By Art Toalston
AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands (BP)--The "first task" of Christian leaders is "to preserve the biblical integrity of the proclamation of the church and serve as vision carriers of its evangelistic vocation," according to an Amsterdam Declaration issued at the conclusion of the Billy Graham-sponsored Amsterdam 2000 conference, July 29-Aug. 6 in The Netherlands.
"More than ever, we are resolved to make Christ known to all persons everywhere," the statement declared at the conclusion of worship sessions and an array of workshops attended by 10,000-plus evangelists and church leaders from 200-plus nations and territories.
The Amsterdam Declaration described itself as "a joint report of the three task groups of mission strategists, church leaders, and theologians gathered at Amsterdam 2000. It has been reviewed by hundreds of Christian leaders and evangelists from around the world. It is commended to God's people everywhere as an expression of evangelical commitment and as a resource for study, reflection, prayer and evangelistic outreach."
It can be found on the Internet at .
The writing/editing process for Amsterdam Declaration was led by Timothy George, a Southern Baptist church historian and dean of the Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, Birmingham, Ala.
Christian leaders, the declaration noted, must be rooted in an "acceptance of the supreme authority of Scripture by which Christ rules in his church through his Spirit."
"In one sense," the declaration added, "all Christians are theologians and must labor to be good ones rather than bad ones," and "everyone's theology must be measured by biblical teaching from which alone we learn God's mind and will."
Concerning today's "global village of competing faiths and many world religions," the declaration noted:
"As we enter into dialogue with adherents of other religions, we must be courteous and kind. But such dialogue must not be a substitute for proclamation."
The declaration noted, "Because God's general revelation extends to all points of his creation, there may well be traces of truth, beauty and goodness in many non-Christian belief systems. But we have no warrant for regarding any of these as alternative gospels or separate roads to salvation. The only way to know God in peace, love and joy is through the reconciling death of Jesus Christ the risen Lord."
The declaration added that "because all persons are made in the image of God, we must advocate religious liberty and human rights for all."
In a section addressing "the influence of modern rationalism, secularism, and humanism," the declaration noted:
"... the Western intellectual establishment has largely reacted into a relativistic denial that there is any global and absolute truth (postmodernity). This is influencing popular culture throughout the world.
"By contrast, the gospel which is the authoritative word of the one, true and living God, comes to everyone everywhere at all times as truth in three senses:
-- "its affirmations are factually true, as opposed to false;
-- "it confronts us at every point with reality, as opposed to illusion; and
-- "it sets before us Jesus Christ, the co-Creator, Redeemer, and Lord of the world, as the Truth (that is, the one universally, real, accessible, authoritative, truth-telling, trustworthy Person), for all to acknowledge.
"There is a suspicion that any grand claim that there is one truth for everyone is inevitably oppressive and violent," the declaration continued. "But the gospel sets before us one who, though he was God, became man and identified with those under the bondage of sin to set them free from its enslavement. This gospel of God is both true for everyone and truly sets people free. It is therefore to be received in trust not suspicion."
The declaration thus voiced opposition to "all skeptical and relativizing or syncretizing trends, whether rationalist or irrationalist," which depict the gospel as not fully true and unable to lead people "into the new divine life that it promises them."
Describing the Bible as "indispensable to true evangelism," the Amsterdam Declaration noted:
"The Word of God itself provides both the content and authority for all evangelism. Without it there is no message to preach to the lost. People must be brought to an understanding of at least some of the basic truths contained in the Scriptures before they can make a meaningful response to the gospel."
Among other themes in the Amsterdam Declaration:
-- Evangelism: "Jesus made it clear in his last teachings that the scope of this work of evangelism demands that we give attention not only to those around us but also to the despised and neglected of society and to those at the ends of the earth. To do anything less is disobedience."
-- Unreached people groups: "We think it urgent to work toward the evangelization of every remaining unreached people group. ... We pledge ourselves to work so that all persons on earth may have an opportunity to hear the gospel in a language they understand, near where they live. We further pledge to establish healthy, reproducing, indigenous churches among every people, in every place, that will seek to bring to spiritual maturity those who respond to the gospel message."
-- Human needs ministry: "Although evangelism is not advocacy of any social program, it does entail social responsibility for at least two reasons. First, the gospel proclaims the kingship of the loving Creator who is committed to justice, to human life and the welfare of his creation." Evangelism must be grounded in the biblical truth that "the Father who makes his sun shine on the evil and the good and sends his rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike.
"Second, when our evangelism is linked with concern to alleviate poverty, uphold justice, oppose abuses of secular and economic power, stand against racism, and advance responsible stewardship of the global environment, it reflects the compassion of Christ and may gain an acceptance it would not otherwise receive."
-- Contemporary evangelistic concerns: "... we affirm the need to encourage new initiatives to reach and disciple youth and children worldwide; to make fuller use of media and technology in evangelism; and to stay involved personally in grass-roots evangelism so that our presentations of the biblical gospel are fully relevant and contextualized." Also, "We must give special attention to encouraging women and young leaders in their work of evangelism."
-- Christian unity: "Jesus prayed to the Heavenly Father that his disciples would be one so that the world might believe. One of the great hindrances to evangelism worldwide is the lack of unity among Christ's people, a condition made worse when Christians compete and fight with one another rather than seeking together the mind of Christ. We cannot resolve all differences among Christians because we do not yet understand perfectly all that God has revealed to us. But in all ways that do not violate our conscience, we should pursue cooperation and partnerships with other believers in the task of evangelism practicing the well-tested rule of Christian fellowship: 'In necessary things, unity; in non-essential things, liberty; in all things, charity.'"
Used with permission.