Light a fire’ around the world, Graham tells evangelists
ReligionToday, August 7, 2000
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – Amsterdam 2000 ended fittingly, with a family meal, as Christians from around the world shared Holy Communion.
Richard Bewes, Anglican rector of All Souls Church in London, conducted the service Aug. 6, calling on the tens of thousands of evangelists to search their hearts and confess their sins. Hundreds of people distributed the wafers and grape juice.
Billy Graham, unable to attend, spoke by videotape. He said he has been watching the 10-day conference every day by satellite from his room at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where he is recovering from surgery.
“I have had tears in my eyes and the joy of the Lord in my heart at what I have seen and felt,” Graham said. “In my heart I have been there with you and feel that I am one of you.”
Graham said he believed that “the fire of God the Holy Spirit has fallen on this conference and we have rededicated our lives in a new way to reflect the light of the glory of God.” That light will disperse spiritual darkness, show the path to eternal light, and roll back racism, poverty, and injustice, he said.
“I am asking that you take the light from here,” Graham said. “Hold that light high as you return to your homes, and with the light of the thousands of other participants from around the world we can make a fire that will shine brightly and will never be put out. I say to you tonight as you leave this conference, light a fire.”
Participants rose to their feet to symbolize their commitment. Sri Lankan minister Ajith Fernando led a prayer, and participants received copies of a 14-point “Covenant for Evangelists” translated into more than 10 languages. It is a personal pledge that binds its signers to: worship “the one true and living God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” pray and study the Bible, pray that all people will hear the gospel, practice sexual purity and financial integrity, and serve the needy and oppressed.
“I know they will go out to be better evangelists,” said Robert Cunville of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. “Today many evangelists are preaching their own gospel, but these will go out and preach one gospel and build the church of God.”
God touched people’s lives in the prayer sessions after each service, Cunville said. The audience joined in twos and threes to ask God to bless them and their nations. “To hear them pray is to sit in the presence of God. I sensed His Spirit mightily.”
Singers performed “Go Tell It On the Mountain” as ministers from many nations, dressed in their native clothing, filed out of the auditorium.
The greatest challenge for the evangelists is to put what they have learned into action, Rwanda’s Antoine Rutayisire said. “I’m sure many are inspired in their individual ministries,” he said. But to use what they have learned, “that is the challenge.”
Each evangelist should look beyond his or her own ministry and work with others to have greater impact, he said. “The main thing to do is catch a vision of working together and bringing something of great impact on a national and regional level.”
Leaders gathered in national and regional strategy sessions Sunday to promote evangelism in their areas. Some will hold similar conferences in their countries.
During the week, hundreds of church leaders, theologians, and strategists developed the “Amsterdam Declaration,” a 5,000-word charter for evangelism in the 21st century. It is “an expression of evangelical commitment and a resource for study, reflection, and evangelistic outreach,” it states. Groups drawing up the document were led by theologian J.I. Packer, Jesus Film Project director Paul Eshelman, and Anglican Bishop Harry Goodhew of Australia.
Its uncompromising words state that “Christ is the one and only savior of the world” and that the Bible is God’s “totally true and trustworthy” revelation.
A most impressive aspect of Amsterdam 2000 was the merging of cultures, Cunville said. A comradeship developed among evangelists from different nations, forming relationships that will last a lifetime. “They will be prayer partners for life. Nothing is more valuable.”
Eastern Europeans couldn’t attend the 1983 and 1986 conferences, held during the communist era, but were there this time. “We have been separated for 50 years and this is like coming home,” Romanian Baptist Paul Negrut said. “The first night I walked into the auditorium I wept to see my family from North America, South America, Asia, and Africa.”
“To see Dr. Graham and other leaders standing for Christ is inspiring. They are almost at the finish line and we are praying that they finish well, leaving a sound doctrine and a clean record.”
Graham said he has some of his race left to run. “I am getting stronger every day and I have confidence that I will be in good strength to proclaim the gospel by the time of our next scheduled [outreach] in early November,” he said. “I would appreciate your continued prayers.”