For nine days—July 29 to Aug. 6, 2000—more than 11,300 evangelists and other Christian leaders from 211 countries and territories around the world gathered in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, to learn how to be more effective in evangelism.
According to Christianity Today, the conference, which was convoked by Billy Graham, was the “most internationally representative gathering ever.”
Although Mr. Graham looked forward to attending, illness prevented him from being there in person. He did, however, watch the sessions via a special satellite hook-up and he addressed the audience several times, offering a closing challenge.
Franklin Graham was among the many guests, speaking on The Evangelist’s Heart of Compassion. “We must be clear about the fact of sin and be clear about what God has done for sinful man by giving His son Jesus Christ, who shed His blood for our sins,” said Franklin. “We are calling lost people, men and women, to put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ.”
A month after the conference concluded, Billy Graham wrote the following article for Decision magazine, encouraging all people to carry on the mission of Amsterdam 2000 and extent the Kingdom of God.
Read an excerpt from Mr. Graham’s article:
Extending the Kingdom of God on earth–This is the essential reason for our existence as Jesus Christ’s servants. Regardless of our different backgrounds, we are united in our love of Christ, and in our commitment to bring the good news of the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
But how can this be achieved? Let us search the Word of God to discover the principles that we must follow in order to be used of God in our generation.
The opening chapters of The Acts of the Apostles record the earliest days of the Christian Church, and they tell us how we can be used of the Spirit to extend the Gospel in our cultures and in our contemporary context.
1. Let Us Reaffirm Our Commitment to the Truth of the Gospel
One thing is absolutely clear about the earliest Christians: They knew what the Gospel was, and they were willing to stake their lives on their conviction that it was true. The Apostle Peter, on the Day of Pentecost, declared, “Let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”(1) Shortly afterward Peter stood before the Sanhedrin, boldly proclaiming, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”(2)
Amsterdam 2000 drew 10,732 participants, from 209 countries and territories. The participants came to be equipped and strengthened for the task of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.
At first the disciples had been in danger of misunderstanding the Gospel. Forty days after Christ’s resurrection they gathered with Jesus on the Mount of Olives, just before His ascension to the Father. They asked, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”(3) Their eyes must have sparkled in anticipation. This was the hour they had been waiting for, the time for the Messiah to exalt Israel. But their query was misguided. Their vision of Christ’s Kingdom was an earthly one, limited in its scope and missing the deeper dimensions of the cross and resurrection.
The Lord set the record straight: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”(4) Then a new thrill must have filled their hearts when Jesus declared that until the day of His return, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”(5) In that declaration Jesus delivered to the Church its immediate, compelling commission and working agenda. What a phenomenal task: world evangelization! We are to carry the Gospel to every person on earth!
But one thing remains certain if we are ever to see that task fulfilled: We must have a firm grip on what the Gospel is, for it alone is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”(6)
What is the Gospel? The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you. … For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”(7)
The Gospel is not centered in our programs or our styles of worship or our denominational distinctives. The Gospel is centered in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, who died on the cross for our sins and rose again for our salvation. The Gospel tells us that our lives will be changed if we respond to Christ in repentance and faith and are born again by the Holy Spirit. Through the Gospel we can be forgiven of our sins and reconciled to God, becoming part of His family forever. That is good news!
When the Gospel is faithfully proclaimed in all its fullness, it has within it its own power. God calls us to be certain that what we are preaching is the truth of the Gospel as God has revealed it to us in His Word. The Bible is the source of our message, and we must be certain we are preaching nothing less–and nothing more–than the biblical message of Christ’s death and resurrection for us.
2. Let Us Reaffirm the Priority of Evangelism
If the Gospel is true, then telling it to others demands first place in our lives and in our ministries.
The Early Church gave priority to evangelism. When faced with persecution, they prayed, “Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”(8) We sometimes forget that–at least humanly speaking–the Church is always only one generation away from extinction. In every generation the world needs to be evangelized.
Winning the lost to a saving faith in Jesus Christ does not encompass everything that the Church is called to do. We are called to make disciples; we are called to worship and to prayer; and we are called to compassionate service in our world. However, evangelism is still our priority.
Why is evangelism to be our priority? It is because of the lostness and hopelessness all around us. It is because our world is in the grip of Satan. It is because we live on a planet that is distorted by sin. We are in rebellion against our Creator and desperately need to be reconciled to Him. We live in a world that is “without hope and without God.”(9)
Evangelism often takes place in the context of sacrifice and suffering. But never forget: Christ was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice because of His love for us. May His love fill our hearts and cause us to reach out to others with the life-changing Gospel of Christ.
And may this be our prayer these days: O God, let the fire fall! Lift our vision; encourage our spirits; teach our minds; burden our hearts; equip our ministries; ignite our lives with the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit. O God, let the fire fall–beginning with me.
(1) Acts 2:36, NIV. (2) Acts 4:12, NIV. (3) Acts 1:6, NIV. (4) Acts 1:7, NIV. (5) Acts 1:8, NIV. (6) Romans 1:16, NIV. (7) 1 Corinthians 15:1,3-4, NIV. (8) Acts 4:29, NIV. (9) Ephesians 2:12, NIV. Bible verses marked NIV are taken by permission from The Holy Bible, New International Version, copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, Colorado Springs, Colorado