Pleas for greater coordination and global effort by evangelicals characterized the opening of the World Congress on Evangelism in Berlin. In a stirring speech (page 3), Billy Graham departed from his text to say divisions contribute to the Church’s “tragic confusion” today. Out of the pulpit, the evangelist said the congress meets a long-felt need for world-wide consultation among those who believe in the biblical view of evangelism.

“Where differences of class or race or secondary doctrines or trivial patterns of behavior divide us, I am convinced that the Holy Spirit will be limited in using us for evangelism,” he said.

Twelve hundred delegates and observers from some 100 countries were on hand for the colorful flag procession October 26 at the opening of the ten-day congress. Churchmen from Hungary and Yugoslavia were on hand but other Communist nations refused visas.

Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia made a special six-hour visit to Berlin (his first) during a European tour to throw his support behind evangelism, which he called “a task of paramount importance in this age, as is evidenced by this great assembly of Christian leaders.”

Speaking in emphatic tones in his native Amharic tongue—which was simultaneously translated into four other languages—Selassie came out for religious liberty, and called church unity a “sacred objective” which he hoped would be achieved in our time. (The Ethiopian Orthodox Church of which he is protector belongs to the World Council of Churches.)

But, to the surprise of some conservative delegates, the emperor continued, “We refer to all this only to indicate that this age above all ages is a period in history when it should be our prime duty to preach the Gospel of grace to all our fellow men and women. The love shown in Christ by our God to mankind should constrain all of us who are followers and disciples of Christ to do all in our power to see to it that the message of salvation is carried to those of our fellows for whom Christ our Savior was sacrificed, but who have not had the benefit of hearing the Good News.”

“Arise, and with the spiritual zeal and earnestness which characterized the apostles and the early Christians, let us labor to lead our brothers and sisters to our Savior Jesus Christ, who only can give them life in its fullest sense!”

In his role as opening speaker at the congress, Editor Carl F. H. Henry of CHRISTIANITY TODAY challenged delegates to echo worldwide Christ’s invitation to regeneration.

“Outside of a rediscovery of the Gospel of grace, there now remains no long-range prospect for the survival of modern civilization, but only a guarantee of its utter collapse,” Henry said.

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What the Church desperately needs, he observed, is not simply to deplore the evangelistic paralysis of the ecumenical movement but to devote itself aggressively to the right option.

He asked, “Is it too much for men devoted to Jesus Christ to pledge their hearts and lives to a bold new effort to give every man on earth in our time the opportunity to accept or reject the Redeemer?”

“Evangelicals of all lands and races are being drawn together across the ecclesiastical divisions of the recent past,” Henry declared. “Dare we look for inter-racial teams of evangelists who will circuit the earth in courageous confrontation of whole communities and nations torn apart by racial strife?”

He cited as a major weakness of modern Christianity “its abandonment of the heavy burden of evangelism to a small company of professional supersalesmen.”

He lamented that much of the academic world today fails to present the case for Christianity on its merits.

“Communist campuses caricature the Living God,” he said, “while many free-world institutions simply ignore him. For this superficial disengagement from the supernatural world, our civilization already pays a terrible price both in modern thought and life. Another generation, its best minds aware of the reality and truth of redemptive religion, will rise up to judge our superficial age.”

Henry suggested that while the machine age threatened to make man himself a mere impersonal adjunct, the computer age now threatens to dispense with him entirely. “Nazis elevated only the Nordic race to importance; Communists sacrifice the individual to the collectivity; Western materialists reduce man to a machine for multiplying mammon.… In its search for laboratory explanations, the scientific approach to life overlooks individuality in order to emphasize the universal and the predictable and thus minimizes the significance of human decision.”

But the Gospel, he said, reminds all men of an inescapable personal destiny in eternity, and Christ’s redemptive power is still potent in a generation no longer quite sure of human dignity. “By its urgent call to individual regeneration the religion of the Bible stands between the modern man and the daily erasure of his personal meaning and worth.”

In a public prelude to the World Congress on Evangelism, Billy Graham preached at an eight-night crusade at Berlin’s Deutschlandhalle. An average of 10,000 persons turned out each night, with more than 13,000 on closing night, October 23.

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Across town at the Kongresshalle, admission had to be restricted to accredited delegates, observers, and newsmen, because of the auditorium’s limited seating capacity. The only public service planned as part of the congress itself was an outdoor Reformation Sunday observance beginning with a procession of delegates to Wittenberg Plaza in the heart of Berlin.

At the twin-tiered Deutschlandhalle, however, there was plenty of room. Berliners flocked to the crusade despite a week of intermittent, chilly rain. Local Christians lent overcoats to World Congress delegates who came unprepared from tropical countries.

The crusade, sponsored by the German Evangelical Alliance, drew wide church support. Berlin’s Bishop Kurt Scharf gave the meetings his blessing in a pulpit appearance at the opening service. His predecessor, aging Bishop Otto Dibelius, also attended and on closing night gave a brief evangelistic message.

German church-goers prefer a restrained type of music, but they want plenty of it. Beside the 500-voice a cappella choir, a 100-piece brass band played. An American musical touch was provided by tenor Jimmy McDonald, whose Negro spirituals made a big hit.

But the most moving sound of the crusade came from neither voice nor instrument. It was the sobering rumble on the wooden floor of those taking steps of commitment. Graham’s quiet invitation at the close of each service had only the accompaniment of those tramping feet. The effect was electric.

YMCA leader Peter Schneider, who has always been Graham’s number-one fan in Berlin, interpreted the evangelist’s messages into German, phrase by phrase. Graham repeatedly cited the confirmation vow taken by countless Germans: “Did you really mean it? Renew that vow now.”

The week after the crusade, Graham announced his next major preaching effort would be a “mission of peace to preach the Gospel” to troops of various nations in Viet Nam. Graham said he would not speak on politics or conduct of the war, and that he would like to preach to Communist Vietnamese if he could get to them. The trip, on invitation of General William Westmoreland, will probably be around Christmas.

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