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What is World Evangelization?

Travel is one of my favorite activities and experiencing other cultures is one my greatest passions. But with kids and a wife I actually enjoy, long haul flights to Africa and beyond have become something of a burden. After taking six such trips in 2009, I decided it was time to slow down, well actually just quit.

When the opportunity to participate in the third congress of Lausanne, what Christianity Today called the most diverse gathering ever in Cape Town, South Africa, I wasn’t sure if I should go. Normally, I would be ecstatic to go a place I’ve long heard about and experience a multitude of cultures at one time, but the sixty hours on airplanes and 12 days away from home, gave me some pause.

But there was something else that gave me hesitation. Lausanne calls this gathering, the third congress on world evangelization. While I definitely believe in sharing my faith and in people’s rights to convert to other faiths, and, furthermore, I’ve recently co-authored a book on evangelicalism identifying myself as a part of the movement, I am still nervous tossing around terms like “world evangelization.”

There are really two reasons why: First, the phrase can carry a sort of “conquering” implication that is, frankly, creepy at best and horrifying at worst. As if we, Christian people, are out to make everyone like us.

Second and perhaps, even more serious for me, as a person of faith and a follower of Christ, is that evangelization has been frequently defined quite poorly to mean simply a cognitive assent to some doctrinal beliefs in order to seal a deal to obtain a get out of hell free card.

This type of evangelization reveals a reductionistic view of the gospel that I believe is far from what is intended when one reads the words of Christ.

Despite my hesitations, I opted to kiss my wife and kids good bye and make the long track to other side of the world. Now that I am here, I am definitely glad that I have made the trip.

What I see and hear is a fresh awareness of the complexities of life and the reality that our faith is a way of life that we are to live with genuine love for our neighbor, not merely something we are somehow obligated to impose on people who don’t really care.

In recent years through active missions the evangelical church has done a tremendous job in spreading the gospel message geographically around the world. Now, I think the time has come to integrate the gospel of love into the various spheres of society, because we take it seriously that Jesus prayed, “Father, may your will be done on earth as it is heaven” (Matthew 6:10) We take it seriously that Jesus said, “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you'” (Luke 10:9).

Evangelization does not simply mean spreading the message of salvation, but of love as well. A love that drives us into slums, ghettos, and bordellos, to seek and save those that are lost and in need of healing. A love that drives us to be kind to people on the street, embracing of those that are different, compassionate to those with questions, and gracious with those who disagree.

Right now in Cape Town, South Africa, there are nearly 4000 people that get that and that’s why I’m glad I came.


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Very interesting article, amde me think! Thanks for sharing.

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Founder of Russell Media, author/speaker focusing on marketplace, economy and faith. On a journey to live the entrepreneurial life.