Speakers and delegates at the forty-ninth annual convention of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) held last month in St. Louis tried to stick with the theme, “Proclaiming Jesus Christ Together!” But amidst the calls to step up to the evangelistic challenge were the realities of being the church in a troubled world, NAE convention program coordinator David Rambo issued the call for “a coalition of allied evangelical forces to do what nobody thinks they can do—evangelize at least 82 million Americans who do not yet know Jesus Christ as Savior.”
But the meeting halls also were buzzing with talk about the recent Gulf War and the relationships between evangelical whites and blacks, two issues that illustrate that NAE’S greatest challenge perhaps remains in building a unified front of evangelicals from which to proclaim Christ “together.”
Much like an adolescent enduring growing pains, the convention was subject to mood swings. There were solemn moments, such as when the estimated 1,000 delegates read aloud a litany confessing the sin of racism, or when NAE executive director Billy Melvin uncharacteristically broke down while pleading for unity.
There were also intense moments, such as when a committee including just-war advocates and pacifists worked to grind out an agreeable statement on the Gulf War.
At the top of the convention agenda, delegates took a serious look at the state of evangelism as the church moves toward the twenty-first century. Evangelists John Guest and Luis Palau urged leaders to reclaim a vision for proclaiming the gospel and equipping laity to witness.
“There is a desperate need for those of us who call ourselves evangelicals to go and evangelize,” ...1
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