This is an article from the August 1980 issue: The Thailand Consultation

The Thailand Consultation

The Thailand Consultation

Perhaps the Conference on World Evangelization ("COWE") held in Thailand on June 16 27 this year will go down as one of the most productive of Christian conferences. Despite the sometimes discouraging nature of the meeting, it will still earn an important spot in church history.

The consultation was held at the resort town of Pattaya, Thailand in an attempt to develop specific strategies to reach those who have not heard the message of Christ. The meeting was the fourth of a series of conclaves dating back to 1960.

According to Leiton Chinn of the US Center for World Mission, perhaps the brightest spot was a growing interest in missions on the part of North American church leaders.

For instance, Chinn noted the enthusiasm for missions of Robert Schuller, pastor of the Garden Grove Community Church in California and of Gordon MacDonald, pastor of Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts.

An organizer of the conference, Peter Wagner of Fuller Theological Seminary School of World Mission, wrote after the meeting that he believes the conference gave evangelism preeminence in missions and gave wide exposure to the concept of missions to people groups.

On the first point, Wagner writes:

From beginning to end, COWE took a clear and distinct stand on this issue. The Lausanne Covenant affirms that 'In the church's mission of sacrificial service, evangelism is primary' (Art. 6). While recognizing that the cultural mandate (social action) is indeed part of holistic mission, COWE refused to go the route of the World Council of Churches and make it either primary or equal to evangelism.

This stand, he continued, did not come without opposition. A very vocal minority at Pattaya attempted to dislodge evangelism as primary in the mission of the church. They circulated a 'Statement of Concerns' and solicited signatures of participants who would support them. In private consultation one of them said, 'If evangelism is primary then social service is secondary and I object to that.'

Another success, although not as clearcut, was for the 'Peoples" approach to mission strategy.

The consultation emphasized the concept of reaching people for Christ by respecting barriers to the Gospel inherent in cultural groupings.

This philosophy, however, was not wholeheartedly adopted.

Opposition arose from some South African conferees who feared that planting separate churches for separate cultural groups would encourage racism and apartheid. They argued that people should leave their groups and join churches which mix different cultures together. Debate over the "Peoples" approach was evident in several mini consultations.

Wagner notes that many world leaders gained a new appreciation for the need to evangelize the 16,750 people groups yet to be touched by the Gospel.

Perhaps the area of least success was in planning specific strategies to reach these Hidden Peoples.

According to several sources, one explanation for this could be the lack of participation and preparation in the regional pre COWE study groups. Another problem was conflict of methods between different groups.

The final consultation statement summarizes the problem.

Yet obstacles to cooperation remain, which involve genuine problems and complex issues. Some of these reflect either the social, political, geographical, or cultural circumstances or the ecclesiastical traditions from which we come. Others reflect tensions between different forms of ministry (e.g. between traditional church structures and those which are not directly accountable to churches) or between different evangelistic strategies and methodologies. These and other tensions are real

and must be frankly faced. They do not release us, however, from our responsibility to explore with creativity different levels of cooperation together. The Scripture urges us to "stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel" (Phil. 1:27).

To help work through these differences, Consultation members established a Commission on Cooperation.

Our task is still waiting to be accomplished. In a plenary testimony at the meeting, J.R. McQuilkin, president of Columbia Bible College, said that to plant a church in every people by the year 2000, 180,000 missionaries will be required. But, among the organizations represented at the meeting, he said, they could only send 300. At that rate, he added, it would take 600 years to complete the task, if all those who are sent remain alive for 6 centuries.

McQuilkin emphasized the need to mobilize many more laborers for the harvest.

He said he wants one day to stand with his generation before Jesus and say, "it is finished. The task you gave us to do is finished." B. Hogard.


There are no comments for this entry yet.

Leave A Comment

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.