Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ajith Fernando on Issues at Cape Town 2010: the Urgency of Evangelism, the Prosperity Gospel, and the Islamic Challenge

Cape town 2010bFrom Koinonia (Part I and II):
As Cape Town 2010 draws near, we are excited to share with you the thoughts of Ajith Fernando as he looks forward to taking part in this historic event.

The first Lausanne congress in 1974 was used by God in a most amazing way to bring renewal on many fronts to the church worldwide.
The Lausanne Covenant, whose chief drafter was John Stott, became a new standard for unity and mission thinking among a huge segment of the Christian Church worldwide. This had an excellent articulation of what Christians were struggling to arrive at as a biblically faithful understanding of the relationship between social concern and evangelism.
It was through Lausanne 74 that the concept of unreached people became part of evangelical parlance worldwide. It was a good time for God to breakthrough given that it was possibly the most representative gathering of Christians ever in history.

This conference too is going to be such a gathering in terms of representation by evangelical leadership worldwide. It could be a wonderful time for God to break through and give some key messages to the global church. A lot of homework has been done, under the gracious and wise leadership of Lausanne Chairman Doug Birdsall.
So this is a conference that will benefit from immense preparation and also from an incredibly vibrant use of the global communications via the Internet. Thousands will gather in sites across the globe to participate in the conference through the use of satellite technology. Yet the long term impact of a conference ultimately is in the hands of God and his decision on whether or not to use the conference in a unique way.
The evangelical church faces some big challenges at this time.
1. Though Lausanne '74 helped clarify the relationship between Social concern and evangelism, evangelism often gets sidelined or loses its place of supreme importance as the church responds to the plethora of social challenges it encounters today.
We need a return to the urgency of evangelism that comes out of a realistic understanding of the lostness of humanity apart from Christ and of the glory of the gospel. There are complaints that some recent high profile evangelical mission conferences, which previously had a high emphasis on the need to preach the good news to the lost, are now focusing so much on other issues that evangelism has become just an "also ran." Some fear that this will happen also in Lausanne III.
I am however hoping that out of Lausanne III will come a strong cry for commitment to and passion for evangelism, while at the same time challenging the church to engage in meeting some of the other challenges the human race faces. The horror of lostness of people apart from Christ is as serious now as it was before, and it is the greatest human need.
2. Prosperity theology is growing at a remarkable rate in the emerging churches.
This is a worrying sign as often with it comes a deficient gospel, and a somewhat selfish and triumphalistic form of Christianity. While attracting large numbers of people it could leave the core thinkers in our nations unimpressed by the gospel of Christ because of selfish and triumphalistic that will do little to commend Christ to a nation.
I believe there will be a good emphasis at Cape Town on a more biblically balanced approach to the blessings of God upon the faithful. My hope is that this will have an impact upon churches all over the world.
3. The Islamic challenge will also be addressed in a major way at Cape Town.

I think there is a major divergence in the approaches to Islam among evangelicals across the globe. In our part of the world, many evangelicals, though aware of the dangers associated with the expansion of Islam, basically view the Muslims through evangelistic eyes. Our basic approach to them comes out of a yearning to see them acknowledge the Savior of the World.
Sadly, many Christians elsewhere seem to see them first and foremost as a threat or as enemies. I think that we should leave governments to deal with such threats and concentrate on opening doors to what God has clearly asked us to do--to share the gospel with them. This is a prime example of how other agendas have dampened our evangelistic passion and sidelined our evangelistic program.
I am hoping that Lausanne III will give a biblically faithful and wise approach to Islam that will influence the church worldwide.
·What is your role in the Lausanne conference?
The Bible expositions at Lausanne III are on Ephesians, and I will do the first one. I have written a whole book on Ephesians 1, and now I have to cover that rich chapter in 25 minutes! I must say that I had a lot of fun preparing this exposition. I will be highlighting some key gospel truths that emerge in this chapter.
I never thought that I could glow over a 25 minute talk on a passage that earlier took me five 1-hour talks to cover. But that is the beauty of Bible exposition. There are so many different ways to tackle a text. And if we stay close to the text, it can be a thrilling exercise.
There are some statements coming out of this conference. And I have been part of the drafting team for the basic statement of beliefs that need stressing as we look at the task of world evangelization today. This was a stretching and enriching experience for me as we grappled with what we should include and what the wording should be.
The committee is chaired by the esteemed theologian-pastor Sinclair Ferguson. It was a real joy for this Methodist to work for the first time with this gracious Calvinist. He is a wonderful chairman and his graciousness really kept us sane as we faced some tough challenges along the way. Chris Wright serves as the main writer for this group.
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Ajith FernandoAjith Fernando, ThM, DD, is national director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka and a Bible expositor with a worldwide ministry. He studied at Asbury Theological Seminary and Fuller Seminary, and spends much time mentoring young workers and counseling Christian workers. He is active in Colombo Theological Seminary as chairman of the academic affairs committee. Among many other works, he is the author of the Acts Volume of the NIV Application Commentary.

1 comment:

Jacob S. Wells said...

I am comforted to know that men like Ajith Fernando were leaders at the conference. His insights are scriptural and vital for vital for missionaries to keep in mind in their quest to bring the Gospel to the lost. If Fernando was typical of the speakers, I truly wish I could have been there.