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“Evangelicalism in Recession” Again? – Or just another book that speaks of the giants, and giants alone. [blog]

As I am following Christian trends publications in English language, every year I see a volume or two on the shrinking trends and alarming signs showing that ‘our churches are dying’ and that young people are leaving the faith of their forefathers. When you combine such statistics with the recession that hit in 2008 no wonder why some people see great recession everywhere, inflation of statistics in church memberships and other alarming data.Image

From his perspective, and the book speaks about the situation in the USA, I think that the author (John Dickerson: The Great Evangelical Recession) was rather trying to alert the pastors and other leaders of the situation and to point them toward, as he calls it, the moment of decision making. But, I have some issues the way book is portraying the evangelical movement – especially as the author is taking church attendance to be an indicator of what people believe in, or how many young people lost their faith since they left a local congregation. Does this seem right? If it was not their faith, but a habit inherited from their family, they were not believers in the first instance anyway. I think Bonhoeffer spoke wisely on this issue when he was depicting what he encountered in America as Protestantism without Reformation…

So, churchgoers versus converts. Statistics for the first ones exist, but not so for the second ones. Everyone sees us going to a church, no one knows about the condition of our heart – had it been conditioned yet by Jesus’ unconditioned love, had you turned away from your old ways…

So, yes, there are giants in the land and people are leaving churches. Yet, some join churches and in the midst of it there is a mystery work going on – people are finding Jesus. These are good giants.

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Almost 62 years ago, in February 1952, an organization called International Evangelism was founded. Later it will become Trans World Radio, in Europe known as Radio Monte Carlo. Broadcasts started in 1964. Amazing history.

Most of the TWR story is recorded and is widely known – today it is a global media organization that broadcast in around 230 languages and dialects, in about 160 countries and territories. Massive. But, how it all started?

Ten days ago, I listened to Ms Ludmila Hallerova, a lady of mid-80, member of the Vinohrady Baptist church in Prague. She was visiting Bratislava, Slovakia, and shared some of her memories. This is her story:

While a young girl she attended the Bible school in Beatenberg, Switzerland. In August of 1948, Youth for Christ organized their first ever European international conference, under the title: World Conference on World Evangelization. Main speaker was Oswald Smith. The list of delegates shows that they came from 46 nations, and some of the names were later leaders of XX century evangelicalism. ImageImage

Garth Rosell’s account of this event (in his book: The Surprising Work of God) goes like his: “The burden of this conference is the final and complete evangelization of the entire world in our generation. We are not here for a vacation, we are not here to trifle with time and opportunity. The Holy Spirit has brought us together for Prayer, for Bible Study, for heart-searching, and for waiting upon God. May it please him to give us a new and greater insigt into the task of world evangelization and the means by which it can be accomplished now!”

Hallerova shared that Oswald shared from the Bible on the feeding of 5,000, and that he stated that many participants are going around and feeding those in first lines, but that no one goes to the last rows. Who will feed them, he asked? Who will multiple the bread for them, he asked? Then he rebuked the participants for being observant of the first lines only… Hallerova said that on these words Billy Graham went on his knees with tears in eyes asking for forgiveness from the Father. And so many others. The Beatenberg conference was a start up of something greater than ever in the new mission movement.

Who were the participants? Among many these names we will recognize today: Billy Graham, Bob Jones Jr. (president of Bob Jones University), Stephen Payne(President of Houghton College and of the National Association of Evangelicals), Harold Ockenga (pastor from Boston and one of the founders of Fuller Theological Seminary and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), Bob Pierce (founder of World Vision and Samaritan Purse), Bob Evans (Founder of Greater Europe Mission), Merv Rosell (evangelist and missionary statesman), Paul Freed (founder of Trans World Radio, nowadays TWR) …

All the participants left the conference convinced that they are the ones to go to the end of this world and feed the last rows of hungry people following Jesus and his disciples.

“And I remember the terrible urgency to preach the gospel that seemed to grip my father and all of his preacher friends. Like Jonathan Edwards before them, they were absolutely amazed that God had chosen them. They were thrilled to be a part of it all, of course, but they were absolutely certain that they had not caused it, and they all knew in their heart of hearts that if they dared to take even the smallest measure of credit from that which belonged solely to the sovereign Lord of the universe, “their lips would turn to clay,” as they often phrased it (p. 15, 16).” Garth Rosell: The Surprising Work of God.

How often do we feel God is calling us to feed the hungry?



Why Christmas in December?

If you ever asked yourself why we celebrate Christmas in December (and some in January), I am suggesting that you take a strong cinnamon tea with lemon or orange flavour, get an armchair and read this wise article from Andrew McGowan. It is quite inspiring and has a lot of interesting facts from the past: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/new-testament/how-december-25-became-christmas. Image