VOLUME 22 - NUMBER 1 (April 1999)
THE WORLD CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT
EVANGELISM VS. EVANGELIZATION
By Albert James Dager
For false Christs and false prophets shall rise; and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. (Mark 13:22)
A vital part of the corporate prayer methodology of world evangelization is warfare language that uses militaristic terms to describe its strategy. Some examples: "Take it by force," "Gather the troops," "Call to warfare."
Militancy is at the heart of the Sentinel Group and the March for Jesus. It is essential to the modern concept of spiritual warfare.
In Confronting the Powers, C. Peter Wagner describes spiritual warfare as having three levels:
The strategic warfare designed to bring down principalities and powers involves corporate prayer gatherings festooned with liturgical practices. Several nations have had such prayer gatherings to bring down the spiritual powers over them. They are led by Christian leaders from all over the world, affiliated with various organizations we have mentioned, such as InterVarsity Fellowship, Campus Crusade for Christ, YWAM, etc.
This is the new worship form for dominionism. There are gatherings for every nation, every city, every block, to take control of that area through spiritual warfare.
During national gatherings, flags of the nations are carried in procession to invoke God's power over the nations. Many of the participants wear ethnic clothing and play ethnic cultural music in order to show God that they are in unity. Unity is crucial to having the fire fall so that they can have the power to conquer the nations. When we are in unity then God will save our cities and cleanse our land.
The Gathering of the Nations
The Gathering of the Nations is a meeting designed to move God to take authority over the demonic forces of any nation in which a Gathering is held.
Wagner's terminology is used in claiming that the Gathering of the Nations is strategic level spiritual warfare over territorial spirits.
There have been several Gatherings, and they all operate on much the same theme and plan of action. It would be beyond the scope of this writing to address them all. An example is the Gathering of the Nations held at Whistler, British Columbia, June 28 to July 2,1995, hosted by Watchmen for the Nations.
According to Rich Carey, pastor of Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Blackfoot, Idaho, this Gathering was called prophetically by a "prophet" from Cairo, Egypt. The Scriptures he says God gave for the Gathering are Isaiah 66:18 and Zechariah 10:8. Said Carey:
It is safeguarded by four spiritual "fathers"-Pastor Bob Birch, Pastor Jim Watt, Dr. John White, and Peter Jordan of YWAM. The leadership of this gathering includes Dr. Mohsen Demian and Pastor Gideon Chiu, and worship leaders David Garrett, David Ruis and Brian Doerksen. Others involved include Bob Jones, Reuven Doren [both of Kansas City Fellowship notoriety], Melody Green Severight [Keith Green's widow who has squelched Keith's writings on Roman Catholicism], Alistair Petrie and John Dawson YWAM leader noted for his writings on "taking your city for Christ."]42
At this Gathering of the Nations the theme centered on American Indian and Hawaiian ethnicity. It was video taped by Crossroads Christian Communications, from 100 Huntley Street, headed by David Mains who was in attendance.43 The video reveals the following scenes from that Gathering:
A team from New Zealand, led by David Garrett of Scripture in Song, led much of the worship using log drums, an Australian didgeridoo, and conch shells. They taught the people how to do a "haka"-a dance-mime used by Maori warriors to build up their courage.
During one Hawaiian warfare chant a leader stripped off his shirt and beat his chest as a show of strength against the demonic powers.
Many did "carpet time," having been "slain in the spirit," while there could be heard groans, screams and shrieks, similar to those at the "Pensacola Outpouring."
Reuven Doren asked the nations to forgive the Jewish people for failing to be the light to the world and the priests to the nations. This is a reference to the Abrahamic Covenant, which we will be addressing shortly. Doren then blessed the native people in his role as priest to the nations.
Many confessed the generational sins of their ancestors, conflicts between races, sins of fathers toward their children, whites against other ethnic groups. One woman confessed the sin of having a poor image of herself. She then stated, "In the name of Jesus I release everyone here from bondage, from poor self-image. I set you free to love your parents and to love God your true Father and Mother!"
And no one corrected her.
No one can release anyone else from "bondage." And our heavenly Father never speaks of Himself as Father and Mother. What gives anyone the right to call Him other than what He calls Himself? This woman needs to repent of her radical feminism.
While a man played and sang Psalm 150 in a middle eastern language two women did a modified belly dance, sans costumes. (They did wear clothes.)
Another man played two saxophones at once, while people "tripped out."
On one occasion a woman took the microphone to thank God for the Catholic Church which she once hated. The Catholic Church, she said, brought her healing, and she asked that God would pour out a blessing on the Catholic Church.
In all, the Gathering was a hyper-charismatic display of unbridled emotion and unbiblical teaching passing itself off as spiritual warfare.
Another important element to this spiritual warfare is the blowing of the shofar-the ram's horn. At this gathering it was said, "When I blow the trumpet the veil into the heavenlies will break!" It was also stated that the shofar speaks "the wild voice of God"; if you listen you will hear God speaking.
The procession, blowing the shofar, corporate chanting, music, singing and ethnic cultural displays are said to be "prophetic acts." Performing these prophetic acts engages the people in "prophetic espionage."
At the conclusion, Gideon Chiu led the participants in prophetic works cleansing the land, cleansing the air and in identificational repentance.
The idea of identificational repentance is to stand in the gap as a substitute for a corporate people in order to nullify so-called "generational curses."
In essence, it is to identify oneself with a corporate group of people to confess that group's social sins ("m a white man who killed an Indian and stole his land). This is the basis of the Reconciliation Movement.
Identificational repentance, blowing of the shofar, and cleansing of the land were incorporated into the Promise Keepers Washington D.C. gathering, Standing in the Gap.
Space does not allow me to convey all that I witnessed on the video tape of the Whistler Gathering. Suffice to say that it was fraught with Manifested Sons of God false doctrine, erroneous, unbiblical attempts to manipulate God and free-for-all spiritual pandemonium.
For all this, the only dissimilarity between it and the Promise Keepers D.C. Gathering was that the latter was more reserved due to the need to not alarm the millions of rational people, believers and non-believers, who viewed it telecast live. But the same spiritual warfare elements could be seen in both.
Winning People Groups
It is the consensus of the World Christian Movement that, in order to win the nations to Christ, it is first necessary to win all people groups within the nations to Christ, not as individuals, but as whole people groups. Donald McGavran, whose essay, "The Bridges of God," appears in the Perspectives Reader, states:
Since the human family, except in the individualistic West. is largely made up of such castes, clans and peoples, the Christianization of each nation involves the prior Christianization of its various peoples as peoples.44
It is of the utmost importance that the Church should understand how peoples, and not merely individuals, become Christian.45
On one hand, McGavran seems to acknowledge that individuals must be won to Christ:
We wish to make this quite clear. The Christianization of peoples is not assisted by slighting or forgetting real personal conversion. There is no substitute for justification by faith in Jesus Christ or for the gift of the Holy Spirit.46
On the other hand, he takes this away with this statement:
It is important to note that the group decision is not the sum of separate individual decisions. The leader makes sure that his followers will follow. The followers make sure that they are not ahead of each other. Husbands sound out wives. Sons pledge their fathers (sic). "Will we as a group move if so-and-so does not come?" is a frequent question. As the group considers becoming Christian, tension mounts and excitement rises. Indeed, a prolonged informal vote-taking is under way. A change of religion involves a community change. Only as its members move together, does change become healthy and constructive 47
What McGavran is proposing is an appeal to a whole group to consider the practical advantages of becoming Christians. Where is the Holy Spirit in this? If so-and-so does not come, does that mean that the group will not be Christianized?
The following is a truly incredible piece of psychobabble:
Peoples become Christian as a wave of decision for Christ sweeps through the group mind, involving many individual decisions but being far more than merely their sum. This may be called a chain reaction. Each decision sets off others and the sum total powerfully affects every individual. When conditions are right, not merely each sub-group, but the entire group concerned decides together.48
"Group mind"? "Chain reaction"? This is what McGavran calls a "People Movement." How does this equate to regeneration of the the spirit and true conversion to Jesus Christ?
Did Jesus command us to "make all nations his disciples," or to make disciples of all nations? There is a vast difference in how this is phrased.
The Gospel has always been for individuals, to bring them to faith in Christ. So why do the "World Christians" insist upon converting entire nations? Remember what we said about semantics. We will find that those within the World Christian Movement use biblical terms, but their definition is contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture. Thus their convoluted application of Matthew 28:19-20.
Donald McGavran states that extracting individual converts out of their culture, no matter how pagan, should not be done. He wants whole people groups to come to Christ within the context of their own cultures.49
Ralph Winter implies that world evangelization is a "secret mission" of the Church that we have missed from the beginning because we never understood it.50
Such a statement further proves that evangelization is not the same as evangelism, because evangelism has never been a "secret mission."
The Abrahamic Covenant
Winter, and others involved in the World Christian Movement, state that Israel was first entrusted with the Gospel, but failed to present it to the nations. It began with Abraham who failed in his mission to be a blessing, all the nations, they say, by not taking the Gospel to the nations.
The World Christian Movement's teaching on the Abrahamic Covenant is extensive and given in too great a detail to express fully here. The essence of the teaching, however, is pretty well summed up in the following statements by Ralph D. Winter:
[Some Bible commentators] agree that Abraham was to begin to be blessed right away, but somehow they reason that two thousand years would have to pass before either Abraham or his descendants could begin "to be a blessing to all the families on earth." They suggest that Christ needed to come first and institute his Great Commission that Abraham's lineage needed to wait around for 2,000 years be before they would be called upon to go [to] the ends of the earth to be a blessing to all the world's peoples (this could be called "The Theory of the Hibernating Mandate."). Worse still, one scholar, with a lot of followers in later decades, propounded the idea that in the Old Testament the peoples of the world were not expected to receive missionaries but to go to Israel for the light, and that from the New Testament and thereafter it was the reverse, that is, the peoples to be blessed would not come but those already having received the blessing would go to them. This rather artificial idea gained acceptance partially by the use of the phrase, "Centripetal mission in the Old Testament and Centrifugal mission in the New Testament." Fact is, there is both in both periods, and it is very confusing to try to employ an essentially mickey mouse gimmick to explain a shift in strategy that did not happen. The existence of 137 different languages in Los Angeles makes clear that now, in the New Testament-and-after period, nations are still coming to the light.
A more recent and exciting interpretion (see Walter Kaiser's chapter four) observes that Israel, as far back as Abraham, was accountable to share that blessing with other nations. In the same way, since the time of the Apostle Paul, every nation which has contained any significant number of "children of Abraham's faith" has been similarly accountable (but both Israel and the other nations have mainly failed to carry out this mandate).
The greatest scandal in the Old Testament is that Israel tried to be blessed without trying very hard to be a blessing. However, let's be careful: the average citizen of Israel was no more oblivious to the second part of Gen. 12:1-3 than the average Christian today is oblivious to the Great Commission! How easily our study Bibles overlook the veritable string of key passages in the Old Testament which exist to remind Israel (and us) of the missionary mandate: Gen. 12:1-3,18:18, 22:18, 28:14, Ex. 19:4-6, Deut. 28:10, 2 Chron. 6:33, Ps. 67, 96,105, Isa. 40:5, 42:4, 49:6, 56:3, 6-8, Jer. 12:14-17, Zech. 2:11, Mal. 1:11. 51
I included all the references cited by Winter in order that the reader may check them out for himself to see if they apply to what Winter says. Actually, some do indicate that Israel was to proclaim the glory of God to the nations, but some of those he cites are in reference to Christ's millennial reign. Others, such as Genesis 12:3 refer to Abraham's seed in whom the nations of the earth will be blessed. But how will they be blessed? Paul makes it clear that the seed to which the prophets referred was Jesus:
Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. (Galatians 3:16)
While Israel was to proclaim to the nations the greatness of God, it was not in an overt missionary endeavor. Rather, we see that God commanded Israel to destroy the nations within the land He gave them, and to keep themselves separate spiritually and, in many cases, physically.
Many from the nations did come to Israel because they heard about the great exploits-the signs and wonders God performed for Israel to establish them in their land. But the land was their inheritance as long as they remained obedient. It was due to Israel's disobedience that God dispersed them throughout the nations with the full knowledge that they would succumb to the evils of those nations' gods.
The reason He retained Judah in the land was in order to bring forth the seed, Christ, in due season. After Christ came and was rejected by Israel the nation's identity with YHWH was destroyed with the temple in A.D. 70.
Only with Christ was the overt command given to "go ye into all the world."
The idea that Abraham and Israel failed to fulfill the Great Commission in their time was formulated, or at least popularized, by Helen Barrett Montgomery (another woman teacher) in the early 20th century. Ralph Winter attributes the social movement of that time to her ability to accomplish much in the way of teaching:
The amazing and powerful social movement which allowed her to do these things-and which amplified the effect of what she did-was probably the most significant movement in history for the completion of the Great Commission.52
The movement to which Winter alludes is the Women's Suffrage Movement, which elevated women to equal status of men in society. It also emboldened women to take more significant roles in the churches, striking out on their own in the fields of missions and teaching. Winter labels this rebellion against God's Word as "probably the most significant movement in history for the completion of the Great Commission." To equate a social upheaval with God's design in order to use women in roles contrary to that allowed in His Word is an indication of how far removed from God's Word Winter's movement is.
Of course, much of what Montgomery taught is biblical. Strange fire is still fire. Her teaching on missions, found in the Study Guide for thePerspectives course, outlines her belief that the Abrahamic Covenant is the basis for world missions today. She taught that throughout history everyone from Abraham to the present had failed to complete the Great Commission because the world had not been fully evangelized.
She chastised the Church for failing to bring about what she considered total evangelization. And she warned that should the Church fail, God might replace it with something else:
The Gospel will not fail. The Lord Jesus shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied. The kingdoms of this world shall become the Kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. But the Church may fail, may be set aside for another instrument. Today is the day of salvation for our Protestant churches. If we harden our hearts and close our eyes and refuse the plain call of God, other generations may see in us another Israel whose narrowness of vision was condemned by the very Scripture in which is our boast.53
Jesus said that He would be with us even unto the end of the world (Matthew 28:20). Significantly, this is His closing statement to the Great Commission. The critics of the Church, as opposed to the churches, fail to see that the Church has not failed; those who remain true to Christ will minister the Gospel wherever He sends them. When we see the fleshly attempts to complete what these people think the Church has failed to do, we understand that, deep down, it is not the Church that has failed in their eyes. It is Christ and the Holy Spirit that have failed. As with most religious minds, God doesn't work hard enough or fast enough to satisfy them. Thus they succumb to false teaching and ungodly alliances to take over for God. They even go so far as to subordinate the New Covenant in Christ's blood to their concept of the Abrahamic covenant:
With this we understand once and for all that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the missionary God of the mission-covenant, the "Secret Mission!" Furthermore, these prominent references inaugurate the major narrative story of the Bible, which is essentially the unfolding story of the Secret Mission of God to all the nations ('Fulfillment"). It is not just the story of a nation blessed by God ("Fullness") in preparation for a task to be fulfilled 2,000 years later. We soon see that this covenant is in one sense the only Covenant in the Bible. It constitutes the grand plan, the only plan. 54 (Emphasis Ours)
Some may say that Winter was careless in his words. But one with his knowledge of Scripture cannot so easily be dismissed. In effect, he does subordinate the New Covenant to the Abrahamic Covenant. Thus, the World Christian Movement infers that Jesus also failed, but commissioned His disciples to take up the cause to evangelize the world as fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant.
If their agenda is contrary to Christ's command, could it be that they are following the direction of another spiritual entity? Perhaps it is premature to ask that question given the scant evidence provided so far. It is merely posed as a rhetorical question to bear in mind as further evidence unfolds.
Traditional Missions Passe'
It stands to reason that if today's World Christian Movement sees all of God's history of evangelization as a failure, the blame must lie at the feet of those who have gone before. Old methods have failed; it is time for a new approach to the task.
It appears as if the new tack of incorporating social and political action as necessary elements of evangelization is the result of guilt placed upon American missions leaders for their failure by Third World evangelical leaders. As C. Peter Wagner stated above, it was first addressed publicly by Horace Fenton of the Latin America Mission. Ralph R. Covell, also writing in Perspectives, says of those who do not regard socio-political action as a mandate, that they preaching a different Gospel than that which Paul preached. He also states:
Many evangelical Third World leaders are reminding us that American missionaries are not able to see, let alone understand, the oppression under which their people live. Silence signals acquiescence.55
This isn't entirely true. While there are cases of missionaries who are unqualified and, thus, err in their attempts at evangelism, history is replete with examples of missionaries who have suffered right along with those to whom they ministered. For example, missionaries in China, both during and after World War II, faced persecution first by invading Japanese and then by Communist rulers. Missionaries in predominantly Catholic countries have suffered along with their converts at the hands of the Roman Catholic Church and its political allies. If they suffered in silence it was because they did not perceive as their duty the overthrow of regimes. They ministered God's love quietly and humbly among those whom He gave them.
This is not to say that there have not been problems-serious ones-with traditional missions. Many missions accompanied colonial expansion of Western nations. They were seen as a benefit to the colonial powers who encouraged them as a means to civilize the people they colonized, and to make them more complacent in accepting their fate as colonial subjects. As a result, indigenous believers were looked upon then, and continue to be looked upon today by Western missions agencies, as unworthy to inherit the mission fields in which they were raised.
Traditional missions organizations, especially in the U.S., still perceive Western oversight as the only valid means of missionary work. And the World Christian Movement is correct in accusing Western missions of trying to westernize the cultures into which they moved.
What is forgotten, however, is that traditional missionaries are responsible in the first place for the Latin American leaders' salvation. But today the Gospel is not sufficient; now missionaries must learn that their shortcomings in the socio-political arena are responsible for the suffering of the masses.
This guilt trip comes courtesy of the "World Christians" who comprise the World Christian Movement. Indeed, Ralph D. Winter implies that the Communist philosophy has, in many ways, derived from Christian tradition: ...
Just as a modicum of Christian faith in some ways strengthened the hand of the Barbarians against the Romans, so the Chinese today are awesomely more dangerous due to the cleansing, integrating and galvanizing effect of the Communist philosophy and cell structure which is clearly derived from the West, and in many ways specifically from the Christian tradition itself.56
Is Winter saying that communism is derived from Christianity, or that its cell structure is derived from Christianity? No matter, for neither are derived from biblical Christianity.
Scripture affirms the owning of private property and the master-slave (or employer-employee) relationship. There is not a hint of communism in the Scriptures. Some suggest that the first-century Church in Jerusalem practiced Communism because they held all things in common in the care of the Apostles. This is ludicrous, and originated in Communist propaganda designed to neutralize opposition from Christians. In the first place, the Church is not an earthly government; in the second place, this was unique to the Jerusalem Church due to the necessity of close dependency upon one another in the face of persecution.
Nor is the "cell structure" found in first-century Christianity. Every assembly was autonomous, while looking to the apostles and the Scriptures for instructions. The church "cell structure" is an invention of David Yongi Cho, of Korea, whose "church" numbers in the hundreds of thousands. Cho's success in church growth through the cell structure is a model for aggressive pastors all over the world who seek larger congregations. The cell structure is tied to a central authority whose oversight is authoritarian, not unlike the way Roman Catholic parishes are tied to the Vatican. This would be a separate study, and I don't wish to digress beyond this point.
At the same time the World Christian Movement is critical of "traditional" missions efforts, it relies heavily upon those efforts to bolster its appeal. And if we look deeply enough, we will see that the World Christian Movement is just as Western in its oversight. Only instead of sending qualified elders who have a record of soul winning and church planting in their native lands, they recruit students in "specialty" fields, most of which have to do with social action rather than with evangelism.
K.P. Yohannan, recognized missions expert, wrote in 1991:
At the time this chapter was written, InterCristo, the leading evangelical placement organization, listed just over 5,000 overseas openings for missionary positions. Only 86 of the openings were for pioneer evangelism and church planting among Unreached people. Another 492 were for church positions that included church planting as well as chaplaincies, urban evangelism, child evangelism, discipleship and worship.
But 4,422 of the 5,000 positions were for other specialties, mostly social services! More than 89 percent of the current job openings in missions were for non-evangelism, non-discipleship job descriptions!57
"This is the day of the missionary specialist," proclaims recruiting literature for missionaries at mission conventions for Christian students. 58
It is estimated that the cost to train a single missionary family, whether for evangelism or for social service, is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars:
...A typical missionary educated in the United States, for example, spends four years in college ($60,000); two years in seminary or Bible school ($40,000); one year raising support ($20,000)-none of which shows formally in the mission education process. These numbers double for married couples, of course, so the actual cost of training a missionary family might easily run as high as $450,000 to $500,000.59
Furthermore, the budgets required to send American missionaries overseas and to sustain them equate to billions of dollars. And most will not be on the mission field past one year, while many will never go to the mission field at all! Yohannan's projections for maintaining the American missions status quo are not promising:
As we do future planning, the cost of supporting Western missionaries becomes increasingly higher. If the average cost of supporting a North American missionary couple were to increase to only $75,000 a year by A.D. 2000-and if we don't have any increase in the number of missionaries sent-it will cost $5.6 billion just to stay even!
However, a world population projected at six billion in A.D. 2000 requires hundreds of thousands of new missionaries to be sent-perhaps as many as one million gospel workers in order to reach everyone.
Since the United States gave only $1.9 billion to all foreign mission causes, including relief and development aid, in 1989, it is hard to imagine one of the richest nations on earth picking up the tab for the missionary force needed to reach a world population of six billion in A.D. 2000.60
Perhaps we can now see why the World Christian Movement insists that we all subject ourselves to the poverty level so they can meet their goals.
Yohannan suggests that the best way to evangelize the world is to train native missionaries to plant churches and disciple the people in their own lands. This would not only make missions more affordable; it would greatly reduce the need for social action. The indigenous missionaries would be primarily involved in saving souls, which Yohannan also sees as the only legitimate reason for missions:
The cutting edge of biblical, New Testament missions is proclamation, conversion and disciple-making that leads to the establishment of local churches. Any time this basic task is confused with political or social action, missions lose the essence of their integrity and power.
The New Testament apostles turned the world upside down not by digging wells or building hospitals, but by proclaiming the Word of God, which is sharper than any two-edged sword.61
While the World Christian Movement seems to champion indigenous missionaries, it is in partnership with the evangelistic and social action missionaries from the West. The Movement does not suggest leaving the indigenous believers on their own and trusting the Spirit of God to work through them without oversight by the Movement's numerous affiliated agencies, particularly through their youth missionaries. The World Christian Movement is still Western in the upper echelons of its infrastructure, and there is no indication that that will change.
The biggest problem facing missions today is not rejection of the West by individuals, but by government leaders. Says K.P. Yohannan:
In modern Africa there is an almost universal wall against Western evangelistic missionaries. The newly independent nations of Africa are demanding that Western missionaries bring humanitarian and secular skills into the economy. If missionaries cannot justify' their presence in the cause of nation-building, visas will not be granted.62
In such cases it is understandable that evangelists might incorporate some secular skill into their efforts. But, as Yohannan says, the jobs they perform cannot interfere with the primary purpose to win souls.
Another tactic used is that of engaging in social work. But even that has its pitfalls:
Substituting social work. This is by far the most popular substitute for evangelism on the mission field today. Since most Third World nations refuse to welcome foreign evangelists, many missionaries and sending agencies have changed their image in the host country. They now seek to come to the mission field as agricultural and development workers, child-care providers, medical missionaries and teachers.
But fearful that even this humanitarian work will be used as a ruse for evangelism, some nations, such as Nepal, require these missionaries to sign non-proselytizing agreements, Under these contracts missionaries promise not to evangelize or make converts.63
The impact of the anti-Western movement among the Third Word family of nations has been devastating.
Before perestroika and the sweeping changes in Eastern Europe, at least 119 nations prohibited or restricted Western missionaries, and an average of four new countries were being added to the list each year. Currently 3.8 billion people live in these restricted-access countries, and 4.8 billion will live in them by the turn of this century....
If present trends continue, by A.D. 2000 over 77 percent of the entire world population could live in nations closed to identifiable missionaries from Western countries. 64
This is news we don't readily hear from the gung-ho "we're going to win the world for Christ" group. In truth, we can see why missions leaders want to substitute, or at least qualify as equal with the Gospel, involvement in social and political action. In order to garner the financial support they need to keep operating they must convince the rank-and-file Christian that they are following the Great Commission in spite of their inability to do so.
Would it honor God to sign non-proselytizing agreements in order to get a foothold in a nation and confine themselves to social and political action?
We can also see why they regard as already evangelized those peoples who have been reached by Roman Catholic missions. It makes their work seem close to accomplishment if they count those peoples as already having been "Christianized."
The manner in which evangelism is presented as promoted by the World Christian Movement, is by "contextualization"-that is, being sensitive to the needs of different cultural groups in order to present the Gospel within the individual context of those groups. 'This is accomplished through the use of psycho-neural linguistics. John Stott explains contextualization in this manner:
The Gospel is thus seen to be one, yet diverse. It is "given," yet culturally adapted to its audience. Once we grasp this, we shall be saved from making two opposite mistakes. The first I will call "total fluidity." I recently heard an English church leader declare that there is no such thing as the gospel until we enter the situation in which we are to witness. We take nothing with us into the situation, he said; we discover the gospel only when we have arrived there. Now I am in full agreement with the need to be sensitive to each situation, but if this was the point which the leader in question was wanting to make, he grossly overstated it. There is such a thing as a revealed or given gospel, which we have no liberty to falsify.
The opposite mistake I will call "total rigidity." In this case the evangelist behaves as if God had given a series of precise formulas that we have to repeat more or less word for word, and certain images that we must invariably employ. This leads to bondage to either words or images or both. Some evangelists lapse into the use of stale jargon, while others feel obliged on every occasion to mention "the blood of Christ" or "justification by faith" or "the kingdom of God" or some other image.
Between these two extremes there is a third and better way. It combines commitment to the fact of revelation with commitment to the task of contextualization. It accepts that only the biblical formulations of the gospel are permanently normative, and that every attempt to proclaim the gospel in modern idiom must justify itself as an authentic expression of the biblical gospel.
But if it refuses to jettison the biblical formulations, it also refuses to recite them in a wooden and unimaginative way. On the contrary, we have to engage in the continuous struggle (by prayer, study, and discussion) to relate the given gospel to the given situation. Since it comes from God we must guard it; since it is intended for modern men and women we must interpret it. We have to combine fidelity (constantly studying the biblical text) with sensitivity (constantly studying the contemporary scene). Only then can we hope with faithfulness and relevance to relate the Word to the world, the gospel to the context, Scripture to culture.65
Again, semantics is at play. The words sound good; they seem to imply that "wooden" conveying of the Gospel is ineffective. But they also imply that images'' such as ''the blood of Christ'' are not always relevant to the cultural context when evangelizing. Indeed, Stott suggests that Scripture must be made conformable to the culture if it is to have any meaning. Obviously he does not wish to offend anyone with the Gospel; therefore it takes studying the contemporary scene to make sure that however it is presented, the gospel of the World Christian Movement does not fail for having offended. But what does Peter say?
Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. (1 Peter 2:6-8)
Likewise, Paul did not offer much hope for the world as a whole:
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. (1 Corinthians 1:18-19)
The Gospel is offensive to every culture of man. It was offensive to the Hebrew culture which should have been ready to receive it with gladness the truth is that the Gospel is offensive to most people. There are few who surrender to it:
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it (Matthew 7:13-14)
Contextualization is explained in the following from the Lausanne Committee Addressing two traditional approaches to the Gospel-the first, study of the Biblical texts without regard to the reader's culture, the second, discovering what the text meant in its original language and how it relates to the rest of Scripture - the Committee offered a third, "superior" approach:
A third approach begins by combining the positive elements of both the "popular" and the "historical" approaches. From the "historical" it takes the necessity of studying the original context and language, and from the "popular" the necessity listening to God's word and obeying it. But it goes further than this. It takes seriously the cultural context of the contemporary readers as well as of the biblical text, and recognizes that a dialogue must develop between the two.
It is the need for this dynamic interplay between text and interpreters which we wish to emphasize. Today's readers cannot come to the text in a personal vacuum, and should not try to. Instead, they should come with an awareness of concerns stemming from their cultural background, personal situation, and responsibility to others. These concerns will influence the questions which are put to the Scriptures. What is received back, however, will not be answers only, but more questions. As we address Scripture, Scripture addresses us. We find that our culturally conditioned presuppositions are being challenged and our questions corrected. In fact, we are compelled to reformulate our previous questions and to ask fresh ones. So the living interaction proceeds.
In this process of interaction our knowledge of God and our response to his will are continuously being deepened. The more we come to know him, the greater our responsibility becomes to obey him in our own situation, and the more we respond obediently, the more he makes himself known.
It is this continuous growth in knowledge, love and obedience which is the purpose and profit of the "contextual' approach. Out of the context in which his word was originally given, we hear God speaking to us in our contemporary context, and we find it a transforming experience. This process is a kind of upward spiral in which Scripture remains always central and normative. 66
We see that, in the eyes of the Lausanne Committee, Scripture must be approached with one's personal cultural context in mind in order to properly understand what God is saying. The "concerns" of one's culture, of course, include socio-political issues. Because God's Word does not actually mandate our involvement in sociopolitical issues, we must read that mandate into the contextualization of the Gospel. Subtle, but very effective in advancing the "evanglization" process.
The greatest evil, as the new evangelical. put it, is to take Western culture along with the Gospel. Ralph Winter tells us to listen to the cry of the lost:
But if we would stop and listen we would hear a thousand voices from around the world screaming at us, "Give us your faith without your Western clothing (and vices)."67
Is this true? It may be, where certain cultures have been propagandized by anti-Western elements against the "ugly American." But generally, cultures all over the world are trying their hardest to copy Western culture. Why is MacDonald's found in virtually every nation on earth today including Russia and China? Western clothing is so popular manufacturers can barely keep up with the demand. Western movies are hot items all over the world. Why is the Gospel not viable in its own right, simply because it has been so identified with Western culture?
Speaking at InterVarsity Fellowship's Urbana Missions Conference, in February, 1997, Winter stressed the need to "de-Westernize" the Gospel. According to Winter, the key task of the West should be to allow other cultures to develop their own distinct kind of Christianity. "If they're reading the Bible, they will even out and become orthodox," he said. "The Bible will correct more than foreign missionaries."68
If this is true, why do cults from Roman Catholicism to Mormonism to Jehovah's Witnesses, and even the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon remain entrenched in damnable heresies in spite of their strong use of the Bible?
Utilizing contextualization, the Fuller School of Missions promotes the idea of group decisions. They believe that if leaders can be made to understand the Gospel within the context of their specific culture, their influence upon the masses within their culture will result in wholesale conversions to Christianity.
Donald McGavran states in his book, Bridges to God, that people all over the world can be evangelized by targeting the "unreached people groups." He also defines what he calls "spontaneous people movement," or "group decision." He theorizes that every group can be won to "the Cause of Christ" if we could know their "heart language"-if we can contextualize the Gospel to be meaningful to them. If we can find the picture the symbolic language to communicate to a people, we can substitute the Gospel.
But what does Scripture say?
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)
It is the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, specifically, that leads men to salvation. Wherever the Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached the Holy Spirit draws men to the Father. This is the "calling" wherein Jesus said, "many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14).
The Gospel does not present a Western cultural milieu. It stands alone as God's Word, made alive by the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth. The need for contextualization is a myth promoted by Western religious leaders who, in their own right, detest Western culture for its perceived exploitation of the poor. It fits into the liberal social milieu that hates everything Western.
This is not a defense of Western culture, which admittedly is as ungodly as any other culture. It is, rather, a challenge of contextualization which will lead to its own subset of evils.
The truth is that, without proper guidance, and relying upon any cultural context, Western included, error will result. In the case of allowing people in heathen animistic cultures to place the Scriptures within their own context, the errors could be particularly evil. In response to Winter's remarks, one delegate from Ghana argued that such an approach in a pantheistic culture would just mean adding one more god to the pantheon and devaluing the significance of Christ.69
But Winter and the new evangelization leaders don't want to think of that. Instead, they insist that the only way to be effective in reaching their goal is to scrap any hint of Western culture from their efforts.
Urbana Director Dan Harrison stated that multicultural teams are emphasized because they are both "morally correct" and the most effective means of missions work. Also preferred arc teams made up of the so-called Generation X, aged 18 to 30.70
If multicultural teams are "morally correct," does that mean that non multicultural teams are immoral?.' What does morality have to do with it'.' The Holy Spirit is the one who leads any ministry authored by the Father To be immoral, one would have to be it sin-acting contrary to God's Word The Jewish evangelists of the first century would be immoral according s this reasoning.
Is it not significant that believers from virtually every culture throughout the centuries never had the Gospel contextualized for them, yet they believed through the proclamation of God's Word? We did not need a contextualized gospel to accommodate our world view or our culture. Just as John Wimber's theory that the Gospel is ineffective without signs and wonders is debunked by the history of true evangelism, so the theory of contextualization of the Gospel is debunked by the history of true evangelism.
Contextualization of the Gospel is what leads to a mishmash of religious confusion. People might "accept" Christ, but still go to their Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine. They might be Muslims and pray toward Mecca five times a day, but they would think they are praying toward Jesus if the Gospel can be contextualized to fit their cultural frame of reference so that there is no offense.
Does this seem far-fetched? Consider that one of the most prominent leaders among Christians in modern times, the late Norman Vincent Peale, was a 33rd Degree Mason who, when visiting the Orient, would meditate in a Shinto shrine. Consider that, in some Catholic Countries, voodoo is actually practiced inside Roman Catholic churches under the watchful eyes of Roman Catholic priests. In fact, contextualization of the Gospel in Rome resulted in a blending of pagan and Christian symbols and practices. It is the reason pagan holidays are observed today, yet dedicated to Christ, contrary to His Word not to do as the heathen do.
The work of the World Council of Churches is basically contextualization of the Gospel. The WCC has been expert at utilizing psycho-neural linguistics, using biblical terms with altered meanings. This has allowed for non-offensive elements of Scripture to remain, while eliminating the most essential doctrines of the Faith for the sake of unity. And the unity they seek is not just with other professing Christians, but with members of all faiths.
John Paul II, the most popular pope in history, is celebrated for his tolerance and ecumenical outreach to all religions, not to bring them to Christ, but to affirm the elements of "truth" they all allegedly contain.
There are many throughout the world who call themselves Christians and are members of Bible-believing churches while at the same time being devout Freemasons or members of pagan and even New Age groups. In truth, every cult contextualizes the Gospel to fit its world view.
Even the World Christian Movement has contextualized the Gospel to fit its leaders' beliefs of what Jesus meant when He gave the Great Commission.
That Urbana leaders wish to use such young "missionaries" from Generation X is a telling factor. It reveals the general approach of the new evangelization process to use youth to accomplish its goals, rather than relying upon mature elder-quality men gifted by the Holy Spirit in evangelism and apostolic ministry (church planting). But, then, when we consider the history of the World Christian Movement we see how this transference from evangelism by godly elders to evangelization by youth came' about.
As our series on the World Christian Movement expands, we will be addressing some serious issues. Among them will be the ecumenical stance that the Movement has embraced, including the Roman Catholic influences. We will also be addressing the Kaleidoscopic Global Action Plan of the Global Evangelization Movement. The Plan includes listing opposition to the world evangelization movement, making it difficult for them to continue; massive redistribution of wealth everywhere; international environmental concerns; support of U.N. social agencies; and many other topics.
We believe that the final picture will reveal that the Gospel is taking a back seat to social and political concerns due to the influence of liberal elements within the World Christian Movement. And that influence is so great--as is the Movement's influence among the world's churches-that virtually every Christian's life will be touched to some degree.
It is our belief that this is the most important issue on deception with which we have dealt in the twenty-two years of our ministry. Considering the importance of such writings as those on Promise Keepers, Holy Laughter and Pensacola, that's saying quite a lot, we know. However, it appears as if all these others were merely small parts of this greater whole. The leaders of the World Christian Movement expect adverse reactions to the ideas that come out of their think tanks. But they are prepared to deal with those reactions. Nor are they overly concerned. They know that opposition is sparse and lacking in resources to get their message out to enough people to seriously hamper their efforts. They also know that once opposition has had its say, people tend to forget, or they choose to believe those in whom they have placed their confidence. Everyone wants to spread the Gospel; anything that appears to be in opposition to that goal will be looked upon as satanic in its origins. We realize that this could include us.
Yet, again, we wish to stress that we are not judging everyone associated with the Movement, or involved in these organizations. We are not against missions; we support missions financially and with whatever encouragement we can offer.
It is our hope that those who read this series on the World Christian Movement will recognize those areas in which they may participate without compromising the Gospel, and which to avoid. It i6' offered in love toward our brethren involved in true evangelism.
May we not be deceived into offering to God strange fire that looks like the real thing.*
Following is a list of some of the organizations involved in the world evangelization movement. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but should give the reader some idea of the extent of the movement's influence within the Christian community.
CONTINUE TO PART THREE
NOTES41. C. Peter Wagner, Confronting the Powers, pp.21-22.
CONTINUE TO PART THREE
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