Sunday, September 25, 2011


(Final chapter in Recent Trends Among Evangelicals by Rowland Croucher, 2nd edition)

This chapter was written for the second edition of this book during Easter 1991, eighteen months after the Lausanne II in Manila Conference on World Evangelization (July 11-20, 1989). 

It is deliberately impressionistic - a montage of quotes, ideas and my reactions. It is still too early for a serious evaluation. The 3200 participants (4,336 total attenders, 24% women) from 180-190 countries made Lausanne II the most universal gathering of Christian leaders ever. The statistics and trends outlined here are still generally current. The theme for the conference was 'Proclaim Christ until He comes!' Sub-theme: 'The whole Gospel (Jesus makes us whole) to the whole world (disciple every ethnic group) by the whole church (all the people of God).'

In addition to plenary sessions, 326 leaders ran 48 subject tracks and 425 workshops. The 190 Australians comprised the second largest contingent after the U.S. Forty people from many nations came at their own expense to pray non-stop. We met in a nation described by Philippines Senator Jovito Salonga in his welcome address as the most Christian and the most corrupt in Asia. 'In our newspapers you can believe only three sections: classified ads, death notices, and comics!' Eighty-one families control most of the wealth; 85% of the children are malnourished; the overseas debt is $30 billion (40% of the budget). In Metro Manila 30% are street people or slum dwellers: squatters in their own country. Our Father's World.

During the conference we learned that

# Of the world's five billion people, 23% are 'absolutely poor', 950 million are hungry, 550 million severely malnourished, 400 million starving, 100 million have no shelter at all; there are 60 million abandoned children and infants, 600 million sick children, 65 million abortions a year, 510 million crime victims per year, and 2.6 billion are denied full religious freedom.

# Practising Christians number 1.2 billion; 26,625,000 Christians have been martyred this century (currently 235,000 pa).

# Women comprise 80% of all refugees, 70% of all poor, receive 10% of the world's income with 62% of the work, are 66% of the illiterates, own 1% of world property. 200 million are battered.

# Nearly 50 two-thirds world countries have 55% or more under 20. In Surinam it's 66%! The average age in Mexico City is 14 1/2 years!

# Most Soviet church members now have a Bible: millions more are needed for the unchurched. # 'Can the West be converted?' (Newbigin). The re-evangelization of Europe is a high priority: future mission will be 'from six continents to six continents', and will move from paternalism to partnership.

# The largest church in the world (Yoido Full Gospel Church, Seoul, Korea), numbered 600,000 members (it now has 800,000).

# Supermarkets in Argentina were changing prices every four hours; the price of petrol went up five times in one day.

Random Impressions

The happiest group in Manila were the Nepalese. (They were also the poorest: they came early and had to fast for three days because they had no money; they'd also probably spent more time in prisons than other delegations).

The most serious were the Russians, whose 'agents' apparently gave cues about when to applaud. They said there was too much levity, and didn't appreciate 'galloping gourmet' Graham Kerr's jokes.

(The Latins and American blacks said there wasn't enough celebration. You can't please them all).

The most anti-charismatic were the Germans and Japanese. The most pro-charismatic were the Latin Americans and those with darker skins.

Most popular speaker for the better-educated: Os Guinness. (Others couldn't understand him; many of the translators went at their own pace from his script).

The smallest contingent was perhaps the husband-wife Campus Crusade team from Bahrein.

My best conference experiences (in order):  (1) Networking with courageous, interesting, challenging Christian leaders from all over the world, making new friends.

(2) Acting as 'Robin Hood', separating money from Swiss, Germans, Americans and Australians so Czechs, Russians and Indians could buy theological books from the conference bookshop.

(3) John Stott's Bible studies.

Best non-conference experiences included getting to know some 'poorest of the poor' street people who slept out in the drizzle, and throwing a party for 40 of them! (The left-handed definition of an evangelism conference: 'talking about what we should be doing!').

Many of us visited Smoking Mountain garbage dump, where shacks built on the garbage itself have putrid smoke through them all the time. A poor person came running with a 100 peso note one of us had dropped.

In my view the weakest dimensions were in the areas of spirituality for mission (no evangelical, to my knowledge, has yet done a doctoral thesis in this specific area, which says something about a frontier yet to be conquered); the sacramental dimension (evangelicals are still too activist); and worship (we should have allowed the Latins or Africans teach us how to celebrate). The worship sessions at the World Council of Churches' Assembly in Canberra (February 1991) were generally, by contrast, magnificent. (A lot of other things at that conference weren't magnificent, but they will have to wait for another book!).

The two most-talked-about plenaries were Yugoslavian Peter Kuzmic's plea, in the wake of the fall of several televangelists: 'We don't need better methodology, but more integrity'; and Chinese evangelist Chen's recounting how he praised God from a cess-pit. Australian Anglican Archbishop David Penman, who launched the first edition of this book, was one of three Bible study leaders. He was not well at the conference, and became seriously ill from a heart attack a day or two after he returned. A couple of months later he lost the battle altogether, and modern evangelicalism is bereft of one of its 'greathearts'.

John Stott was the prime mover behind both the 1974 Lausanne Covenant and the Manila Manifesto (see appendix). Stott is an English Anglican pastor, prolific author, confirmed bachelor, and amateur ornithologist. (He told a press interviewer,  'I don't believe bird-watchers have nervous breakdowns!'). Evangelism and social action ('like the two wings of a bird') was the main issue in Manila, he said. Second? - the charismatic movement. He advocated James 1:19 as a key text for modern evangelicals - 'Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry.' And it's a 'double listening', he said, both to the Scriptures and to the modern world, putting the two together. The greatest hindrance to world evangelization? 'Sin in the Christian community... part of which is a by-product of Christian competition, which some defend because it works in capitalism - a worldly argument!'

A book published just before the Manila Conference (Essentials: a Liberal-Evangelical Dialogue, by David L. Edwards and John Stott, Hodder and Stoughton, 1988) contrasted Stott's 'radical conservative evangelical' (his phrase) approach, with the views of another British (and more liberal) Anglican scholar. Essentially it boiled down to Stott's 'higher' view of the authority of Scripture. He applied to David Edwards the words of Luther to Erasmus: 'The difference between you and me, Erasmus, is that you sit above Scripture and judge it, while I sit under Scripture and let it judge me.'

Key Issues

Lausanne II in Manila met while

# history's greatest migration (rural poor to cities) was taking place;

# the 37 poorest nations had cut health spending by 50%, education by 25% in the previous few years to pay huge debts to the West;

# Islam (908 million people) was growing 2.7 % pa, vs. Christianity's 2.1%. They compose the largest unreached people groups (eg. of 26 million Kurds fewer than 100 are Christian);

# 149 countries reported AIDS victims (within a few years, WHO predicts, 5-10 million will be infected with the HIV virus);

# China is repressing dissidents (and probably the 50-70 million Christians: none could be present);

# Women are accepting a higher profile (four plenary speakers at Lausanne II vs. none at Lausanne I);

# There's ambivalence about lifestyle: simplicity isn't as popular as prosperity for evangelicals.

Below is a selection of reactions to the conference, together with my own editorializing: 

Frogs and lizards. Of six or seven major themes, the attack on clericalism was the most memorable. Ninety per cent of the church spends 97% of its time scattered. Frogs (clergy) sit in one place and food (customers) come to them; lizards have to go foraging. The clergy's job, affirmed many of the speakers, is to equip laypeople to be the church and they generally haven't done a good job of it! The laity's mission is more than 'Pray, pay and obey!' One Reformation put the Bible into the hands of ordinary Christians; another is needed to put the ministry there as well. 

'We tell people to pray, but we don't tell them how', said Australian Lausanne leader John Mallison. Good News for the Poor (Luke 4:18) was another recurring theme. 

The poor apparently read the Bible differently, so rich Christians are likely to get it all wrong, said many speakers with darker skins... 

Despite malnutrition, western economic imperialism, unjust local structures, and huge debts to rich nations, the church of the poor is a joyful one! In 1979 $40 billion p.a. flowed from north to south; a decade later it was $20 billion p.a. the other way ($60 billion if we include decreases in commodity prices). 

Oppression wears many faces, from helpless Vietnamese boat-people to powerless Mozambican refugees, to 'you'll push us no further' South African blacks. Unless we serve the poor we do not serve Christ. And we should serve them as Christ did - going to them, not expecting them to come to us. 

World Evangelization. 

Christianity's centre of gravity is shifting from West to East, North to South. Missions are becoming internationalized. At Lausanne I, 17,000 people groups needed evangelizing; now it's 12,000 - mostly in a belt from West Africa to Asia, 10 to 40 degrees north of the equator. Only seven in every 100 missionaries work in these Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist cultures. 

Many countries are planning 'Mission 2000' crusades. Women should exercise their God-given ministry. 

Some (mostly men) wouldn't want God to choose a Deborah to lead his people! Sexist language was used sometimes in Manila (even by women). Many women urged churches to set up ways for gifted women to be trained in the use of their public gifts: their ministries won't blossom without this encouragement. 

A perceptive prophecy: 'We will not evangelize the remaining 12,000 unreached people groups without the help of evangelical Catholics.' Filipino Catholics are using Lutheran 'Joy of Discovery' inductive Bible study materials to train lay leaders. Conversely, many evangelicals are now reading Catholic authors, particularly in the area of spirituality (eg. Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Anthony D'Mello). And Catholics are studying evangelicalism. 

Under God: Religion and Politics by Garry Wills (Simon and Schuster) has an interesting coverage of the 1988 American presidential elections, and the role evangelicals and fundamentalists played in it. 

Michael D'Antonio has written a racy account of the tumbling televangelists in Fall from Grace (Andre Deutsch) although his sub-title 'The Failed Crusade of the Christian Right' might be premature. (However, North American evangelicalism's most prolific critic, Martin Marty, notes that the 'evangelical-moralists' were disappointed with Jimmy Carter and got little but illusion from Ronald Reagan. 'The president of their dreams [Reagan], who identified with them, gave them little and took much so far as their historic norms were concerned. Close enough now to running the show that they can no longer blame a single other camp for misrunning it, they have entered a period of disarray and sense a need for revising goals.' ['The Years of the Evangelicals', Christian Century, Feb. 15, 1989]). Our mission. The Manila Manifesto says 'Evangelism is primary'. When will we ever learn? Surely worship is primary. Authentic mission emanates from authentic worship. Evangelicals who miss this become triumphalistic.

A few Catholics were there as participants (so some conservative Americans stayed home), others as observers.
We didn't celebrate very well. The agenda was typically Western-dominated: too literate, wordy, cerebral. We need to take more time to be lost in wonder, love and praise in the presence of our wonderful Lord.

And our first priority in mission is justice (Micah 6:8, Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42), because the essence of who we are as humans is our being made in God's image (sin is a reality, but an aberration): justice addresses our God-like dignity; evangelism our alienation and lostness. A recurring question for the church is always: Who, in our community, are what the New Testament calls 'lost'? The lost, in the Bible, are oppressed, needing advocacy and justice; they are suffering pain in many forms, needing mercy and compassion; or are 'without Christ and without hope' needing to hear (and see) the proclamation of the good news. God has put these three together so let no one - in this world or under it! - separate them.

We tried to balance charismatic differences, with key speakers J I Packer (whom I would describe as 'warm Reformed') and Jack Hayford ('enlightened Pentecostal'). There are still serious polarizations on this issue, so the following night Leighton Ford made a statement about our unity in love, as we express our diversity. Non-charismatics need less defensiveness, Pentecostals/charismatics need more sensitivity. In other words we all need more heat and light!

Pentecostals/charismatics now number 340 million, and grew 157% from 1975 to 1985. They are now one-fifth of all Christians, one-fourth of the full-time workers, are responsible for half of all conversions to Christ, and have the world's ten largest churches. The Pentecostals/charismatics are teaching us that truth is not a formula, it is an experience.

Orthodoxy is not as important as orthopraxis. True belief is more than dogma. Catholic writer Anthony d'Mello says, 'The word "love" is not love, and the word "God" is not God. Neither is the concept. Nobody ever got intoxicated on the word "wine". No one ever got burnt on the word "fire".'

In the last five years Scripture choruses have invaded about 95% of Australian Protestant churches, and probably half now witness prayer for the sick with the laying on of hands. But there is still a drift of thoughtful people back to the mainline and evangelical churches, by those who have had a charismatic experience, attended a Pentecostal church for about two years, enjoyed their music and worship, but could not stomach preaching which by-passed the mind. Stuart Briscoe asks: 'What part of my being could I have left at home when "going to church"?' For many Pentecostals it's their mind. For many non-charismatics it's their enthusiasm! We can still echo what Ronald Knox wrote about enthusiasms: 'They are not a wrong tendency but a false emphasis [but nonetheless] tend to have a powerful effect in waking us up from religious apathy.' An important resource for any wanting to research this whole area: The Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (1988: Regency Reference Library, Grand Rapids, Michigan).

And all evangelicals, whether charismatic or not, need to heed the call of the Consultation on Evangelical Affirmations, co-sponsored by the American National Association of Evangelicals and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, May 14-17, 1989:  'We affirm the critical need to conjoin faith and practice. To profess conversion without a genuine change of heart and life violates biblical teaching and substitutes a dead orthodoxy for a living faith. Christian leaders bear a heavy responsibility to serve as spiritual role models and moral examples. Any disjunction between faith and practice generates hypocrisy. We send forth an urgent call for the practice of holiness and righteousness. Justification by faith must issue in sanctification. By the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are to deny such characteristics of a selfish nature as immorality, evil desire, and covetousness, to walk in righteousness and integrity, and to practise justice and love at all times. Purity of doctrine must be accompanied by purity of life.'

Racism. For Caesar Molebatsi, Michael Cassidy and Nico Smith, evangelical identification with the oppressed and our Christian witness are closely tied. South Africa, they said, is moving towards a post-apartheid society, but not quickly enough. Nico Smith, a Dutch Reformed Afrikaner pastor, lives in a black community to 'give feet' to his commitment. With respect to trade sanctions, for Cassidy his heart says 'yes' but his head says 'no': 1000 new jobs for blacks are needed each day; and the 'Afrikaner psyche' gets tougher when pushed too hard. Pressures short of comprehensive sanctions are most appropriate. Two books about racism in the 'must read' category are Elias Chacour's Blood Brothers (Kingsway, 1985), a moving, well-researched story of a Palestinian Christian leader's struggle for reconciliation (don't opinionise about Israel without it!); and Jan Roberts' Massacres to Mining (Dove, 1985), a sobering book about the white colonization of Aboriginal Australia. And for a thoughtful cinema-event, see the movie Dances With Wolves, about the coming of white 'civilization' to the Sioux Indians...

Modernization, said Os Guinness, is both our greatest opportunity and the greatest threat since apostolic times. None of the great religions flourish under modernity, as it destroys both transcendence and tradition. We know more about the immediate, less about the ultimate (ie. knowledge without wisdom). It's the greatest exponent of 'by bread alone': our Western youth haven't known poverty or much illness. The chairman of McDonald's in the U.S. was asked what he believed in: 'God, family and McDonald's, and in my office I reverse the order!' A supermarket mentality has invaded theology: an extension of choices has led to an evasion of choice. Being 'born again' is now generalized, not radical and life-changing. Fundamentalism is now more 'worldly' than liberalism ever was; US. churches are full, sermons empty.

Joni Erickson said 560 million are handicapped (42 million blind, 294 million deaf or hearing impaired etc.). Like Jesus, the 'Man of Sorrows', let us be sensitive to their needs, not condescending, but helping them survive in a world of able-bodied 'copers'. 'Who do you invite to your banquets?' Then blind musician Ken Medema invited us as 'the sensorially limited who can see' to sing a hymn! (At the WCC conference in Canberra, February 1991, I was confronted with the term 'differently-abled' for the first time).

Before a summary of the conference, here is more food for thought from my notes:

# The book of Acts appears to be a pilot project compared with the great ingathering today.

# Poor and non-poor churches must work together and learn from each other.

# Dreamers... are dangerous people (T E Lawrence).

# When a Christian sins we say 'Don't look at us, look at Christ' but that's not in the Bible. They are looking at you. We've got a good quota of excellent speakers and miracle workers: what we need is more people like Jesus.

# By 2000, 85% of the world may be closed to traditional missionary methods: hence the need for many self-supporting 'tentmakers'.

# 'How many came to Christ through radio or TV?' (very few); 'mass evangelism?' (few again); 'through the witness of an ordinary Christian friend or family member?' (more than two-thirds).

# Cities world-wide are magnets: you have an urban future whether you like it or not.

# 95% of all monetary processes in Australia are speculative, 5% for exchange of goods or services.


Lausanne II in Manila pointed up the inevitable divergence of progressive evangelicalism from fundamentalism. George M. Marsden's 1987 book Reforming FundamentalismFuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism (Eerdmans) makes the same point we have been labouring in this small book: the sectarian, inward-looking, anti-intellectual tendencies of fundamentalism have to be rejected in favour of an evangelical ecumenism, a prophetic commitment to justice, and an openness to whatever God through his Spirit wants to renew in his Son's Church. Fuller Seminary (which has kindly conferred a degree on this author since the first edition of this book) insists that faculty members affirm the orthodoxy of Nicaea, but is pluralistic in its evangelical theological stance. So it is considered too liberal for the fundamentalists, and too fundamentalist for the liberals, a posture Fuller has consciously adopted. The Lausanne movement is just that - a movement. Its evangelicalism is expressed in its commitment to the Lausanne Covenant, supplemented by the Manila Manifesto. Having been immersed for nearly two decades in both Fuller's and Lausanne's evangelicalism, I believe there is a great need for such a progressive stance, with the growing bifurcation between the rigid fundamentalism of the right, and the World Council of Churches' tendencies towards a radical syncretism with other faiths and ideologies on the left. Hopefully 'progressive evangelicalism' will provide an independent third force, incorporating into its life and thought what is truly biblical from both right and left.

In the April 11, 1990 Christian Century Fuller's provost Richard Mouw wrote: 'I am more ecumenical at the end of this decade than I was at the beginning in that I have a deeper appreciation for the ways in which God's gracious dealings with the Christian community make positive use of a variety of theological, denominational and liturgical schemes. I have become more pluralistic not merely in accepting plurality as a fact of life, but in considering some kinds of diversity to be very healthy for Christians.'

Some observers (eg. James D. Hunter in Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation, Chicago, 1989) fear 'that the evangelical worldview will undergo further mutations that will make it even less similar to the historic faith than it already is'. From the perspective of the religious right, any move towards the centre is a flirtation with the heterodoxy further to the left. (And vice versa: I have met WCC Geneva staff who simply lumped all fundamentalists, Pentecostalists, charismatics and evangelicals into one right-wing bag). Another recent book, D W Bebbington's Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (Unwin Hyman, 1989) affirms that 'Nothing could be further from the truth than the common image of evangelicalism being ever the same.' The style and theology of evangelicalism has changed greatly in the last two and a half centuries. And tensions about inerrancy, eschatology, and ecumenism have always been with us: indeed in the past there was sometimes more latitude about these matters than some today would care to admit.

Rowland Croucher

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