The explosive secret of nuclear energy that has blasted the world into a radical new era of history is the critical mass. Neither a spark nor a shock can detonate it. When an adequate quantity—a critical mass—of fissionable material is suddenly brought together, the awesome detonation occurs. Similarly, my hope is that the International Congress on World Evangelization—to be held in Lausanne, Switzerland, in July—will result in a great spiritual fission whose chain reaction world-wide will speed the completion of Christ’s great commission in this century.

The spiritual fissionable material will be there: invitations have gone to some 2,700 evangelical leaders from every known Protestant denomination and evangelistic organization in more than 150 nations. All these persons were selected for their evangelical commitment and influence. Lausanne will be the most representative Protestant conclave in history. Given the blessing of the Holy Spirit, it could become a twentieth-century Pentecost.

The World Congress on Evangelism held in Berlin in 1966 illustrated this principle of a spiritual critical mass initiating far-reaching chain reactions. I well remember seeing there a dark-skinned Pacific islander, clad in a mixture of Western and national dress. Titus Path was the pastor of a Presbyterian church in the New Hebrides, a former moderator of his denomination’s General Assembly, and a member of the government’s Advisory Council. He did not say a lot at Berlin, but he took in a lot, and went home to apply it in his own remote island church, which was afflicted with second-generation nominalism. He secured the consent of his General Assembly to inaugurate a five-year plan for evangelism throughout the church. He planned campaigns lasting six or seven weeks in each area, involving large numbers of national and missionary workers.

The amazing result was that almost one-fourth of the population of the islands made commitments to Christ. The local congregations have been revitalized. Social evils have been strongly challenged. A will to witness was engendered in the national church. And young lives were offered for the Lord’s service. This last fact led Titus Path to move in the 1970 General Assembly that a Presbyterian Bible college be set up. Since its inception the college has had more applicants than it can take, more than half of whom are the direct fruit of the evangelistic campaign spurred by Titus Path.

Other incalculably significant results of Berlin have been the many continental and national evangelistic congresses that in turn have sparked countless new programs of nation-wide in-depth evangelism, cross-cultural missionary outreach, revivals in churches, and so on. These results have been particularly apparent in the Third World, where the majority of the world’s two billion unreached live.

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“The vision for Explo ’72 in Dallas [the largest gathering of Christian youth in history] was given as a result of the inspiration of the U. S. Congress on Evangelism in Minneapolis in 1971,” Director Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ reports. The Minneapolis congress was but one outgrowth of the Berlin congress. And springing from Explo ’12 came Spree ’73 in London and next summer’s Explo ’74 in Seoul, Korea, where 300,000 are expected.

The Berlin congress did not program these results. But many of the world’s spiritual leaders were present. Speakers, fellowship, and insights through interaction stimulated vision and imparted new motivation. And the Holy Spirit initiated chain reactions.

The potential for spiritual results in many parts of the world is many times greater in 1974 than in 1966. Twice as many countries will be represented at Lausanne. (For that matter there will be twice as many as at the historic Edinburgh conference in 1910.) Immense effort is being made to see that each country of the world will be represented; at this writing only Albania and the People’s Republic of China are excepted. Bringing the influential evangelical leaders of every nation to the congress has been the goal of the participant-selection process. This is the fissionable material making up a critical mass, the potential for a total thrust in world evangelization in this century.

Specifically, what does the congress planning committee (thirty men drawn from five continents and sixteen countries) hope will result from Lausanne ’74? Primary goals are these:

1. To impart vision and motivation to the churches of the world regarding their responsibility for E-1, E-2, and E-3 evangelism. E-1 evangelism is the evangelism of one’s own culture and community; E-2 evangelism is witness to culturally similar peoples who may be close at hand or far away, such as Germans to Greek immigrant workers in Germany; E-3 is cross cultural evangelism, the so-called foreign missionary evangelism. (See “Existing Churches: Ends or Means?,” by Ralph Winter, CHRISTIANITY TODAY, January 19, 1973.) Acts 1:8 is the basis for this helpful terminology: the biblical emphasis is that all Christians are to witness simultaneously, “both in Jerusalem and … to the uttermost parts of the earth.”

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2. To inform churches and leaders of the successful strategies, methods, and tools God has given to accomplish the task of total evangelism. Specially needful are the 1,200 Third World participants, whose knowledge of what God is doing is largely limited not just to their own countries but often to their own areas. Through demonstrations, models, and fellowship with participants from around the world, whole new horizons of possibilities will be opened to these men. The hope is that new faith and confidence that their own nations and the world can be evangelized in this generation will be born in the hearts of many as it was in the heart of Titus Path at Berlin.

3. To encourage the basic spiritual unity of evangelicals world-wide for cooperation in a new, all-out thrust for world evangelization. Often the criticism of the fragmentation of Protestant evangelicals is exaggerated. Evangelicals are one in Christ. Current conditions of world crisis and opportunity are increasing their consciousness of the need to work together. Lausanne will provide the climate for strengthening this authentic unity.

The Asia-South Pacific Congress on Evangelism in Singapore, 1968, was a spontaneous outgrowth of Berlin. There some of the most productive movements began in unscheduled free sessions. Theologians met together; out of their meetings have come several Asian evangelical theological societies that today are confidently propounding biblical theology. Asian mission leaders met; last year, as a result, the first all-Asian conference of national foreign missionary societies was born and pledged itself to a goal of sending at least 200 Asian foreign missionaries to the world this year. COFAE (Committee for Asian Evangelism) was born and has served to inform and bind together Asian leaders in prayer and cooperation for Asian evangelism.

Lausanne, too, may provide the conditions for the birth of many such spontaneous cooperative efforts. There will be regional sessions, international sessions of those sharing vocational interests (such as radio evangelists, theologians, missiologists), and free times for informal meeting.

4. To identify the unevangelized enclaves of the world population so that they may be reached; to reemphasize the biblical basis of evangelism and missions in this day of theological confusion; to relate biblical truth to crucial issues facing Christians everywhere; to awaken our Christian consciences to the implications of expressing Christ’s love to men of every class and color—these are other important objectives of Lausanne.

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The Church of Jesus Christ now has at its command three great resources never before adequately available. First are the technological tools of transportation and mass communication. No area of the world is now geographically inaccessible to God’s servants. Radio, television, inexpensive literature, mass literacy campaigns, and almost universal Bible translation and publication make total world evangelization physically possible for the first time in this generation.

Second, God has been sovereignly creating a huge manpower pool of committed youth in the last decade. Frequently bypassing customary channels, the Holy Spirit has through such movements as the Jesus People worldwide, Campus Crusade for Christ, Youth With a Mission, Operation Mobilization, and Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship brought tens of thousands of young people to Christ. Last Easter Sunday I worshiped in a renovated garage in The Hague, Netherlands. Seated on the floor celebrating Christ’s resurrection that morning were a hundred young people, nearly all converted from the drug culture there within the last year. In Muslim Egypt an amazing revival has been taking place among the young. I believe that the commitment of these youths in many cases is clearer and deeper than that of members of my generation. If alongside the present army of Christian workers thousands of these can be channeled world-wide into E-1, E-2, and E-3 evangelism, the manpower needs for world evangelization can be met.

Third, money to finance the task is in the Church. William Carey’s words are contemporarily pertinent: “God’s work done in God’s way will not lack God’s supply.” Those who say that funds are inadequate need to reexamine the facts prayerfully. In England, where churches and Christian organizations are perennially impoverished, a relatively new American evangelistic organization challenged the Christians, and the equivalent of more than $300,000 was contributed for evangelistic projects within the last two years. Particularly in the West, million-dollar church sanctuary blueprints must be sacrificed for world evangelistic strategies. The responsibility of affluent Western churches is great. I repeat, the money to do the job of world evangelism in this century is in the Church, if it will reexamine its priorities and reapportion its money. Many people hope that Lausanne will motivate church leaders to do this.

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Amazing open doors around the world invite the Church today. More nations are accessible to the Gospel than ever before in history. Three of the four formerly forbidden Himalayan kingdoms are now open to tactful evangelism. Such nations as Brazil, Indonesia, Korea, and others are experiencing unprecedented movements to Christ. The “two billion unreached” are now within reach of the Church, since most are located in populous enclaves or areas within countries where the Church is already planted.

The day obviously calls for new strategies and patterns of evangelism. There are few totally pioneer “mission fields” left. Missionary colonialism wherever it remains must be abandoned (that it was ever widespread is a doubtful assumption). Partnership in mission and evangelism is the strategy of the hour.

New leadership for both church and mission is strongly emerging from the younger churches coming of age in the Third World. Lausanne will feature these persons on the programs—almost half of the program personalities and group leaders will be new Asian, African, and South American leaders, unfamiliar to most Westerners. Lausanne ’74 will mean for the Western churches a new vision of mission, I believe. Though interest and funds are rapidly waning among ecumenically oriented missions, evangelical Third World leaders welcome the cooperation of the right kind of evangelistic missionary partners. Witness the thrilling challenge of the Ethiopian Lutheran church leaders to their European partners in 1972, asking for less relief money and more Gospel-preaching missionaries.

While the World Council of Churches’ Conference on Salvation Today (Bangkok, 1973) may well have presaged the death of evangelistic mission programs in many WCC-related denominations, evangelical national churches still warmly welcome biblically oriented, evangelistic missionaries. Lausanne should give ample evidence of this. And it will graphically demonstrate that total world evangelization in the last quarter of this century will be the task of Easterner and Westerner, black and white, younger and older church leaders working shoulder-to-shoulder to finish the task committed to Christ’s Church. “You don’t need a crystal ball to predict that during the 1970s the number of missionary societies will increase, not decrease. They will spring up from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Missionary budgets will swell, but different priorities will exist for spending money,” Peter Wagner predicts (Stop the World I Want to Get On, Regal, 1974).

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“Vast numbers of people have been prepared by God’s spirit to respond to the good news of Christ.… We are persuaded that God has brought us to one of history’s great moments,” reads the official “Call to the International Congress on World Evangelization.”

The congress planning committee wholeheartedly acknowledges that ultimately the success of Lausanne ’74 depends upon the Holy Spirit. But every human effort is being made to bring together the people, to provide the information, to share the resources available for world evangelization. This fissionable material in the hands of the Holy Spirit may detonate an evangelism explosion and initiate the spiritual chain reaction that will complete in this century the task committed by Christ to his Church.

The Christian mind

One of the most ill-advised dogmas in the American cultural creed is the belief that intellectual activity is somewhat sissified, that it is something for the pointy-heads to fritter away time on while the real folk get along with the business of living. No attitude, imported into the assembly of Christians, could be deadlier. For a Christianity that is aware of itself, self-confident, and eager to follow the mind of its Lord is a Christianity that by hard study and diligent thought has steeped itself in the truths of Holy Scripture. And the way these truths are extracted and applied to Christian life is by reading, by rereading, and by bending every mental gift from God toward an understanding of his Word for us.

It is evident that the anti-intellectual trend has penetrated the Church, for if it had not, ignorance of the central themes and the great teachings of the Bible would not be so pervasive. It cannot be overstressed that if there is to be a Christian life today, it will arise by Christians’ coming to terms with God’s self-revelation in Scripture; as Christ was the Word of God in the flesh, so is the Bible God’s Word for us in written form. Most Christians have a nodding acquaintance with some rudiments of the Christian faith, but it is questionable whether the average churchman can explain or apply such essential biblical teachings as justification, propitiation, sanctification, and glorification, to mention only a few. And since these doctrines lie at the heart of our faith and our life as Christians, it is only to our eternal peril that we neglect to study them.—MARK A. NOLL, graduate student in church history at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee.

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