Monday, July 31, 2006

PSEUDO-MISSION: How the Camel Got Its Nose Under the Tent

How did evangelicalism get to the point where its leaders are openly bragging about transforming nations? How did we get to the point where the term "mission" has now been broadened to include marketplace (commerce) and changing the governments of nations? When did "mission" quit meaning evangelism, i.e., sharing the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ from the Written Word of the Bible? When did it start meaning social action of the most dominionist kind?

Today's post is a critical snapshot in time which will help to answer these questions.

In 1981, C. Peter Wagner (who is now the recognized leader of the New Apostolic Reformation) wrote a book called Church Growth and the Whole Gospel: A Biblical Mandate (Harper & Row, San Francisco). A significant section of this book tells how it happened that neoevangelical leaders began to embrace the very social gospel ethic which they had formerly condemned in the more liberal denominations.

Wagner explains this critical transition in chapter 5, “Holistic Mission Versus Holistic Evangelism,” in a subsection entitled “Changing the Classical Definition of Mission.”

"During our century, a change in this classical understanding of mission has been taking place. Sydney E. Mead traces the roots of this change to the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the opening years of the twentieth, when 'real belief in the all-sufficiency of this king of missions declined.' He associates it with the impact the social gospel movement was having on churches at that time. The result was that 'missions were metamorphosed from the simple task of winning converts… to the complex task of participating actively in social betterment and reconstruction.'(4) The strongest expression of this new view of missions came in 1932 with the publication of Hocking’s Re-Thinking Missions, the result of the 'layman’s inquiry.' It began a process which later, as we will see, drastically eroded the place of the evangelistic mandate in the mission of the church.

"In the classical period, the word missions was sufficient to describe the task of spreading the faith in foreign countries. But with the broadening of the concept, a change from missions (plural) to mission (singular) also took place. For example, the ecumenically oriented journal International Review of Missons changed its name in April, 1969, to International Review of Mission. In technical usage today, mission means the task of the church, while missions means the agencies and activities implementing the task, although they are inter changed somewhat in popular usage.

"Notice that the period of time in which the concept of mission was undergoing a change was the same period in which evangelicals were building defenses against the social gospel, as I described in Chapter 1. Evangelicals were in the 'Great Reversal.´ They had eclipsed the concept of the kingdom of God among other things. For evangelicals throughout this period, mission continued to mean evangelism. To allow the cultural mandate to creep into the technical definition of mission would have been interpreted as a capitulation to the enemy. Evangelicals maintained the classical definition of mission long after the ecumenical camp had abandoned it.

"A change in evangelical thinking began in the 1960s. Two events significant to evangelicals took place in 1966, the Congress on the Church’s Worldwide Mission held in Wheaton, Illinois, and the World Congress on Evangelism held in Berlin. In the Wheaton Congress a plenary address was given by Horace L. Fenton on 'Mission – and Social Concern.' In it, Fenton suggested that it was unbiblical to separate evangelism and social concern in the mission of the church.(5) The Wheaton Declaration was still somewhat tentative on this, but it pledged to 'demonstrate anew God’s concern for social justice and human welfare,' and to urge 'all evangelicals to stand openly and firmly for racial equality, human freedom, and all forms of social justice throughout the world.'(6)

"The Berlin Congress, by and large, held to the classical definition of mission. Arthur Johnston of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, in The Battle for World Evangelism, the most comprehensive treatment of these concepts to date, observes that 'Berlin gave little more than token theological consideration to the social pressures of the 1960s.' Berlin did not develop a view of mission that would embrace the cultural mandate. 'It stood firm on proclamation evangelism as the mission of the Church.'(7)

"Lausanne and Holistic Mission

"The period between the Berlin Congress of 1966 and its successor, The International Congress on World Evangelization, held in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1974, was a time of transition in evangelical thinking on the definition of mission. Arthur Johnston says, 'The crisis of Christianity during the period between Berlin 1966 and Lausanne 1974 may be summarized theologically as the definition of the mission of the church.'(8) The “Great Reversal” was coming to an end. The 'young evangelicals' were on the rise with civil rights demonstrations and draft card burning. Radical discipleship movements began with their communes and magazines. The cultural mandate was being stressed. A collective social conscience was beginning to develop among evangelicals in general. By the time of the Lausanne Congress, a significant number of evangelical leaders were ready to go public with a revised definition of mission.

"Key to this was a person whom God had raised up to assume a strong, influential position in the shaping of evangelical thought, John R. W. Stott, Rector of All Souls Church, Langham Place, London. In Berlin, Stott had presented three plenary session Bible studies on the Great Commission. There he held to the classical definition of mission. He argued that 'the commission of the church is not to reform society, but to preach the Gospel.'(9) Stott himself affirms that this was his thinking in 1966.(10)

“'Today, however,' Stott says, 'I would express myself differently.'(11) Stott was one of the chief authors of the Lausanne Covenant, which states: 'We affirm that evangelism and sociopolitical involvement are both part of our Christian duty'(Art. 5). While the word 'duty' appears here instead of 'mission,' most post-Lausanne interpreters have considered them synonymous. Stott himself says, 'The word "mission"…includes evangelism and social responsibility, since both are authentic expressions of love which longs to serve man in his need.'(12) By the time of Lausanne, then, a significant group of missiologically oriented evangelicals had accepted the position that ecumenicals had embraced decades earlier, namely that the mission of the church includes both the cultural and the evangelistic mandates. They have not, however, allowed this to carry them to the unbiblical conclusions of the ecumenical group."(p. 89-91)*

This brief excerpt explains how C. Peter Wagner can forge ahead with new doctrines claiming that ekklesia (Gk: church) can be broadly applied to marketplace commerce activities (see previous Herescope posts on this topic). It explains how come Rick Warren can work to cure AIDS with Bill Gates and Bono, and use the church as a vehicle to implement the UN Millennium Develpment Goals -- all via a pseudo-mission global P.E.A.C.E. plan. It explains how the evangelical leaders can comfortably collaborate with the Aspen elites on international governance agendas (see previous posts).

The camel got its nose under the tent earlier in the past century -- and no wonder the tent is getting stinky now!

The Truth:

"The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace." (Isaiah 59:8)

Quoted in Sydney E. Mead, “Denominationalism: The Shape of Protestantism in America,” in Denominationalism, ed. Russell E. Richey (Nashville: Abingdon, 1977), pp. 86-87.
Horace L. Fenton, Jr., “Mission – and Social Concern,” in The Church’s Worldwide Mission, ed. Harold Lindsell (Waco: Word Books, 1966), pp. 193-203
“Wheaton Declaration,” in Lindsell, The Church’s Worldwide Mission, p 235.
Arthur Johnston, The Battle for World Evangelization (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1978), p. 221
Ibid., p. 227
John R.W. Stott, “The Great Commission,” in One Race, One Gospel, One Task, ed. Carl F.H. Henry and W. Stanley Mooneyham (Minneapolis: World Wide Publications, 1967). Vol. 1, p. 50.
John R. W. Stott, Christian Mission in the Modern World (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1975), p. 23.
Ibid, p. 35.