‘Why Lausanne’ is Billy Graham’s opening plenary address, given at the First International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1974. (Original audio recording in English and interpretations in the six other official Congress languages are also available.)
Download PDF from the original publication in Let the Earth Hear His Voice (World Wide Publications, 1975).
Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Planning Committee has invited participants from every possible nation and nearly every evangelical denomination and para-church organisation in the world.
Never before have so many representatives of so many evangelical Christian churches in so many nations and from so many tribal and language groups gathered to worship, pray, and plan together for world evangelization.
Assembled here tonight are more responsible leaders, from more growing national churches of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, than have ever met before.
Here in Lausanne tonight are participants from areas where the gospel had not been preached until recent decades.
This Lausanne Congress is also significant because representatives are here from older churches that have witnessed and evangelized for centuries, and younger churches in Africa, Asia, and Latin America who have taken up the torch and are sending missionaries to other nations as well. In recent years, teams of Christians from Indonesia have gone to Pakistan. Koreans are sending evangelists to Thailand. Japanese are going to Indonesia, Taiwanese are going to Africa, and Africans are going to the United States! And we need them—and welcome them! It is a new day for world evangelization when the whole church can go into much of the world.
Almost 20 percent of you here are engaged in cross-cultural overseas evangelism. Others of you represent every conceivable type of evangelistic effort within your nations.
The evangelistic cutting edge of the church of Jesus Christ worldwide is here to seek how we can work together to fulfill Christ’s last commission as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Therefore, I have come to Lausanne with great hope, even as you have.
Since we met in Berlin eight years ago, tremendous developments have been taking place in the religious world. We are all aware of the startling changes in the Roman Catholic world. I also detect a wistful longing on the part of a small but growing number of ecumenical leaders for a greater emphasis on orthodox biblical theology and a re-evaluation of some of the pronouncements in theological, sociological, and political areas.
Then there has been the phenomenal development of the charismatic movement.
We have met at a time marked by signposts of both promise and danger. Promise—in that God is at work in a remarkable way. Never have so many people been so open to the gospel.
In parts of Asia, there are evidences of the outpourings of God’s Spirit in evangelism. In Korea, the church is increasing at a rate four times faster than the population.
In certain parts of northeast India, Christians now form a majority of the population and are bringing about a whole new dimension of civic righteousness.
In Papua New Guinea, a land where the gospel was virtually unknown before this generation, a large percentage of the people now profess faith in Christ.
Latin Americans are responding to the gospel in unprecedented numbers. Evangelical churches in many parts of Latin America are multiplying vigorously.
In North America, especially the United States, there has been a remarkable upsurge of interest in the gospel in the last decade—especially among the youth.
It is true that old traditional denominations with theologically liberal tendencies are declining, yet it is interesting to note the more evangelical denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention (America’s largest Protestant denomination) are showing steady growth.
Another interesting phenomenon in America is that the evangelical theological seminaries and Bible schools are overflowing and the more liberal schools are seeing a dramatic drop in enrollment. At the same time scores of para-church evangelistic organizations are flourishing as never before.
In 1945, Christians in Africa numbered about twenty million. Today they number at least 70 million.
Africa, south of the Sahara, could become substantially Christian by the end of the century, in spite of many dangers, obstacles, and even persecutions in some areas.
Europe, which has contributed so much to the evangelization of the world in centuries past, is very difficult to evaluate. Yet there are signs of awakening. I have held almost as many crusades in Europe as in America, if we include Britain.
During Euro ’70, four years ago, we connected 37 cities by closed-circuit television. In many areas there was an overwhelming response to the gospel.
Next year, thousands of Christian young people will be gathering in Brussels for ‘Eurofest’, a week of Bible study and evangelism.
In both Eastern and Western Europe, there are thousands of dedicated, committed believers. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of the people of Europe never darken the doors of a church.
A Danish clergyman recently said, ‘Europe is one vast mission field.’ But there are encouraging signs almost everywhere that God is also at work here.
In the Eastern socialist world there are evidences of a quiet but real work of the Spirit. In one country the Baptists, for example, have doubled in numbers in the last decade. Belief in God is indestructible—even in the Soviet Union; among workers and intellectuals alike, there is a growing awareness of God.
One reporter states that East European students are looking wistfully over their shoulder to Moses and to Christ for a reason to live.
In these days, God is giving his people an opportunity for worldwide witness—perhaps a last chance!
But with the promise, there are many dangers. As we meet here, world problems press upon us. Inflation is sweeping the world; but even worse, the world stands on the very brink of famine.
Droughts, floods, and other calamities have destroyed, or drastically diminished grain stocks not only in Africa, but in the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
The world food shortage is seen in the dry and dusty countries of sandal-shod farmers and nomads, in exposed ribs and swollen bellies.
At the present time we are seeing a dramatic shift in the world monetary situation. In ten years the Middle-Eastern oil-producing countries will totally dominate the entire international monetary market.
By 1980, just six years from now, a Lebanese banker estimates these Middle Eastern countries will have nearly two-thirds of all the monetary reserves in the world.
The wealth of the West accumulated since World War II is draining away. The European Common Market will have a balance of payments deficit of about 35 billion dollars this year alone, and this is only the beginning. All of this will most certainly affect those missionary agencies that depend on financial support in the West. Even smaller and under-developed nations are working on the atomic bomb.
Millions of people have a mood of deep pessimism. Men’s hearts are indeed failing them for fear as our Lord predicted.
Absence of a fear of God, loss of moral absolutes, sin accepted and glorified, breakdown in the home, disregard for authority, lawlessness, anxiety, hatred, and despair—these are signs of a culture in decay.
In the West we are witnessing societies in trauma, shaken by war, scandals, inflation, surfeited and bored with materialism, turned off by lifeless religion.
Thousands are turning to perversions, the occult, with its Satan worship, mind control, astrology, and various ploys of the devil to lure men to turn from the truth.
We read about whole villages in the Soviet Union dominated by witches.
It is right that we look for answers and solutions but we must look in the right place, and that place is the Lord Jesus Christ who can bring spiritual renewal and liberation.
We meet at a time when the world longs for reassurance, peace, hope, and purpose. Isaiah, the prophet, said centuries ago, ‘And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God?’ (Isaiah 8:19).
Most of us hold the view of Scripture that teaches that as we approach the end of history things will get worse—that our Lord predicted in Matthew 24, false prophets, earthquakes, famines, wars, betrayals, moral permissiveness, persecution, apostasy, would precede his return.
We know the whole world will not be converted to Christ—the whole world is not going to become permanently peaceful, but our Lord did promise, ‘And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.’
God is calling out a people for his name—a Christian community in the midst of the ruins of man’s sins, a bride from all races, tongues, and nations for the coming bridegroom. It is an exciting and thrilling time to be witnesses to this gospel.
However, 64 years ago, the delegates to the historic Edinburgh Conference left Edinburgh with an overwhelming optimism about the future of evangelism, missions, and its impact on what was already being called ‘The Christian Century’. They never dreamed they were less than four years from the devastation of World War l and only thirty years away from World War II.
But we here at this Congress have an unparalleled opportunity as the world may be standing at the very brink of Armageddon.
Let us unite in proclaiming Jesus Christ as God and only Savior and persuading men to become his disciples at this fateful hour. It is my prayer that we will return from Lausanne to carry the gospel of Christ throughout the world.
As this Congress convenes, four basic presuppositions should undergird our labors. These four foundation stones have guided our planning and should underlie everything we do at this Congress.
First, this Congress stands in the tradition of many movements of evangelism throughout the history of the church.
From the time of the early apostles to the present, evangelism has been the lifeblood of the church.
When the Spirit fell on the church at Pentecost, 120 believers soon became 3,000. The 3,000 soon multiplied to 5,000. And so the fire of Christ spread throughout the Roman Empire to Britain, France, Germany, and Spain, into the Caucasus, into India, and to the islands of the sea.
This Congress is the most recent link in a long chain of evangelism conferences stretching back into the last century, which Latourette called ‘the great century of missionary advance’.
At that time, sparked by thousands of young people, the Student Volunteer Movement set as its goal ‘the evangelization of the world in this generation’. It is one of the tragedies of the missionary movement that today, over 60 years after Edinburgh, many Christians not only doubt that the goal is possible but even question whether it is desirable.
Dr Arthur Johnston has done considerable research in this area and received his doctorate on this subject; I, along with him, have asked myself two questions.
First: What characterized the great missionary and evangelistic movements of the last century?
Second: How have these movements lost their zeal for evangelism?
The missionary and evangelistic movements of the last century were based on the authority of the Scriptures as the Word of God.
Because these people were biblically oriented, they had a definite view of salvation. They took seriously what the Bible says about man’s lostness and his need for redemption.
They also believed strongly in ‘conversion’, convinced that by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, men could be forgiven and changed.
They believed that evangelism was not an option but an imperative. They were convinced that the primary mission of the church is to declare the good news of Jesus Christ. They were preoccupied with obedience not obstacles.
But somehow, as time went on, many of these movements lost their zeal. Why?
Evangelism always faces two dangers. First, there are external barriers to effective evangelism. Many of these we will be examining at this Congress. The dangers experienced did not dampen their zeal. True evangelism thrives on dangers. I believe, however, an even greater danger comes from within missionary and evangelistic agencies—the internal danger.
The reason that the great missionary movements of the nineteenth century were able to make a lasting impact on the world was because internally they were strong. They knew what they believed and they determined to proclaim it to the world. We need to pray for that kind of faith and urgency today.
But they gradually lost their strength. How? In the nineteenth century there was little disagreement about ‘the message’ of evangelism.
Holding to a high view of Scripture, Christians preached the unique gospel of Christ to a lost humanity. In a series of conferences—not unlike this one—Christians sought to examine and reaffirm the evangelistic task of the church.
One of those important conferences was convened in New York in 1900.
At that conference, John R. Mott, who has been called the architect of the ecumenical movement, saw in the command of Christ the responsibility of each generation to preach Christ to its own known and accessible world. The spoken message was to be supported by education, literacy programs, and medicine. ‘The goal of the church’, he said, ‘was the conversion of souls and the edification of the infant churches’.
Ten years later, the most historic conference on evangelism and missions of this century was held in Edinburgh, Scotland. But something happened after Edinburgh in 1910. It was only a small cloud on the horizon, but it became a cyclone that swept the world.
Even before Edinburgh, theological changes were subtly infiltrating Christian youth movements, causing some to weaken their ties to orthodox faith. The authority of evangelism began to shift from the Scriptures to the organized church. They focused attention on the materialistic salvation of the community rather than the individual. This became known as the ‘social gospel’. Emphasis turned to man ‘in this world’, rather than ‘in this and the next world’.
It is my hope and prayer that Lausanne 1974 will take us back theologically, though not politically or sociologically, to the visions and concepts of those great conferences in the early part of this century.
Since then, the world church has floundered. It has lost much of the vision and zeal of those days, for three primary reasons:
- The loss of the authority of the message of the gospel.
- The preoccupation with social and political problems.
- The equal preoccupation with organizational unity.
From Edinburgh came two major streams of the modern missionary movement.
The first was the evangelical. A second stream might be termed the ecumenical.
In one important respect, however, New York and Edinburgh were prototypes of this 1974 Congress on World Evangelization. The delegates to New York and Edinburgh were chosen very largely from leaders in evangelism and mission. Leaders of churches, as churches, were not predominantly there. Hence, participants could single-mindedly consider world evangelization rather than ‘everything’ the church ought to do.
The succeeding world missionary gatherings at Jerusalem, Tambaram, Mexico City, and Bangkok were made up not only of evangelists and missionaries, but more and more of eminent leaders of the churches who were there in their capacity as churchmen—not as evangelists or missionaries.
Delegates of the young churches in Asia, Africa, and Latin America were asking primarily at these conferences, ‘How can the missionary movement help us in our social and political problems?’
The delegates did not necessarily always faithfully represent their more evangelical constituents at home. The majority at home were far more evangelically, theologically oriented. Thus, the spotlight gradually shifted from evangelism to social and political action. Finally, guidelines were drawn up which called almost entirely for humanization—the reconciliation of man with man, rather than of man with God.
This is a Congress of World Evangelization. Now we are enthusiastic about all the many things churches properly do, from worship to social concern.
But our calling is to a specific sector of the church’s responsibility—evangelism. We believe our point of view has not been adequately represented at some of the other world church gatherings. Therefore, we are met to pray, talk, plan and—please God—to advance the work of evangelism.
This is a conference of evangelicals. The participants were asked to come because you are evangelical—concerned with evangelism and missions. We here tonight stand firmly in the evangelical tradition of biblical faith.
Second, this Congress convenes as one body, obeying one Lord, facing one world, with one task.
The following words to the Ephesians could have been written specifically for the Lausanne Congress on Evangelization. Let us listen to them . . . and this is my text tonight: ‘In Christ, ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; . . . for through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now, therefore, ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone’ (Eph 2:13-20).
This Congress should not stress older and younger churches. We see the church as one.
Some churches are older, some are younger. Cultures and circumstances differ, but our mission is the same, our spiritual resources are the same—one body, one Lord, one task.
Salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ alone. Therefore, we come to the task of evangelism as one church, one body, one company of the redeemed, proclaiming the Lord Jesus Christ.
We assemble not as strangers, but as members of the household of God, to find out more perfectly his will for evangelism in our critical time.
We hold that we are already ‘one body’ already unified by ‘the head’ which is Christ. Whatever our cultural, racial or linguistic background, we are brothers and sisters in Christ.
Certainly we have some doctrinal differences. We have cultural and political differences, but we are one in the Spirit. We shout with one voice, ‘Jesus alone saves.’
We have one task—to proclaim the message of salvation in Jesus Christ.
In rich countries and in poor, among the educated and uneducated, in freedom or oppression, we are determined to proclaim Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit that men may put their trust in him as Savior, follow him obediently, and serve him in the fellowship of the church of which he alone is king and head.
Here in Lausanne, let’s make sure that evangelization is the one task which we are unitedly determined to do.
Third, this Congress convenes to re-emphasize those biblical concepts which are essential to evangelism.
There are at least five concepts that both the evangelical and the non-evangelical world have been studying and debating during the past few years—concepts which we believe to be essential to true evangelism and which I expect we will reaffirm in this Congress.
Each of these is crucial, and yet each has been drastically reinterpreted or diluted in some parts of the organized church.
Each, though re-examined in the light of our times, must be reaffirmed by those committed to biblical evangelism.
First, we are committed to the authority of Scripture.
We hold that the entire Bible is the infallible Word of God. Many years ago I had to accept this position by faith.
Even though I myself cannot understand it all, it is taken by the Holy Spirit and made inerrant to my spirit. It is an ‘everlasting body of revealed truth’ that is authoritative. It demands faith and obedience today as well as yesterday.
If there is one thing that the history of the church should teach us, it is the importance of a theology of evangelism derived from the Scriptures.
A second concept we expect to reaffirm is ‘the lostness’ of man apart from Jesus Christ.
The Bible portrays man as originally created by God for fellowship with him. However, sin intervened in the Garden of Eden. Man is now born alienated from God. Without Jesus Christ, he is lost and without hope in this world or the next.
It was Jesus who spoke most pointedly about the reality of heaven and hell. Notice the terms Jesus used to describe the state of the lost: ‘a place of wailing’; ‘a place of weeping’; ‘a furnace of fire’; ‘a place of torment’; ‘a place of utter darkness’; ‘a place of everlasting punishment’; ‘a place prepared for the devil and his angels’.
These descriptions of our Lord are terrible enough without even trying to interpret them.
Our Lord further said, ‘He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him’ (John 3:36).
Many years ago, a man in England on his way to the gallows was being warned by the Anglican chaplain of the ‘wrath to come’ unless he repented. He turned to the chaplain and said, ‘If I believed the way you believe, I would crawl across England on broken glass to warn people.’
My fellow evangelists and missionaries, if men are lost as Jesus clearly thought they are, then we have no greater priority than to lift up a saving Christ to them as Moses did the brazen serpent in the wilderness.
Thirdly, we expect to reaffirm at this Conference that salvation is in Jesus Christ alone. There is a narrowness to the Gospel that is unpopular with the world.
The early apostles declared, ‘Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12).
Again, however, there has been a steady erosion of belief in this clear scriptural teaching. Some have openly taught that there are many ways to God and that ultimately no one is lost. The vast permissiveness of our day has left its stain on the church. Not Christ ‘the one way’, according to God’s revelation, but ‘many ways’, according to one’s culture and inclination. To this, evangelicals must return a resounding NO.
There may be many roads to Jesus Christ, but only one to God and that is through Jesus Christ, who said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.’
When Sadhu Sundar Singh was asked what the Christian faith had to offer India that the other religions of India did not already possess, he replied, without a moment’s hesitation, ‘Jesus Christ’.
Fourthly, at this Congress we expect to reaffirm that our witness must be by both word and deed. You cannot separate the two. Our lives, both individually and collectively, must reflect clearly the truths we proclaim. Faith without works is dead.
The source of salvation is grace. The ground of our salvation is the atonement. The means of our salvation is faith. The evidence of salvation is works.
Many today are debating the question of the proper place of social action in the overall program of the church. Much will be said at this Congress concerning this matter.
Perhaps we will not find all the answers, but we here reaffirm the fact that our words and our deeds must both reflect the gospel.
Historically, evangelicals have changed society, influencing men everywhere in the battle against slavery and in the quest for social justice. We should be proud of this tradition.
At the same time, we must squarely face the challenges of our own age. We must be sensitive to human need wherever it is found.
We must confess, in all honesty, that we have not always been true to our tradition. At times we have not been consistent, or we have failed to appreciate the implications of the truths we have proclaimed.
It seems to me that we are always in danger of falling into at least three or four errors on social action.
The first is: to deny that we have any social responsibility as Christians. It is true that this is not our priority mission. However, it is equally true that Scripture calls us time and again to do all in our power to alleviate human suffering and to correct injustice.
The second error is to let social concern become our all consuming mission.
Jesus said, ‘What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?’ What if we developed a materialistic utopia (which sinful man never will) in which every inhabitant of the planet would be fed, clothed, housed and cared for in every way? Man still would not find the purpose, the happiness, the peace, and the joy that his heart craves for, apart from God.
This hopelessness has been articulated by such writers as Simon Bolivar, Jean-Paul Sartre, Heidegger, and Jaspers.
In a modern play, the playwright imagines everybody getting in a room and having everything that should satisfy modern man, such as sex, food, drink, drugs, money, pleasure, entertainment—but nothing satisfies.
The writer has no answer. He suggests that life has no significance, coherence, integrity, or meaning and that there is no way out of the human dilemma.
This comes from a man who had everything materially. Some of the unhappiest people I know are millionaires, apart from Christ.
Without a personal relationship with Christ, man is lost in this world and the next. The rich man that Jesus told about was materially rich, but spiritually poor. God called him a fool. Man is a spiritual being. He is never satisfied or fulfilled until his soul is at peace with God.
A third error is to identify the gospel with any one particular political program or culture. This has been my own danger.
When I go to preach the gospel, I go as an ambassador for the Kingdom of God—not America. To tie the gospel to any political system, secular program, or society is dangerous and will only serve to divert the gospel. The gospel transcends the goals and methods of any political system or any society, however good it may be. Jesus touched on this in his conversation with Pilate. In answering Pilate he said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world.’
Perhaps there is a fourth danger for us and that is the danger of trying to make all Christians act alike, regardless of where God may have placed them. Some, by the nature of your societies, are able to have a fair degree of influence.
Others of you come from countries in which this is very difficult. We should each recognize the others’ problems, dilemmas, or opportunities as the case may be.
Our situations are radically different. For example, the social, cultural, and political problems are totally different for the Christian in Uganda than in Great Britain, or for the Christian in Australia and in Czechoslovakia. But, thank God, our spiritual resources are the same.
These four things all point to the last concept which we must reaffirm at this Congress—the necessity of evangelism.
In certain circles today, evangelism is spoken of only as the ‘Christian presence’. Almost total emphasis is placed on living a consistently moral life in one’s environment. This is as it should be—it is good—but I maintain that evangelism is much more than nonverbal—’faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God’.
After all, humanists may heal, feed, and help, but this social presence isn’t gospel proclamation.
The gospel is an announcement of the good news. But what good news? It is the thrilling proclamation that Jesus Christ, very God and very man, died for my sins on the cross, was buried, and rose the third day.
The Son has made full atonement for my sins. If I reach forth by faith to receive Christ as my personal Savior, I am declared forgiven by God, not through any merit of mine, but through the merits of Christ’s shed blood. I rejoice in pardon for the past, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit for the present, and the living hope for the future.
The great philosophical questions concerning where I came from, why I am here and where I am going are answered; and in grateful obedience my life should be rich in good works.
Evangelism has been reinterpreted in some circles to mean primarily changing the structures of society in the direction of justice, righteousness and peace.
Industrial evangelism, for example, is held to be not bringing workers to redemptive faith in Jesus Christ, but improving the conditions under which men work.
Don’t get me wrong. We evangelicals should believe that improving working conditions is something each individual believer should be concerned about, but this is not primarily evangelism. Evangelicals should reject all such devaluation of the concept of the meaning of the ‘evangel’—the evangelist cannot ignore social injustice.
I believe in political freedom, changing unjust political and social structures where needed and where possible—equal justice for all. But this is not strictly evangelism—this has often historically come as the fruit of missions and evangelism.
In the early part of this century, Robert E. Speer, one of the key figures in the beginnings of the ecumenical movement, gave an address entitled ‘The Supreme and Determining Aim’.
He said, ‘We must not confuse the aim of foreign missions with the results of foreign missions. Wherever the gospel goes, it plants in the hearts of men forces that produce new lives. It plants among communities of men forces that create new social combinations. It is impossible that any human tyranny should live where Jesus Christ is King. It is a dangerous thing to charge ourselves openly before the world with the aim of reorganizing states and reconstructing society. Missions are powerful to transform the face of society because they ignore the face of society and deal with it at its heart.’
In perspective, we may not agree with all of this statement; yet the basic truth is there.
Biblically, evangelism can mean nothing else than proclaiming Jesus Christ by presence and by trusting the Holy Spirit to use the Scriptures to persuade men to become his disciples and responsible members of his church.
Furthermore, evangelism and the salvation of souls is the vital mission of the church. The whole church must be mobilized to bring the whole gospel to the whole world.
This is our calling. These are our orders. Thus, while we may discuss social and political problems, our priority for discussion here is the salvation of souls.
Christians must regain the sense of direction, the feeling of urgency, and the depth of conviction which gave birth to the powerful slogan, ‘The Evangelization of the World in this Generation’.
It is true we live in different days from those of the nineteenth century. And new days demand methods.
Our evangelistic methods differ in many ways from those of D. L. Moody. Even at this hour, there are scores of different methods of evangelism being effectively used. The method we use may be among the least effective.
No evangelism is effective unless it is personal. But some things never change. The Word of God never changes. Christ never changes. The power of the Spirit to transform lives never changes. The demand for obedience never changes. Our commission to go to the ends of the earth never changes. And Christ’s promise to be with us to the end never changes.
In other words, the message we proclaim never changes—only methods change! The task of this Congress therefore is to relate the changeless gospel to a changing world.
Fourthly, this Congress convenes to consider honestly and carefully both the unevangelized world and the church’s resources to evangelize the world.
Here, we will study together such questions as where are the unevangelized, when can a person, a village, a city, or a country be said to be evangelized.
In the last quarter of the twentieth century, the unevangelized world consists of two main blocs of people.
First, are the superficially Christian populations. If you ask them their religion, they more than likely reply, Christian, but they do not personally know Christ.
Second, the unevangelized world consists of large unreached populations which can be found in almost every country. For example, the Turks, Algerians, and the Vietnamese in Europe constitute large unreached populations in the heart of Europe itself.
There are tens of millions who live in areas that never hear the gospel. Some countries of the world are almost completely closed to the gospel except by radio. We should give a great deal of thought and prayer to ways and means of reaching these lost millions. At this Congress we should pray for the faithful, unknown, and unheralded witnesses in these areas of the world—there were believers in Caesar’s household.
In these unreached populations, Christians of any sort, born again or in name only, constitute only a tiny fraction; sometimes one in a hundred, often one in a thousand.
This Congress will be shocked to learn of the magnitude of the unreached populations on every continent.
The Planning Committee of this Congress asked the School of Missions at Fuller Theological Seminary and Missions Advance Research Center to assemble hard facts on unreached populations. The two agencies appointed a work team which enlisted the aid of hundreds around the world to gather data. I shall not anticipate their report, but I must say that the situation revealed in their report is sobering.
We must evangelize in the world which this data reveals. Our evangelistic strategy should be formed in view of this actual situation. There may be some places in the world where the church would actually be stronger if missionaries were withdrawn and sent to areas of great need.
While some people can be evangelized by their neighbors, others and greater multitudes are cut off from their Christian neighbors by deep linguistic, political, and cultural chasms. They will never be reached by ‘near neighbor’ evangelism. To build our evangelistic policies on ‘near neighbor’ evangelism alone is to shut out at least a billion from any possibility of knowing the Savior.
Churches of every land, therefore must deliberately send out evangelists and missionaries to master other languages, learn other cultures, live in them perhaps for life, and thus evangelize these multitudes. Thus, we should reject the idea of a moratorium on sending missionaries.
At the first meeting of the Executive Planning Committee for the Congress when the name was debated, it was decided to call it The International Congress on World Evangelization, not just evangelism. Many sincere Christians around the world are concerned for evangelism.
They are diligent at evangelizing in their own communities and even in their own countries. But they do not see God’s big picture of world need and the global responsibility that he has put upon the church in his Word.
The Christians in Nigeria are not just to evangelize Nigeria, nor the Christians in Peru just the people of Peru. God’s heartbeat is for the world.
Christ commissioned us not only to make disciples in every nation, but to preach the Gospel to every creature.
In this connection, we would do well to bear in mind, as we gather for the Congress on World Evangelization, that by our attitude and conduct in our individual daily contacts with the people of this great city, we either confirm or contradict the message we seek to proclaim.
What a tragedy if, in the midst of our deliberations on how to reach the world for Christ, we should fail to evangelize by word and life the very city in which we meet.
But let us pray that here at Lausanne, God will help us to the big picture of the whole world for which Christ died and for which he made us responsible to preach the gospel.
Let our hearts echo his words, ‘O earth, earth, earth, hear ye the word of the Lord!’
When Wesley was shut off from the established church of his day, he proclaimed, ‘The world will be my parish’, and he kept a map of the world before him. Carey put up a map of the world in his shoe shop.
When I see the world from the moon on television, I want to reach out and grab it for Christ. As Isaiah said, ‘Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else’ (Isa 45:22).
World evangelization means continued and increasing sendings of missionaries and evangelists from every church in every land to the unreached billions. The church must learn to utilize every technological and spiritual resource at its command for the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Finally, what do we hope will be accomplished at this Congress? Let me share four of my hopes with you.
- I would like to see the Congress frame a biblical declaration on evangelism. The time has come again for the evangelical world to speak with a strong clear voice as to the biblical definition of evangelism. I would challenge the World Council of Churches Assembly next year planned for Jakarta to study carefully and prayerfully with the idea of adopting more evangelical concepts of evangelism and missions.
- I would like to see the church challenged to complete the task of world evangelization. Never has the church been stronger, more deeply entrenched in more countries, more truly a world church, and more able to evangelize than it is today.
Our Lord said, ‘Look unto the fields for they are white unto harvest.’ Never has the grain been thicker than it is today.
The world population by the end of this century, at the present rate of increase, will be seven billion. But never have the instruments been sharper.
We have the manpower in the thousands of keen young Christians God has been calling to himself in recent years.
The time has come for action! Effective methods of evangelism, developed in various parts of the world during the past decades, both by denominations and by para-church organizations, should be studied and developed. Participants of this Congress should take suggestions and ideas and share them and apply them in their own lands.
- I trust we can state what the relationship is between evangelism and social responsibility. Let us rejoice in social action, and yet insist that it alone is not evangelism and cannot be substituted for evangelism. This relationship disturbs many believers. Perhaps Lausanne can help clarify it.
- I hope that a new ‘koinonia’ or fellowship among evangelicals of all persuasions will be developed throughout the world. I hope there will develop here what I like to call “’he spirit of Lausanne’. The time has come for evangelicals to move forward, to encourage, challenge and bring hope to the world church.
Evangelicals are rapidly gaining recognition and momentum! From this Congress can come a new love, a new fellowship, a new slogan, and a new song, but most of all, a new commitment.
I believe the Lord is saying to us, ‘Let’s go forward together in a worldwide fellowship in evangelism, in missions, in Bible translation, in literature distribution, in meeting world social needs, in evangelical theological training, etc’.
There are two basic needs if we are to leave with the spirit of Lausanne.
The first has to do with prayer. For the ten days prior to Pentecost, the disciples ‘continued in one accord in prayer and supplications’ (Acts 1:14). Their prayers were heard. The Spirit descended. The power abounded. Weak men became strong, faithless men became faithful. Speechless men spoke the Word with strength and, most glorious of all, sinners who listened became saints through faith in the risen Christ.
It is my hope that there will be a tremendous emphasis on prayer during this Congress. Evangelism is always in danger of succumbing to a humanistic activity. With all the emphasis on crowds and our thrill and excitement about church growth, we should remember that Jesus sometimes fled from the crowds.
In discussions of evangelism, too little is often made of the spiritual life and prayer.
It is foolish and vain to try to do God’s work without God’s power.
But there is no way for Christians to have God’s power except by prayer. I have learned from many years of evangelistic experience that successful evangelism, whatever method may be used, must be saturated in prayer.
The second need is to leave the Congress filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Only a Spirit-filled people can finish the job of world evangelization.
We will be here for ten days, even as the disciples of our Lord tarried for ten days before Pentecost. They did this in obedience to the command of Jesus, ‘Tarry ye in Jerusalem until ye are endued with power from on high’ (Luke 24:49).
The power they needed is the power we need. There can be no adequate evangelism without the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment. It is the Holy Spirit who performs the work of regeneration.
It is the Holy Spirit who indwells believers. It is the Holy Spirit who guides, teaches, instructs, and fills the new believer.
The great communicator of the gospel is the Holy Spirit. He uses ordinary people such as us as instruments—but it is his work!
Thus, when the gospel is faithfully declared, it is the Holy Spirit who sends it like a fiery dart into the hearts of those who have been prepared.
Thus, it is my hope that during this Congress there will be a constant recognition of the person and work of the Holy Spirit in evangelism.
God has gathered us here at a time of great opportunity, but also at a time of unprecedented danger. The harvest is ripe! But harvest time only lasts a short time. What we do, we do with urgency.
Storm clouds are gathering. Satan is marshaling his forces for his fiercest attack in history. Ours is a cosmic struggle both in the seen and the unseen world. Satan will do everything he can to discourage, divide, and defeat us as we seek to carry out the Great Commission of our Lord.
But we follow the Son of God who has already nullified the power of death, hell, and Satan. The final victory is certain.
The night before he was assassinated, Dr Martin Luther King spoke in Memphis about how he had climbed the mountain. When he had scaled the heights of the mountain he said that he was able to look over into the Promised Land. He said, ‘Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.’
You and I have climbed the mountain that separated us from the Living God. We have scaled its heights. We have looked into the Promised Land. Our eyes have seen the glory of God.
He has given us the vision to see, the faith to believe, and the courage to act. But we have not yet entered the Promised Land.
Down below us on the plains of the world are the millions of men and women who do not know there is a mountain to climb; they do not know there is a Promised Land to enter.
They have not seen, believed, nor acted. We who have seen the Promised Land must go down into the valley when Lausanne is over and tell the multitudes there is a mountain to climb and Promised Land to enter.
God has cut the pathway to the top of that mountain with the blood of his Son. God has prepared a Promised Land where there is no night, no sin, no suffering, no hunger, no sorrow, no tears, and no death.
And to us has been given the task and the privilege to tell all men everywhere that if they follow the blood-stained trail to the Son of God, they will climb the mountain, they will see the Promised Land, and they will know the glory of the coming of the Lord.
That the earth may hear his voice!
Special thanks to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for giving us permission to post this article. All rights remain with the original publisher and the authors. Reproduction by any means is strictly for non-commercial purposes only and must not be sold or distributed. Originally published in Let the Earth Hear His Voice, ©1975 World Wide Publications. Used with permission. All rights reserved.