Continuing our Evangelical Documents Study Series, we'll be examining the eighth portion (ninth, as enumerated in the document) of the Lausanne Covenant, promulgated in 1974 by the first International Congress on World Evangelization. The first segment dealt with the purposes of God; the second segment dealt with the authority and nature of Scripture; the third segment dealt with the unique saving role of Christ; the fourth segment dealt with the nature of evangelism; the fifth segment dealt with Christian social responsibility; the sixth segment dealt with the Church's calling to evangelism; the seventh segment dealt with Christian partnership in evangelism; and now the eighth segment deals with the urgency of evangelism.
9. The Urgency of the Evangelistic Task
More than 2,700 million people, which is more than two-thirds of all humanity, have yet to be evangelised. We are ashamed that so many have been neglected; it is a standing rebuke to us and to the whole Church. There is now, however, in many parts of the world an unprecedented receptivity to the Lord Jesus Christ. We are convinced that this is the time for churches and parachurch agencies to pray earnestly for the salvation of the unreached and to launch new efforts to achieve world evangelization. A reduction of foreign missionaries and money in an evangelised country may sometimes be necessary to facilitate the national church's growth in self-reliance and to release resources for unevangelised areas. Missionaries should flow ever more freely from and to all six continents in a spirit of humble service. The goal should be, by all available means and at the earliest possible time, that every person will have the opportunity to hear, understand, and to receive the good news. We cannot hope to attain this goal without sacrifice. All of us are shocked by the poverty of millions and disturbed by the injustices which cause it. Those of us who live in affluent circumstances accept our duty to develop a simple lifestyle in order to contribute more generously to both relief and evangelism.
The first thing that strikes me most strongly here is, as the title conveys, a sense of genuine urgency. It's so easy to lose sight of the massive crisis that should break every heart: the majority of people alive today are trapped in sin rather than freed by the good news that Jesus died to liberate them and rose again so we can share in his triumph. Most people alive today haven't heard about it! And how will they be set free to live for God's kingdom until they hear and have a chance to reply? Now certainly, it may be that those who do not hear in this life may yet have hope - such we may hope in the mercy of God but without presuming - but so many are living their lives in bondage and death when they could have freedom and life!
The document also makes a good point when it urges missionaries to be more mobile. We have precedent for this in the ministry of the apostles. Once a congregation was begun and given initial preparation, it did not continue to depend on the day-to-day presence of the apostles. It began its own life, raising up leadership from within its ranks - though still checked from time to time by apostolic guidance. Today, we need to free up resources so that those countries with a prepared Christian presence within them can be evangelized by their own Christians, while missionaries can focus more on areas yet unreached.
And the third thing that strikes me here is the call for Christians who are relatively more affluent - which, on a global scale, would include anyone reading this - to accept a simpler lifestyle so that we can support the tasks of the kingdom of God. Now, by American standards, I'm by no means well-to-do. I'm a student with mounting debt and no income at the moment who can't always afford to eat. For a while now, I've been trying to figure out how I can effectively simplify my life and divert a bit more of what I do have towards this task. It isn't easy and I'm still trying to figure it out; but there are so many people on earth, even brothers and sisters in the faith, who have so vastly much less than I do. I can hardly imagine it. And still, many of those same believers find ways to give. Surely I - and the rest of us - can do the same.