Finish the Job
The 1980 Buildup in Foreign Mission Interest
Last time I briefly highlighted 6 world level 1980 conferences. They provide an exciting glimpse of the drum beat of rising concern for the final frontiers in missions.
Personnel at the USCWM have vitally contributed to every single one of these meetings. Of course, that is only fair because earlier meetings at Berlin in 1966 and Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974 have made mighty contributions to the USCWM's very existence.
Berlin set in motion vast, world interest in the task of world evangelism. A whole series of regional conferences followed, leading to a second world level congress in Lausanne in 1974. The writer was invited to present a paper at the 1974 meeting which required further research into the size and shape of the unfinished task.
A direct impetus of the 1974 meeting was the founding of the U.S. Center for World Mission, focussed exclusively upon the completion of the task. As only one point in an expanding worldwide network of similar nerve centers (39 other points are already in one stage or another) the U.S. Center defined the all important measure of missionary need: does a given human society have yet within it a viable cluster of churches that both fit the society and are reaching out within it in evangelism If not, such a people group is called a Hidden People a term invented by a USCWM staff member, Bob Coleman, stressing the fact that we mostly FINISH THE Job!
The 1980 Buildup in Foreign Mission Interest there is not yet a national church. (We often hear talk as if there is by now a national church everywhere.)
By 1976 a table of figures for the major groups of 'Hidden people groups was prepared by the writer for the joint executives retreat that year of the Interdenominational Foreign Missions Association and the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association. Such groups amounted to 2.5 billion individuals.
By 1978 these individuals were estimated to be found in roughly 16,750 groups a much easier target to work on, and Ed Dayton of World Vision observed that the task, the distinctively missionary task consists in penetrating these groups, not winning every last person the latter is an evangelistic task within those groups, not a missionary outreach to those groups. (Keep in mind that until a church is first planted within these "Hidden" groups no local evangelism is yet possible!)
Also by 1978 a proposal made in 1974 was bearing fruit. In 1974, just prior to the 1974 meeting in Switzerland, a 1980 meeting was proposed for the purpose of gathering mission agency, mission board, and mission society leaders from all over the world. This would be a first. Never before had there been a meeting of that kind, except in 1910 when mission agencies from just the Western world gathered at Edinburgh, for what was nevertheless a significant meeting. Now it appeared that not one, but three meetings were being proposed in answer to the 1974 call.
Melbourne CWME, May 12-14
First of all, the World Council decided to pull back to 1980 the expected 1981 t8O meeting of its Commission on World Mission and Evangelism. In May of 1980, 800 people
gathered in Melbourne for that meeting. A detailed 20 page evaluation of that conference is available from the USCWM ($2.00 postpaid) written by Dr. David M. Stowe, former director of the (U.S.) National Council's Division of Overseas Ministries. I commend this analysis to anyone who wants an extended treatment because Stowe is both an insider, and eminently fair, willing to see both strengths and limitations lie frankly admits that the World Council sponsored conference invested the vast majority of its energy in discussing the environments, opportunities and responsibilities of the church bodies making up its membership while making Little reference and displaying little concern for the specific spiritual plight of the world's non Christians. What this means is that political, social, and economic issues dominated the discussion. Imperialism, for example, was condemned in general, but a threatened walk out of USSR delegates narrowly defeated a reference to the bloody repression in Afghanistan.
This meeting is mentioned only because it theoretically aspired to respond to the 1974 call for a meeting on missions. It claimed to be the organic successor, deriving as Lt does from the 1961 merger of the old International Missionary Council with the World Council. There was sense of mission present but no clear understanding of the spiritual dimension of the task. This is not to say no one present could think vangelistically, but the inevitable result of such wide theological diversity is a great deal of confusion. One Orthodox bishop acknowledged that he did not believe he could regard a certain outstanding evangelical leader as a Christian. No wonder the agenda was highly secular.
Pattaya COWE, June 14-27
By contrast the meeting in Thailand in June brought together explicitly r evangelical leaders, or at least leaders directly representing evangelical MA.j churches. The meeting was thus more unified in many ways than was the one in Melbourne.
It is an open secret that most missionary work in the Protestant tradition has been done by efforts springing out of the evangelical tradition within Protestantism. Thus lot surprisingly it is possible for very nearly the whole Christian movenent in Asia and Africa to be represented readily in an exclusively evangelical conference.
One issue that surfaced early in the meeting was the whole question of whether it is a reasonable strategy to think in terms of world evangelization as a task of reaching people groups rather than merely winning individual unbelievers. It is amazing and pleasing that so much of the mission movement by now is pretty much committed to taking the cultural, group identity of people seriously, in addition to being concerned about individual conversions.
But it is also true that the meeting at Pattaya brought together hundreds of people who were not present back in 1974 when the whole people group approach was first set forth and clarified. And thus, the meeting constituted sort of a refresher course for some people and a brand new experience for others.
It is certainly true that the people group approach is absolutely vital to a reasonable, clear cut strategy for further missionary work in the final years of this century. It is good that among leaders, both at Pattaya and in the mission movement the approach is well accepted.
A second issue that came up may not be as easily resolved. It is the constant resurfacing of the issue of social action versus evangelism. At first glance the two conferences, Melbourne and Pattaya each seemed polarized on this issue. Melbourne, some claimed, only talked about social action and Pattaya, some claimed, only talked about evangelism. One difference however is that Pattaya did not claim to talk about more than evangelism, whereas Melbourne went under the banner, "World Mission and Evangelism" and really talked very little about evangelism unless the word is extensively redefined to mean other things.
Maybe, in a way, all social action, all healing, all good deeds are a form of evangelism, but that still does not mean that all evangelism takes the form of social action. For an evangelical, evangelism includes an essential spiritual element which requires people to become children of Abraham in a spiritual sense, new people whose hearts and loyalties are radically lifted and reunited with a living God.
One observer felt that Melbourne was merely seeking to lift the world into the middle class as its ultimate goal and perhaps reduce the extremely wealthy in the process. Pattaya would not think that goal to be good enough. Pattaya focused explicitly and openly and straightforwardly on the task of evangelism as such, building on a spiritual base
It is still too soon to measure the full impact of the Thailand meeting but it would be hard to overestimate it. One pastor, Robert Schuller, came back and declared to his television audience that from now on he was going to focus his ministry upon those people in the world about whom no one else was thinking or caring. That same renewed determination to complete the Great Commission for the benefit of every pocket of mankind as yet untouched could be the most important kind of determination any conference could create.
SEOUL WEC, Aug. 25
The World Evangelization Crusade held in Korea has a history of its own. Twice before, three years apart, there were major meetings that were held out on the so called Yoido Plaza, which was an emergency airport during the Korean war. This plaza is about 21 mile wide and a mile long, and was carefully painted into ten foot squares so that a counselor would be in each square well over 100,000 counselors were necessary. Unlike the previous meetings, one of them highlighted by the presence of Billy Graham, the second highlighted by the direct initiative of the Korean branch of Campus Crusade. The meeting was this time not sponsored by any one organization at all, but was backed by a wide spectrum committee of church leaders ranging from Pentecostal to Presbyterian.
For many months in 1978 these leaders worked together planning this meeting but finally came to the conclusion that though it would be sponsored by this broad committee of leaders, it nevertheless probably had better be managed by a single organization that had both the necessary administrative and management ability and the willing workers to go with it. That organization they reached out for was once more the Korean Campus Crusade, this time not a sponsoring organization but a colaborating organization specifically asked to manage the event.
What a well managed event it the was! As I was one of the 92 speakers invited to participate I noticed that at the registration desk I was given a small FM AM radio with an earplug and told that I could tune in an English translation of any of the Plaza services with that little handcarried device. I was assigned both a guide and a translator. I was waited on hand and foot. There was .no possibility that I would get lost or go to the wrong meeting. Amazing! In every detail this was a truly well managed meeting.
No wonder there has never before in history been a meeting this large. It takes Christian devotion, and Christian restraint and Christian discipline to produce such an event. And who knows, there may not be in any other place enough Christians to have a meeting this size.
Seoul, Korea, one of the world's largest cities, is unique in itself. Built overnight historically speaking bristling withnew buildings and bustling with Korean built cars, inhabited by a disproportionately large number of Christians verging on 20% of the city. It is the very nerve center of one of the most dynamic populations in the world. This could well be the only city on the outskirts of which an airport could be filled, night after night even in the rain, for a once¬everythree years meeting of this sort.
Undoubtedly this will happen again in three years. Before then, it may even be possible for these Koreans ("have management will travel") to inspire similar extravaganzas of this sort in other places. How about Los Angeles? We could use the Burbank Airport?
But the meaning of the meeting: it constituted the most dramatic, single, tangible evidence in this century of the vitality of the impact of Christian missions. Perhaps this 2.7 million meeting (the highest attendance of any meeting that week) is really only the tip of the iceberg of the Christian power in Korea. Granted the emphasis most of the week in all the various 400 meetings was on the evangelization of Korea and not the whole world. Nevertheless before the week was out, a call was made to the vast crowd of the final night asking for people to stand who would be willing to go to the ends of the earth for Christ if that was what he wanted them to do. About I million people signified their assent to that request! (The very first night 700,000 stood to accept Christ for the first time.)
One amazing thing to me was hat although Bill Bright was prominent there was no one personality that brought that thing together. There were all kinds of key people who spoke from both abroad and from Korea but the while thing it was bigger than any one man. And it will continue.
I was not one of the speakers in the evening meetings but spoke about a dozen other times. One morning I spoke to 3,000 Korean pastors and I had an opportunity to ask them how many of them had members of their congregations who had gone to Saudi Arabia. At least 113 raised their hands. I next asked them in how many cases was the departure of their members crowned by some recognition of the missionare significance of that trip, with a special service, a special prayer or something of that sort. After this question was translated I looked carefully. I could not see one hand!
Thus all of us need to awaken to the missionary significance of people who come to our country or go from our country to other places. I believe God is doing this so that the blessings He has given us can be shared with the nations.
But Korea, and specifically this series of meetings, I shall never ever forget.
Wheaton ASM. Aug. 22-24
I have fudged a bit to throw this meet¬ing in with this series of interOn national meetings. But the American Society of Missiology as it meets annually does attract people from other countries and in any case the group of scholars constituting its membership is the largest group of mission scholars in the world in any one organization, and there are members in many parts of the world.
The subject of the ASM annual meeting this time was a comparison of the Melbourne and Pattaya conferences. I have already made comparisons myself and shall not pursue that, but you should know that one of the major papers analyzing the Pattaya meeting may be of interest to our readers. (Send $1.50 to the USCWM).
The meeting of course consisted of two major papers. One on Melbourne and one on Pattaya plus response to each one. And as you might imagine in a group of scholars the divergences of perspective were forthrightly presented. The ASM organization is not just an evangelical group of scholars, although the evangelical group is probably the largest single element in it, but there are Catholics and consiliar church people as well.
The thing that amazed me, frankly, as I stepped off the plane from Korea so to speak and then went to this other meeting almost immediately, was the degree to which these fellows could work and discuss things so easily in a completely detached way. It almost seemed that reality to them is what is written on paper and not what is happening outside the window, across the street, or across the world.
I actually asked one small group whether it wouldn't have been relevant to have a bit of a report about the large meetings in Korea and the first response derailed the whole discussion: What about political oppression in Korea? It did not seem that there could have been any other important event in Korea to deal with.
Edinburgh 1980 World Consultation on Frontier Missions Oct. 27- Nov. 1
As we have already implied the granddaddy meeting in the year 1980 is the one that was proposed the longest ago, in 1972, and seriously defined and recommended in 1974, namely the one that is to draw together the leaders of mission agency structures on a world level to discuss how literally to get the job of the Great Commission done. Since the whole nature of the 1972 proposal was that the meeting be ad hoc rather than sponsored by any existing missions organization, it was to be expected that there would be a certain amount of paralysis at first as the whole matter of initiative lay before the world.
Leave it to the Scottish however, because two years before the due date it was the Scottish Missions Centre which offered to do something at the host end of things and then on the strength of that, shortly after, a youngish Chinese American leader Leiton Chinn stepped forward and persuaded his own mission agency (International Students Incorporated) to second him as a full time office manager to get it rolling. Finally, a number of mission agencies met together in several different parts of the U.S. and a Pasadena committee was strong enough to become a convening committee, while simultaneously other interested agencies and individuals all over the world began to move in the direction of this meeting.
I have asked the World Consultation on Frontier Mission office to allow me to print their latest Countdown letter which is published in full in this issue of Mission Frontiers This will give you a glimpse of the elaborate variety of different agencies from all over the world that will be coming to this historic first meeting. Never before in the history has there been a meeting on the world level of a sizable number of mission leaders deriving from both the so called mission lands of Asia and Africa as well as the West.
If the Pattaya meeting asked the question 'How shall they hear," concentrating on strategic methods and data, it is clear that a different and significant step further would be the answer to the question at Edinburgh, "Who will go for us?"
Pattaya gathered primarily church leaders the essential founda tion on which any new move to the frontiers must be built. Edinburgh will gather together agency decision makers who can literally field people once the churches are aroused to the task.
In the year 1980 we can truthfully say that the great new fact of our time is the appearance all over the world of mission agency structures that are indigenous to their own non western national backgrounds. These new organizations represent the edge of the edge of the vitality of the non western Christian movements.
Edinburgh 1980 ISCFM Oct. 27 - Nov. 1
This piggy back meeting, the International Student Consultation on Frontier Missions was proposed as recently as last January by a group of mission minded students in South Africa. The South African headquarters has now blanketed the world in reaching out to key student leaders with a beautifully done six page application form for a meeting at the same time and place as the WCFM has agreed to work along side of as a sister meeting.
Leaders in their 50's need the help of young people in their 20's and 30's This is why this double meeting in Edinburgh is beginning to loom up as one of the most significant things that could possibly happen at this juncture of history.
Indeed, it is a fitting climax to the year 1980 for this double header combination of action oriented agency executives plus a large group of eager, ready young people also from all four corners of the earth. The Inter Varsity group at the University of Edinburgh has offered to host the students coming from around the world. The economy with which they are operating would stun even the economy minded mission executives who will be gathering for the WCFM at the same time and same place. But neither conference is an expensive conference. Neither conference has any special source of funds. Neither conference has any organizational sponsorship which could provide funds readily. Both conferences are trying to operate exclusively in terms of the registration fees plus the understanding that delegates will cover their own travel fees.
Some organizational delegates to the WCFM and some young people wanting to attend the ISCFM may not make it simply for the lack of the necessary travel funds. This is why those delegates from organizations that are closer and those young people coming from shorter distances are being urged to offer additional funds to help those who are coming from a great distance.
In any case Edinburgh happens to be the cheapest place (in terms of travel costs) for a world gathering to take place. Somewhere between Frankfort, London and Edinburgh you will find the geographical airline dead center of the world. If indeed it is possible for those who live closer to share with those who come from a greater distance, it will not only work but it will be cheaper for the cause of Christ to fund a meeting in that triangle than any other place in the world.
We can look forward shortly to reporting on these final two meetings That are just before us. I hope some will come through to give help the last minute to several of the new agencies n India and Indonesia) which face restrictions on their funds for foreign travel.