|A Tale of Two Conferences|
The Father of modern Missions, William Carey, was a man ahead of his time. In 1810, he proposed a World Missions Conference, and he suggested Cape Town as the ideal venue! It was 100 years later, in 1910, that the first World Missions Conference was held, in Edinburgh. Two hundred years after William Carey had proposed it, Cape Town hosted the Third Lausanne Conference on World Evangelism, October 2010.
Cape Town 2010
It was a tremendous privilege to participate in this Congress on World Evangelisation. With over 4,200 invited participants from 198 countries, and extending through global link sites to another 700 venues across 95 countries, Cape Town 2010 was the largest and most representative Missions Conference in history.
Although I did not hear anyone in any of the plenary sessions refer to Edinburgh 1910, I had to conclude that surely it had been the intention to mark the centenary of the first World Missions Conference.
William Carey's Vision
Similarly, although none of the speakers that I heard, nor any of the publications which the official organisers produced, referred to William Carey's vision of a World Missions Conference in 1810, it had to have been more than an extraordinary coincidence, that here we were in Cape Town, at what William Carey had described as the uttermost part of the earth, at the junction between East and West, at the port that sat astride two oceans, the Atlantic and the Indian oceans, in the shadow of Table Mountain, to discuss the fulfilment of the Great Commission.
The Father of Modern Missions
Dr. William Carey is rightly called the Father of Modern Missions. His book, An Enquiry Into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means For the Conversion of the Heathen, is credited as being the book that launched the Modern Missionary movement. In 1793, en-route to India, William Carey's ship docked in Cape Town and he was struck by the ideal setting of Cape Town, at the uttermost parts of the earth, a half way house between Europe and Asia, for a World Missions Conference, which he proposed be held in 1810! William Carey became the most prolific Bible translator in history, translating the complete Bible into 6 Asian languages, and the New Testament and Gospels into another 29 languages.
Another extraordinary coincidence was that the seventh edition of Operation World was launched at the Cape Town 2010 Congress. In its Foreword, Operation World acknowledges that the very first Missionary Prayer Guide to the world was written by William Carey in 1792: An Enquiry Into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means For the Conversion of the Heathen. This was the first global survey ever printed and the inspiration for the present phenomenon of Operation World.
Although it was not mentioned at the congress, Dr. Andrew Murray in South Africa, in 1900, wrote, The Key to the Missionary Problem and challenged the church to hold weeks of prayer for world Missions.
This largest Missions Congress in history was targeted by the most massive, malicious, cyber attack ever seen. The sophisticated computer network developed for live broadcasting to the world was targeted by millions of malicious external hits coming from multiple locations in Asia. There was no doubt that the coordinated cyber war against Cape Town 2010 originated from China. Although the organisers told us that they did not want that published.
China Declares War on Missions
The Communist government of China prevented hundreds of Christian leaders in their country from attending the Missions Congress in Cape Town. Many Chinese Christian leaders had their passports confiscated, some were detained, and many were subjected to intensive interrogation. It was striking that the dictatorship of communist China would see a Missions Congress in Cape Town as a serious enough threat to unleash cyber war upon it in an attempt to collapse its satellite broadcasting.
The Whole Church Taking the World Gospel to the Whole World
As with previous Lausanne Congress, the focus was on The Whole Church Taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World. However, I could not help wonder, why none of the speakers referred to the deliberations, presentations, conclusions and projections of the first World Missions Conference at Edinburgh, 1910?
The Greatest Century of Missions
The 19th century was the greatest century of Missionary advance. It was a century of astounding inventions and of spectacular advances in technology. Many countries in Europe and overseas experienced dramatic spiritual Revivals. Christian Missionaries won whole tribes and nations to Christ, in the remotest regions of the globe. Christianity came to the beginning of the 20th century on a rising and apparently unstoppable tide. Christianity was gaining spectacular momentum, as Missionaries from Europe were Evangelising and discipling virtually every tribe and nation.
Flourishing Faith and Freedom
The Protestant Faith had far outstripped the Catholic and Orthodox branches in missionary activity, vitality and initiative. From being confined almost entirely to North Western Europe, the British Isles and a narrow strip on the Eastern seaboard of North America, and with a very small outpost at the Cape of Good Hope, the Protestant Faith in the 19th century had become a truly international Faith. It was the dominant Faith of the most productive, powerful and prosperous nations in both the Northern and Sothern hemispheres. Amidst irrepressible optimism, many were openly speaking of the beginning of the Biblical millennium on earth.
Christians Dominated the World
In 1910, Christian nations ruled virtually the whole world. With the exception of China, Japan, and the Ottoman Empire, the globe was dominated by Christian powers. Either Protestant, as in the case of Great Britain, Germany and the United States; Roman Catholic as in the case of the Austrian, Hungarian Empire, the French Empire, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Etc.; or Orthodox, as in the case of the Russian Empire.
A Century of Peace and Progress
Following the Battle of Waterloo and the defeat of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, the Congress of Vienna had ushered in a century of comparative peace, astounding increases in population, and unprecedented increases in productivity and standards of living. The 19th century had been a century of astounding achievements, growth and expansion. By 1910, the world was being led by people who had traditionally been known as Christian.
Anticipating the Fulfilment of the Great Commission
At the first World Missions Congress in Edinburgh in 1910, delegates were anticipating the extinction of all false religions by 1960. The consensus of the speakers at Edinburgh 1910, was that every tribe and nation will have been thoroughly Evangelised and discipled by 1960. They were anticipating the fulfilment of the Great Commission and the beginning of the Biblical Millennium on earth - before the end of the 20th century!
Retreat from Victory
No one in 1910 could have anticipated the wholesale abandonment of entire nations to communism, to false religions and heathenism. Nor would any have predicted that the Church would retreat from victory to such an extent that they would even be questioning the existence of the devil, or hell, or reinterpreting marriage to include that which God in the Bible describes as perversion and an abomination.
The Oppression of Women in Islam is Increasing
At one of the workshops at Cape Town 2010, I was horrified at the depth of degradation that the world has descended to. At a focus group dealing with the plight of women in heathen societies, we were informed that there were now 27 million slaves in the world, most of them women. 84,000 women were living on the streets of Iran as prostitutes. Girls as young as 13-year-olds are being stoned to death and girls as young as 16-years-old publically hung in Iran. There has been a 635% increase in number of teenage girls in prostitution in Iran. Raping 9-year-old girls is legitimised by Islamic Shari'a law as legal "marriage". Battering women is dignified by references to Surah's in the Qur'an. Domestic violence is common in Iran with, for example, 150 women committed suicide in a nine-month period, most of them by setting themselves on fire.
Exploitation of Women in India Exploding
In Hindu India, 24,000 women are deliberately burned to death each year. This is connected with the demands of the husband's family for the wife's parents to pay a dowry to the family of the groom, before, during and after the wedding. When the dowry payments are not up to the perceived standards, the wives are routinely tortured until the parents give into the demand.
Buddhist Exploitation of Women
In Buddhist Thailand at least 200,000 women and children work in prostitution. One third of these under the age of 18. Girls as young as 6-year-olds are exploited in prostitution in Buddhist Thailand.
Honour Murders in Pakistan
In Islamic Pakistan there are officially over 1,300 honour murders each year. These are women murdered by a male family member who perceives that they have brought dishonour upon the family. Victims of honour killings are virtually ignored by the community, and in many cases the women are buried in unmarked graves and all records of their existence are wiped out. In many cases these women who are perceived to have brought disgrace upon the family, are only guilty of having being the victim of rape!
The Plight of Muslim Women
Over 81 million women in Pakistan suffer some of the worst cases of gender-based injustice. Female illiteracy is 77%. Only 16% of girls are enrolled in school. The maternal mortality rate is as high as 340 per 100,000 live births. 99% of the babies thrown into gutters, trash bins and on the sidewalks of Karachi are girls. Nearly 50% of women who report being victims of rape are jailed by the state. In one year, Pakistani men killed 280 women and disfigured 750 from intentional acid attacks. Up to 90% of women in Pakistan experience domestic violence.
Worse Than War
As Swiss Ambassador, Theodor Winkler, observed: "The number of women who die because of gender related violence, deprivation and discrimination is larger than the casualty toll of all the wars of the 20th century combined!"
The Bitter Fruit of Failure
Anyone who wonders why Missions are necessary just needs to consider the devastating impact on women when the Church fails to fulfil the Great Commission.
When the Church Fails to Be Salt and Light
The devastating and far reaching results of Europe's retreat from civilising the world, and of Christians withdrawal from impacting society is clearly seen in the shocking statistics of heathen nations which by now should have been thoroughly Evangelised and discipled. That is, if Christians in Europe and America had not been so busy bombing cities and killing millions of fellow Christians in the First and Second World Wars.
Return to Paganism
The Missionary leaders who gathered in Edinburgh, 1910, would never have believed that by 2010, Europe would have become mostly secular and that the countries at that time that were being evangelised, civilised and discipled, would have, in so many cases, returned to such pagan savagery.
The regression and failure of the Church worldwide seemed to be testified to at every point that we focused on at Cape Town 2010. Every year 10 million children are exploited in the sex industry. One million new children are forced into prostitution each year. Approximately 56 million abortions take place worldwide each year. Infections occur in 70% of abortions. Up to 80 million people worldwide now suffer from infertility.
The Great Civil War of the West
What no one at the 1910 Conference could have envisaged was the devastating impact of two World Wars. The heartland of the Church and of Mission sending agencies, wiped out millions of one another, and at the end of it, Europe was no longer the greatest economic, political and spiritual power on earth. Instead of discipling the world, Christians allowed themselves to be manipulated into devastating one another's countries.
One Hundred Years Later
This year, 2014, marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the greatest catastrophe in the history of civilisation, World War I. Prior to 1914, Christian nations ruled the world. The 19th century was the greatest century of Missions. Europe was succeeding in bringing the Gospel of Christ, literacy, civilisation and the rule of law to even the most remote and primitive parts of the globe. However, after two world wars, Europe went from being a majority church-going population to a spiritual wasteland, where only small percentages of each nation still attended church.
Filling the Vacuum
The vacuum left by Europe abandoning Africa in de-colonisation was quickly filled during the Cold War by the Soviet Union and Red China with virulent communism and anti-Christian atheism.
The Guns of August
The Christian era of bold Missionary expansion came to an abrupt end as the guns of August 1914, erupted. The great European countries which had been the heartland of Christendom, and the source of most of the missionaries, devastated each others economies and annihilated millions of one another’s young men, in what has to be recognised as the most tragic and senseless conflict in history.
The Unnecessary War
Patrick Buchanan in his book, Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War - How Britain Lost Her Empire and The West Lost the World, documents the futility and the catastrophic consequences of this 30-year civil war of the West from 1914 to 1945.
Before the First World War, no continent had ever been as powerful as Europe. There was no hint of any possible challenge to its leadership of the whole world. 1914 marks a far more drastic turning point than 1815, or 1648, or any other of the watershed events of history. Nothing could have stopped the positive, onward march of Christianity worldwide, except that Christians were persuaded to kill one another so enthusiastically and so efficiently. Far more devastating than the actual numbers of people killed, crippled, or severely injured, was the damage to the spiritual life of Europe, and the world.
Refocusing on What Ultimately Matters
It is absolutely essential that we learn the lessons of history and rediscover our purpose as God's people, to refocus on the fulfilment of the Great Commission, to make disciples of all nations, teaching obedience to all things that the Lord has commanded. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Our purpose on earth is to fulfil the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Learning the Lessons of History
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and finisher of our Faith…" Hebrews 12:1-2
Dr. Peter Hammond