Revolution is coming, and if the evangelical church wants a piece of the action it must begin to come to grips with the burning issues of the day. This challenge confronted a recent week-long gathering of more than 300 evangelical leaders. Most seemed ready to respond.

Seminar ’70, sponsored by Christian Leadership Seminars, brought together at a Buck Hill Falls, Pennsylvania, resort a cross section of top evangelical leaders to consider “Youth, the Church and the World.” Some college students represented the younger generation.

On the opening night, Francis Schaeffer of Switzerland’s L’Abri Fellowship warned that problems the Church encountered in the sixties are “child’s play” compared to what it will face in the “post-Christian” seventies. In the sessions that followed, the group took a long, hard look at the Church and the present decade.

Black evangelist Tom Skinner painted a sad picture of evangelicals’ failure to reach the inner city and the black community. He charged that black people are locked out of the evangelical church and called upon evangelicals to present a “de-honkified Christ” to blacks. He also said that in many instances evangelicals’ efforts in the inner city are hampered because no evangelical churches remain there.

It became clear at the conference that frustration with the Church felt by the young is not confined to those outside it. Evangelical young people questioned how they could continue to work within the structure of the evangelical establishment when leaders seem “hung up” on the status quo and deny them the freedom to carry out the implications of their Christian faith in the political and social realm. The group responded to their plea for change with an openness to forms that would help the Church tune in to the world of young people. Some of these forms, such as drama and the coffeehouse (complete with folk and rock music), were introduced in the evening sessions.

Schaeffer affirmed that the Church must always hold on to the absolutes clearly taught in Scripture (orthodoxy of doctrine, orthodoxy of compassion, certain matters of polity) but called for New Testament freedom in the area of non-absolutes (including a freedom to break away from the “evangelical liturgy”).

Samuel Moffett of the Presbyterian Seminary in Seoul, Korea, sounded a note of optimism and encouragement. Rejecting the idea that the human race, the Church, and the missionary movement are near the end, he quoted heartening statistics demonstrating rapid church growth in several areas not yet affected by the “church blight” that has hit America. And he contended that though the mission in the foreign field has changed considerably, professional missionaries are still needed.

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Seminar ’70 was a time for exposure and interchange. Young and not-so-young were beginning to listen to each other. Some might feel that at times the talk was too radical and too “socially” oriented to be “evangelical.” But there was never any doubt that the Scriptures were the absolute authority governing every discussion, or that the group saw as its primary mission bringing lost men to Christ. In fact, it was this twofold commitment that compelled those present to relate biblical truth to the needs of society and individuals.

Carl F. H. Henry, editor-at-large of CHRISTIANITY TODAY and professor at Eastern Baptist Seminary, warned that if they keep on the way they’re going, by 1975 evangelicals might as well be in the Dead Sea Caves as far as a formative influence on Western culture is concerned. He warned of the danger of perpetuating Christianity’s isolation on the margin of culture to the detriment of both the world and the Church.

Henry sounded a word of caution against Christians’ casting their lot with what is “anti”; Christians are pro-Christos, he said.

Most attending the seminar were from what program-committee chairman Glenn Heck called the “mid-generation,” the “emerging evangelical leadership,” a group ready to accept young people and to move out with them to face the problems of the day. For some, the conference was a freeing experience: they concluded that the forms of biblical Christianity weren’t so rigid as they had thought. And they decided they could confront the needs of the whole man without compromising their evangelical heritage.

But many expressed concern about how to share their “freedom” with those “back home” who would probably want no part of it. Some compared Seminar ’70 with the Minneapolis U. S. Congress on Evangelism, but indicated they experienced greater involvement in the seminar.

In his closing address, Schaeffer said: “Don’t worry about youth; worry about the Church. If the Church is what it should be, youth will be there.” He warned that the evangelical church is dreadfully behind, adding: “We specialize in being behind.”

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Many evangelical leaders left Buck Hill Falls worried about the Church and determined to break the habit of being behind.


Seminar ’70 Survey

The mood of Seminar ’70 was reflected in a survey taken at its close by Ted Ward, director of the Human Learning Institute at Michigan State University. Participants (asked to respond either yes, question, or no to a series of declarative sentences) reacted in virtual unanimity on many issues and substantially differed on a few. None of the statements was rejected by a majority. Following are some of the statements, with the yes-question-no response:

The local church must restructure itself to permit flexibility and diversity of forms (150–4–1). There is a necessity of seeing and loving men as human beings as well as “souls to be saved” (154–1–0). The evangelical church must be courageous enough to experiment with new forms of youth ministry, e.g. coffeehouse, worship forms, etc. (148–7–0). We see social justice as an indivisible part of the Gospel (139–12–4). The evangelical church needs to be shocked into taking an active part in the race issue, bearing the burden of the indictment given at Seminar ’70 (126–25–4). The “underground church” is an appropriate mode in the face of impending revolution (48–81–26). There should be a moratorium on constructing church buildings (54–54–47). New Testament “pacifism” is a valid philosophy and should have been faced more squarely (51–59–45). Evangelicals have had more social concern than they have been given credit for (62–53–40). We would be supportive of interracial marriage (89–50–16). “Gradualism” as a practical methodology must immediately be done away with (44–62–49).

Negro Evangelical Association Moves Toward Activism

Plagued with airline and postal delays, the National Negro Evangelical Association (NNEA) nonetheless gained momentum over the four days of its seventh annual meeting, held in New York City April 1–4. For the second straight year, black identity for Negro evangelical Christians was the overriding theme. But the 1970 meeting stressed this even more than last year, when there was a counter-emphasis on piety and foreign missions.

A trend is apparent over the years. The NNEA was founded as a fellowship and practical aid to strengthen the black evangelical cause. Many charter members are no longer active, and the convictions of those who are do not represent as broad a spectrum as they once did. At the 1969 meeting in Atlanta there were two factions: those conservative in sociology and methodology of evangelism, and activists in sociology who were radically unconventional in evangelism.

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The conservative element generally didn’t bother to attend this year; at least some observers saw this as a move away from a fellowship of all black evangelicals towards the fellowship of black activist evangelicals.

Trinity College instructor Columbus Salley is an embodiment of the current NNEA mood. Salley, a featured evening speaker, wore mod pants, turtleneck sweater, and a Mongolian beard. He spoke against racists and white Christianity, and in favor of biblical Christianity—with a strong addition of black awareness.

In a message generously sprinkled with quotations from “Brother Stokely” (Carmichael), “Brother Malcolm” (Malcolm X), and “the honorable Elijah Mohammed,” he argued that biblical Christianity, rightly understood, gives a blueprint for extensive social involvement and identification with black culture. A radical new involvement in social issues and black identity is the only hope of winning even a portion of today’s black people, Salley maintained.

The association passed two significant resolutions without verbal opposition. One supported NNEA member John Perkins, a missionary in Mendenhall, Mississippi, who recently received severe physical mistreatment and jailing for his involvement in social issues.

The other resolution deplored apathy (“benign neglect”) toward social evils, and was clearly aimed at the Nixon administration’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for racial justice and the cause of the oppressed. It specifically found fault with white evangelicals’ support of conservative politicians, including evangelist Billy Graham’s support of the Nixon administration.

Outgoing president George Perry stated that the need for social involvement is so great that those who disagree with this stance of the NNEA “just don’t know what time it is.” The NNEA’s new budget of more than $24,000 will aid this thrust. For the next two years the leadership will be in the hands of genial William Bentley, a Chicago social worker and inner-city pastor.

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Christian Kibbutz: Blossoming Like A Rose?

Everything seems to be coming up roses—and avocados—at Nes Ammim, Israel’s fledgling Christian kibbutz. It was not ever thus. Planted seven years ago by American, Swiss, Dutch, and German Christians, Nes Ammim at first produced mostly thorns instead of the hoped-for flowering of rapport between Christians and Jews.

The thorniest problem was how to plant that rapport: in evangelistic efforts (which the Americans and the Swiss favored) or in concern over Christians’ historical mistreatment of Jews and overtures of friendship to them (which the Dutch and the Germans preferred).

The Israeli government helped remove that thorn. Orthodox Jews in the Knesset feared that to approve the kibbutz would be to establish a seedbed of missionaries. Accordingly, the government approved the settlement on the condition that no missionary activity originate there; this prompted Americans and Swiss to pull up roots.

With Dutch leadership and German support, Nes Ammim has begun to put down roots—again. Today the roses that bloom in ultra-modern hothouses are a profitable export; the avocado orchard recently planted is a potential profit-maker.

And once-wilted relations are reviving. Late last year the kibbutz welcomed its first German volunteers, a couple who, though once members of the Nazi party, arranged the escape of a constant stream of Polish Jews during World War II. An American couple has also joined the community to oversee the avocado project. And this summer a group of Swiss students plan to participate in a work-camp project there.

Jewish interest in Nes Ammim is growing also. Dr. Yohan Pilon, the Dutch physician who directs the kibbutz, reports that “our neighbors are interested in our success—not just economic success but the ideological part as well.” Success depends to some extent on the depth of Nes Ammim’s roots. So long as it remains a center for transient Christians who stay only a few months, warn the local Israelis on the governing board, Nes Ammim will never be completely accepted as a part of the local scene.

Dr. Pilon agrees. “But,” he adds, “our real performance depends on the churches and religious organizations abroad.”


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