Wheaton ’83 ponders the state of missions

Christ is the cornerstone. But the bricks that go into the building of his church are not mass produced. They come in many shapes and sizes, from diverse backgrounds and church traditions, and they sometimes espouse views that are as hard as bricks.

At the final service of the Wheaton ’83 conference on the nature and mission of the church, participants affirmed a pastoral letter to the evangelical church around the world. This four-page letter helped to integrate a conference marked by a spectrum of concerns and emphases brought by more than 300 participants from 60 countries. They met at the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton, Illinois, June 20 through July 1.

Wheaton ’83 was convened by the World Evangelical Fellowship and sponsored by about 50 churches, denominations, and special service agencies, including the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. William Shoemaker, conference chairman and director of the Graham Center, hailed Wheaton ’83 as “a new model for evangelical cooperation in mission.”

Three consultations, or tracks, functioned simultaneously and autonomously in the first week. Attempts to integrate these tracks were made in the second week. Track One dealt with the church in its local setting; Track Two, the church in new frontiers for missions; Track Three, the church in response to human need. Besides an introduction and conclusion, the Wheaton ’83 Letter to the Churches has three major divisions, reflecting the three-in-one composition of the conference.

In the church in its local setting, the letter noted that “some churches are being called by Christ to fulfill their apostolic mission amidst forces fiercely hostile towards both them and their Lord.” Participants ...

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