From the Summer 1988 issue of Centerline, the newsletter of the Billy Graham Center
Evangelism Takes on the Future
by Dr. Melvin Lorentzen
The renowned Fermilab with its nuclear accelerator in Batavia, less than ten miles from Wheaton, cannot begin to compare with the Graham Center when it comes to potential for world impact. True, in that neighboring facility the distinguished atomic scientists work with sophisticated equipment capable of producing incredible energy. But the resources already concentrated in the Center, or readily available to it, carry the superior capacity to tip the scales of history for the Kingdom of Christ in the next generation--with eternal consequences.
To help realize this destiny, a "spiritual accelerator" has been installed at the a Center--the Institute of Evangelism. Through study, training, and planning as intensive as any other discipline demands, evangelism now reasserts its priority as "the supreme task of the church.
Study has to take first place, even as it did in the call of the Lord Jesus to twelve men to be "learners" (disciples) as they walked with Him. The Institute provides students of evangelism with abundant models of historic personalities and pacesetting organizations that brought the Gospel to individuals and nations. The records -accessible in the Center's archives, library and museum contain unexplored masses of past ministry experience to instruct today's learners, beginning with the most extensive collection to be found anywhere of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association out- reach (literally tons of material on that ministry alone).
To keep such study of models from being simply academic, the Institute will draw on mentors, active contemporary practitioners of evangelism whose vital involvement in bringing people to Christ communicates the contagion of enthusiasm. These instructors and counselors represent the diversity of skills needed in modern evangelism--from traditional preaching and music to state-of-the-art organization and follow-up. They are theorists in the best sense possessing wise insights that come from first- hand experience. These models and mentors are available in several ways to guide studies for evangelists, pastors, teachers, college and seminary students, administrators of programs and lay people. In addition to individual, investigation of materials already available or in preparation for home study by correspondence through the Extension Studies and Continuing Education department, directed by Dr. Merrill Ewert. Other opportunities come through specialized workshops and conferences, such as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association School of Evangelism each year in the Center's Barrows Auditorium (to be held June 20-24,1988). It also is expected that the Wheaton Graduate School will collaborate with the Institute to increase offerings in evangelism later leading to an accredited M.A. degree.
The second emphasis of the Institute, raining, recognizes that hands-on laboratory work in evangelism is essential in order to translate knowledge into productive practice. Jesus not only called the disciples to spend time with Him but He also sent them out to declare the message and to do the work of the Father. The Institute will use the communications facilities in the Center--radio station, television studios, and journalism laboratory--to challenge students with methods for public expression of the Gospel. In addition, arrangements will be attempted for internships in all phases of evangelistic ministry, allowing students to work for short terms with evangelists in the field or with staff at various headquarters. A particular focus within the Institute will be ethnic evangelism, how to help various people groups within American society reach those they understand best. Dr. Isaac Tam will be giving supervision to this program for the present, as well as continuing to direct the Center's Institute for Chinese Studies. Information is now being gathered to lay a foundation of effective ministry in this promising area.
Because the new decade and new century ahead will witness much that is different from what the church has known in the past, even in the late twentieth century, the Institute will give much attention to planning. To learn the "what" of evangelism through study, and the "how" of evangelism through training, are first steps. Beyond the models, and the mentors, and the methods, must be motivation. This cannot be generated simply by exhortations to evangelize. To make the most of coming developments in the church and in society, tomorrow s evangelists-in-preparation, like' the disciples in Jerusalem, must wait upon the Lord for the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Those early witnesses to the risen Christ were characterized by their togetherness. The Institute of Evangelism at the Graham Center will bring concerned Christians together in many ways to discern the will of God for His work. One vital aspect in discernment is having adequate information, so the Institute has a full-time research coordinator, Mr. Dan Moul, gathering facts about what is happening in evangelism today, which in turn discloses much about what is not happening. Those facts, and those needs, point to the ultimate issue that each Christian and each Christian agency must face: Where do I fit in? In consultations with Christian leaders, the Institute will share the information it gathers to assist them in putting their resources to best use. Through occasional conferences on specific topics, the Institute will pass on to the church at large information on trends to watch and how to use these for effective outreach.
Study, training, planning-a significant role for this new Institute of Evangelism at the Billy Graham Center. As the search continues for a director, and for funds, to bring all the above possibilities into reality, the Center counts on its friends to spend much time in prayer for the Lord to lead and to provide. The crisis of credibility that has stricken the Christian community in America in the recent past reinforces the urgency of proclaiming an uncompromising and uncompromised Gospel. To that task the Institute of Evangelism is dedicated for the honor of the Lord Jesus Christ.