was, "Let the Earth Hear His Voice."

-evangelist for the Euro-African Division at the time this article was written

MORE THAN 3,700 delegates and observers representing 150 countries and almost all of the Christian denominations gathered in the beautiful city of Lausanne from the sixteenth to the twenty-fifth of July, 1974. The purpose was to study together the problems involved in world evangelism and methods to accomplish the common goal. The motto of the congress was, "Let the Earth Hear His Voice."

Highlighting the congress was the brief, simple, covenant-signing ceremony at which nearly half of those present, including Evangelist Billy Graham, stepped up to a white cloth-covered table on the stage of the Palais de Beaulieu and affixed their names as supporters of the "Lausanne Covenant."

The covenant signers affirmed that "in the church's mission of sacrificial services evangelism is primary," and urged new efforts to achieve world evangelization. Evangelism was described as "the proclamation of the historical, Biblical Christ as Saviour and Lord, with a view to persuading people to come to Him personally and so be reconciled to God."

The covenant tried to strike a balance between evangelistic proclamation and social action as Christian responsibilities, also calling upon national leaders "to guarantee freedom of thought and conscience, and freedom to practice and propagate religion in accordance with the will of God as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

Someone posted a magazine cartoon on the bulletin board of the pressroom of the International Congress, which showed a mass of people facing toward the front of a cathedral singing an anthem to God oblivious of a screaming man who had staggered in behind them with a knife plunged into his back. The cartoon was caption less. Whoever posted it seemed to feel that the evangelicals are weak in the area of Christian social responsibility.

However, one paragraph in the covenant sets forth the evangelical position clearly by stating "God is both the creator and judge of all men. We therefore should share his concern for justice and reconciliation throughout human society and for the liberation of men from every kind of oppression. Because mankind is made in the image of God, every person, regardless of race, religion, color, culture, class, sex, or age, has an intrinsic dignity because of which he should be respected and served, not exploited." Later in the paragraph these words were added: "We express penitence both for our neglect and for having sometimes regarded evangelism and social concern as mutually exclusive."

Evangelicals are not unconcerned about man's social welfare. This is demonstrated in various community outreach programs sponsored by their churches, plus a heavy stress on hospital and clinic work in underprivileged areas. However, evangelicals do not feel that they must sacrifice their emphasis on evangelism and Christ's answer to man's need in favor of doing merely social/community work.

Affirmation of Infallibility

One paragraph in the fifteen-point covenant dealt with the "authority and power of the Bible." It states, "We affirm the divine inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both Old and New Testament Scriptures in their entirety as the only written word of God, without error in all that it affirms, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice."

Dr. Billy Graham served as honorary president of the congress and Bishop A. Jack Dain of Australia as the executive president of the commission on organization.

The inaugural address was given by Dr. Graham in his enthusiastic style. With his appealing oratory he analyzed the world situation in the light of the current instability of governments. He pointed out that since many countries now possess the atomic bomb the risk is increased that we will destroy ourselves. He drew a parallel between our day and the period before the second world war, and stated that many are searching for strong governments capable of finding solutions to their problems. The only leader capable of solving world problems is Jesus Christ, he declared, adding that he is personally convinced that Christ will soon return.

Millions to Be Reached

The principal theme of the congress was the great challenge that the non-Christian world offers Christianity. Millions upon millions have had little or no contact with the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is true in both Christian and non-Christian countries.

Some thought-provoking statistics were presented. The non- Christians constitute 70 per cent of the world population. There are more than twenty-four nations with 25 per cent of the world population that have less than 1 percent Christian population. Most of these countries are found in North Africa, Central, East, and South Asia. There are three large non-Christian groups who make up a significant proportion of the world population: Moslems, Hindus, and Chinese. These groups together represent more than two billion people.

A recent study of 860 African tribes indicates that 213 of them are Moslem without any Christian influence; 236 have received practically no evangelization at all representing 13 percent of the population of Africa; 200 million in Africa practice Spiritualism, Animism, or religious traditionalism.

The second important group is Judaism. Forty-two per cent of the 14.2 million Jews live in the United States of America. There are large Jewish populations in the Soviet Union, Israel, France, Argentina, Great Britain, and Canada.

The third group is formed of those who have almost no religion secularists who are found in all countries, but especially in the most economically developed.

Throughout the congress, the growth and dynamism of Christianity in Latin America and in Africa south of the Sahara was emphasized. Asia seems to be demonstrating greater vitality in some areas. Europe clings to Christian traditions but evidences very little spiritual dynamism. North America has a mixed picture.

Much time was dedicated to a study in depth on the causes of the apathy of Christians in some parts of the world, especially in Europe and parts of North America. The problem was expressed by the term "culture Christianity." This new type of Christianity has come to dominate the world scene. It is not the gospel of Christ, but the implantation of a culture, the imposing of the culture of the country of origin. The gospel thus becomes merchandise that is imposed by the use of modern technological means. True Christian happiness is re placed by a happiness that comes from acquiring material things and pleasures.

The church comes to be a club in which the pastor is merely a paid functionary responsible for its continuation. The message that he presents must be in harmony with the desires of those who pay him. If he doesn't satisfy the "club members," he is changed for an other.

Evangelism has come to be a slogan that is used to move the masses. Personal interest of one soul for another has almost died. One speaker used the term "organized lie" to describe the substitution of philosophy, liberal theology, denominational history, and technology for the true faith. The sad result, he pointed out, is a disappearance of evangelism, a missionary spirit, and thus the decline of the church.

Much time at the congress was dedicated to a study of methods of evangelism. Each day the delegates were divided into thirty-five groups. These groups dedicated four and a quarter hours to a study of various evangelistic techniques. Among the methods which received most emphasis were: total mobilization of the church, personal witnessing, Bible studies in families, meetings in the suburbs, group meetings with several families, large series of evangelistic meetings to present the Word of God.

It was pointed out that in the primitive church evangelism was natural communication. It was spontaneously giving the Good News. Christians from all back grounds enthusiastically shared the gospel story as they went about their daily routine of labor. They did this because the love of Christ completely filled their hearts. One speaker commented, "When we go out of the churches into the street, the world is going to know of our faith."

In stressing the importance of audio-visual methods of teaching Bible truths, some interesting statistics were given:

We learn 1 percent from what we taste, 1 percent from what we touch, 3 percent from what we smell, 11 percent from what we hear, and 83 percent from what we see. We remember 10 percent of what we read, 20 percent of what we hear, 30 percent of what we see, and 50 percent of what we hear and see together. These figures are taken from a study by the Mobil Oil Company.

Impressions

The time of the congress was well organized. The organization was simple but very effective. There was a spirit of brotherhood and fellowship. No denomination was attacked. There was no sectarianism. Much emphasis was given to prayer, personal communion with God, repentance, and pardon. Also to the great need for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to finish the evangelization of the world. Worship services were simple, short, but filled with spiritual, personal messages.

One complete evening program was dedicated to a presentation of the challenging situation in the world in 1974, stressing such destructive factors at work as the following:

1. Ecological suicide through contamination of the air, water, and soil.

2. Sociological suicide through the breakdown of the family, divorce, general immorality accepted even by Christians.

3. Intellectual suicide, creating "truths" that are not truths, such as evolution, which removes God as Creator, and the pervasive influence of such philosophies as existentialism.

4. Theological suicide with humanism leading to the "God is dead" concept.

5. Political suicide, both national and international in many parts of the world.

6. Economic suicide as seen in inflation.

7. Religious suicide in which religion is losing its power, accepting the way of "culture Christianity" on the one hand, or "welfare Christianity" on the other, instead of a religion that liberates man from sin and gives him happiness in Christ.

After attending all the meetings of this world congress on evangelism, I would like to share with my readers the impression that there is an added sense of urgency to the finishing of the gospel work. We are living in an extremely important period. Two billion souls have never heard the name of Jesus spoken.

We have well-developed methods for giving the message of Christ's return to the world. Perhaps we need a new vision and greater aggressiveness, an evangelism that leads to Christ rather than one whose goal is simply to add numbers to the congregation and swell the financial in come of the church.

More than ever we need to plead for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit so that we may have true unity among the ministry and laity and brotherly love toward all who do not know Christ.


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-evangelist for the Euro-African Division at the time this article was written

November 1974

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