Momentum is Building!
A host of new voices discuss completion of the TASK by 2000 A.D.
by Ralph D. Winter
Perhaps the most common reason why the average American evangelical wastes a good portion of his time and energy - not on pornography or alcohol but on relatively trivial pursuits - is the endemic condition of hopelessness about every kind of global problem.
"THE WORLD BY 2000"
Hoke has earned his stripes. A missionary for 20 years, he was chosen director of the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization (held at Lausanne, Switzerland), then became founding director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton, and is now not only a pastor but the treasurer of the ongoing Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization.
In order for any pastor to get this same hope for the year 2000, all he would have to do is read the Lausanne Committee's publication, World Evangelization. In the March 1987 issue, the famous evangelical German missiologist, Dr. Peter Beyerhaus, writes a brief history of the Lausanne movement. (See box next column.)
In this issue we are able to widen the selection of writings beyond those with which we began this subject in our last issue.
The whole matter of hope and hopelessness - the spiritual equivalent of health vs. sickness - is a battle of facts. Faith is the spiritual tone which allows us to pursue thefacts and act on them. But faith delightfully steers us in the direction of facts which an unbelieving heart would not look at twice.
John Piper, a member of the Baptist General Conference and pastor of the Bethlehem Baptist Church in downtown Minneapolis, has hope.
The crisis of hope in our day is essentially an unbelieving censorship of the facts,
Young, intellectual, with a congregation deriving from the old, downtown world but teeming with college students. Piper has a young minister of missions, Tom Stellar. Stellar came to the U.S. Center for World Mission a few years ago with 25 people from that congregation. They spent the entire month of January taking the PERSPECTIVES course, went home, and set others on fire. One person took the one-week Coordinator's training and went back to Minneapolis and set up a Perspectives extension course with more than 100 students. At a recent Perspectives alumni meeting in Minneapolis, more than 400 came.
The Bethlehem church now not only has a mission committee, but also a special "missionary-funding" committee which is looking into the problem caused by so many of their members deciding to become missionaries.
But the church itself - not just the Perspectives' alumni - is taking the lead in mobilizing for the year 2000. The members have adopted a slogan, "90 by 1990." They hope to send out 90 new missionaries by 1990! (Too bad it can't be adopted by larger or smaller congregations!) However, this is THEIR motto, and if you stop to figure out how much their 900 members are going to have to pay out to put 90 missionaries on the field, you will discover a real-life repetition of the now legendary Moravian outreach inthe 18th century. Their rule was "one missionary for every ten members."
To be honest, however, in modem Minneapolis it must be easier to send one out of every ten members than it was for the Moravians, simply because American family budgets are so bloated with non-essentials. If we had the high motivation of the Moravians, we could readily live on less and give a lot more. (Most Christians in the world are very poor, as were the Moravians in the 18th century.)
Some, I'm sure, will accuse the Bethlehemites of over-zealous "sacrifice," but the amazing thing is that true sacrifice does not seem like a sacrifice to the ones involved. "Sacrifice" is the misimpression of the onlookers.
But now you can get a LOAD of hope about finishing the task by the year 2000 simply by buying Pastor Piper's new book, Desiring God (Multnomah, 1987). In my mind, chapter 9 is the most powerful, tightly reasoned article on missions you can find anywhere. It is also scriptural, based on solid statistics, and persuasively and passionately argued.
We hope to see this chapter printed by itself, but the whole book is of great value. It punches holes in the whole modem, secular, self-seeking mode in which we are immersed today. But it does so positively. It is no tirade against humanism. You might say it is an eloquent, excitingly attractive statement of the love life of the believer÷the believer in love with God and His Creation, and with His design for our happiness, our worship, our use of scripture, money,prayer, marriage, and, yes, even mission!
But more than all, it gives hope for the year 2000. John, we thank you for this competent work of art. What a potent book!
Gordon-Conwell may be different from all other seminaries in that from its very inception it has had a special commitment to teach missions in every single class. (Only the newly-renamed Columbia Bible Seminary and Graduate School of Missions has had a similar commitment.)
Because of this policy, at one time Gordon-Conwell was convinced it did not need a special professor of missions. Indeed, the entire faculty was so knowledgeable about the subject that about 25 years ago they collaborated in putting out the superb Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Missions . More recently, however, the seminary has come to believe that they do need at least one man on their faculty who is a specialist on the mission industry.
For years. Dr. Davis - a systematic theologian no less! - has had his ear to the ground on the mission dimension of his subject and he is full of hope! Now he has come out with a sprightly new approach to the subject of the Kingdom of God, and Christ's Victorious Kingdom (Baker, 1987) is practically a book on missions.
Yes, the kind of synthesis Davis brings to his subject is what should happen in everyarea of theological inquiry.
In every seminary and Bible school, all the books of the Bible could easily be taught with their proper mission focus. Sadly, they aren't. (Even at the last student mission conference at Urbana, the book of Ephesians was taught without any reference to its theme - a mission concern - the global scope of God's grace!)
Every chapter of church history should be taught with the missionary dimension visible. It usually isn't.
I am told that the world's largest school of Christian Education (at the world's largest seminary. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth) does not have one required course in missions.
When will the Lord's Prayer - "Thy Kingdom come . . . on earth" - be commonly understood as a missionary prayer? The answer is, when more books like Christ's Victorious Kingdom are written by mainstream seminary professors!
In the meantime, as we look to the year 2000, other voices raise problems as well as offer solutions.
WHEN DID THIS HOPE BEGIN?
Not since the previous century had any meeting so prominently talked about CLOSURE, that is, the idea of completing the task of world evangelization. In 1966 they talked about completing the task "in the next 25 years."
But by 1974, ' the next 25 years' meant the year 2000, and so it was A.D.2000 that was talked of: "before the end of this century." Peter Beyerhaus carries the story from 1974 onward in the March issue of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization's newsletter, World Evangelization. As he puts it:
"Evangelical mission strategies are often framed with the goal in mind to complete the evangelization of the world by the year 2000. This does not mean that we expect all nations to become Christian, but we should certainly work toward the goal that all unreached peoples have the opportunity to accept or reject Jesus Christ after a meaningful presentation of the Gospel."