Heartiest greetings and a warm welcome to the delegates, observers, and guests
of this World Congress on Evangelism. We are deeply grateful to Dr. Carl Henry,
the co-editors and Board of Directors of Christianity Today for taking the
tremendous responsibility of calling us together.
I believe we are meeting at a propitious time for an important purpose and in a significant place. As to the time, has the world ever known such an hour as this? Have the people of the world ever searched so frantically for an answer to their staggering problems? Has the church ever faced such frustration and futility? Even good godly men in the face of the paralyzing evil around them -- like Moses when he returned to Israel's camp to find the people worshiping a golden calf -- are inclined to throw up their hands and say, "What's the use?"
But we know that in history God has often chosen the worst time in which to do His greatest work. He has often used the dark background of current events upon which to display the dazzling heavenly light. It was not a hopeful hour when He sent His Son into the world. It was an hour when religion had reached a low ebb, when tyranny was holding sway, when the weak were overrun by the strong, and when the people of the world were obsessed with lust, greed, cheap pleasure, and power. But in this dark hour, God chose to do His greatest work -- "But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Galatians 4:4-5). When fruit ripens, some of it inevitably decays; and it is often when the stench of hell is strong in the world that God sends the breath of heaven to His people.
Our purpose is important because we hold the conviction that evangelism -- the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ -- is the only revolutionary force that can change our world.
And Berlin, where east meets west, where two ideologies are dramatized, is a significant place for this Congress. It is here that so much of world history has been written. The city of Berlin has influenced the world politically, sociologically, medically, psychologically, and theologically. What a place from which to shout to the world, "God is alive!"
Today I salute my brethren in the cause of evangelism from every part of the world. I am convinced that God is pleased when men of various cultures and racial backgrounds come together in His Name. At Pentecost, when the church was born, there were Parthians, Medes, Elamites, dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and in Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians. These groups represented every ethnic culture of those times and they were all eyewitnesses of Pentecost with its mighty manifestations and power.
In Acts 13:1 the Scripture says: "Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul."
Take a look at these people. The church was made up of two Jews, two Africans and a Roman. Race was irrelevant -- so was class. It was not who they were, but whose. Where differences of class or race, or secondary doctrines or trivial patterns of behavior divide us, I am convinced that the Holy Spirit will be limited in using us for the evangelization of the world in our generation. Christ has transcended these differences by giving to us a higher and ultimate sense of loyalty -- a new center of gravitation -- a new status that makes other distinctions trivial and meaningless. A woman is still a woman and a man is still a man -- the illiterate man is still uneducated, and the university professor still learned. The Negro is still black, and the Caucasian white. But now all are Christians and so if any man be in Christ, old categories are passed away -- all things are become new.
In 1722, Protestant refugees, who had been persecuted in Bohemia and Moravia, were invited by Count von Zinzendorf, to settle on his estates not far from Dresden. There they founded the village of Herrnhut. Zinzendorf was soon troubled to find that these many small groups could not get along or even agree on how to worship together. At last he called together their leaders and expressed his deep concern. They agreed to his proposal that for several weeks in their respective meetings they should preach and meditate only on the Cross. At the end of that time they would join in a united Communion service. On the day of the Communion, when the service was over, not a soul stirred. The whole congregation was so deeply moved that they sat together for hours, and from that day on, they worshipped and witnessed together as "the Moravians" who became evangelists and missionaries to the whole world and influenced the greatest evangelist since Paul, John Wesley.
It is my prayer that something like this will happen as a result of this Berlin conference. We are not here to organize a new movement -- we are here to ask God to rekindle the flame of revival and evangelism throughout the world church. At this Congress, we have more than a hundred nations represented, and my prayer is that the Holy Spirit will so manifest Himself that we will go back to,our people with a fresh vision, a fresh zeal, and a fresh love for the souls of men. The need is desperate -- the Gospel's power is undiminished. The Holy Spirit is still available.
Just 300 years ago, on a Sunday evening a baker’s oven became overheated in Pudding Lane in London. This led to the burning of the baker's house. The sparks from the house set fire to the Star Inn on Fish Street Hill, and from that the fire spread and London was soon in flames. Within 48 hours, most of the city was destroyed by fire -- including St. Paul's Cathedral.
Today, thousands of Christians on every continent are praying that from Berlin the sparks of revival, evangelism, and missions will fly -- ignited by the Holy Spirit -- that will touch the entire world.
The elements of spiritual fire are here and could make this
Congress as significant in the history of the Church as the World Missionary
Conference which was held in Edinburgh in June, 1910. We need a greater comprehension
of the world in which we labor. We need a greater unity among the laborers.
We need a greater dynamic. We need no new organizations and movements. We
need no new message. But we do need a fresh and larger bestowal of supernatural
power for the accomplish- ment of our stupendous task of evangelizing our
generation. We need a greater enthusiasm. Today, if the Christian Church could
be aflame with enthusiasm for the Gospel of Christ, with the spirit of burning
devotion to the Person of Christ, and with an overwhelming passion for the
multitudes still outside Christ, we could change our world.
All is in readiness. Breathe on us, 0 Spirit of God!