The International Congresses



— ISAIAH 2:3

As editor of Billy's magazine Decision and later as editor emeritus, I with others on the team attended all the wonderful congresses: Berlin, 1966; Lausanne, 1974; and Amsterdam, 1983 and 1986. We saw God's children coming together from every nook and cranny of the planet — people of nearly every nation, race, color, and language; some well-to-do, many in poverty, but all in love with their Lord and eager to learn more from Him and about Him.

    It is hard to realize that all these gatherings — and there were many besides, some of which I attended — took place in the mind of one man before they materialized into the reality of tens of thousands of people coming from around the globe. Billy Graham held no office, was elected by no one, possessed no authority, offered no inducement, and yet they came eagerly at his bidding to prepare themselves better for the tasks to which they were called.

    Whatever skills God gave me as a writer are stretched beyond capacity when I attempt to describe what transpired at the congresses. One thing is clear: In the four meetings over a period of twenty-years, Billy Graham was seeking to bring together in fellowship those deeply interested in and committed to evangelism in the name of Christ (Berlin, West Germany); then those who were actually

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engaging in the work of evangelism wherever they might be (Lausanne, Switzerland); finally those who, like himself (and like Jesus), were itinerant evangelists traveling from place to place for the purpose of spreading the Gospel of salvation (Amsterdam I and II, The Netherlands).

    Since my treatment of the congresses cannot be comprehensive, it must necessarily be subjective. From the four major congresses I have chosen certain elements that spoke to my own spirit and will, I hope, convey some impression of what happened.1 It doesn't seem as if there will ever be anything quite like them again, so free were they of theological argument and ecclesiastical politics.

BERLIN, 1966

The World Congress on Evangelism

"God finally got hold of a church meeting." That is the way my report in Decision magazine described the World Congress on Evangelism held in Kongresshalle of West Berlin October 25 to November 4, 1966.

    Called by Billy Graham, the congress was sponsored by Christianity Today magazine (which he founded) as a tenth birthday celebration. Editor Carl F.H. Henry, Dr. Victor B. Nelson, and Rev. Stanley Mooneyham coordinated the event. It was the first such congress of, by, and for Bible-believing evangelicals ever to be held in 2,000 years of church history. Billy suggested that it might be compared in some ways with the Jerusalem Council, which was presided over by James, the brother of the Lord, and recorded in Acts 15:6-29.

    Adding significance to the event was the fact that an ugly wall surrounded West Berlin, and Communist guards shot everyone attempting to ride past "Checkpoint Charlie" or otherwise breach the manned borders that hemmed in the city on all sides.

    Before the congress began, a full-dress Billy Graham crusade was conducted in the Berlin Deutschlandhalle for six days, attended by 90,000 people. An incident took place in one of those meetings that is remarkable for what it tells about Billy Graham. Remember that

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Germany had known Christianity since the early years of the Christian era, and German Christians are not always impressed by some of our assertive American soul-winners. But I was there and heard and saw this.

    Lutheran Bishop Otto Dibelius, courageous foe of Hitler and retired bishop of Berlin-Brandenburg, sat in the audience at the crusade. Two evenings later Billy invited him to address the gathering. The bishop (who died soon after the crusade and congress ended)

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stepped to the podium and addressed Billy with a smile: "You said when I sat in the crowd the other evening that you would change places with me. Now I take you at your word."

    He then made the following statement:

A Communist poet in Berlin named Bertolt Brecht wrote twenty years ago, "Wake up, you complacent and rutty Christians!" Now perhaps I am in a rut. However, I refuse to accept such criticism from a man who is not a Christian and does not want to become a Christian. That does not mean I will not accept it from someone else.

    The Gospel is first of all judgment; grace comes afterward. So I will accept the message, "Wake up! from one who says that I have already faced judgment and have passed it, and who recognizes that I have now arrived at a very joyous kind of Christian faith and life.

     This other person, then, from whom I will accept such a message is Billy Graham. And during this past week such an awakening has been experienced by many of us. Many, too, have made a very real decision here. This Christian decision is most important for our youth.

    The whole world needs to be told about Jesus Christ. But what shall we do with a generation that likes to hear and to discuss and then make no decision at all? What is needed particularly in Berlin today are men and women who will step forward and decide for Christ. It seldom happens here; but it has happened this week.

    That statement is pure gold.

    In the following week the congress opened, and two highly unusual events took place that had nothing to do with "vopos" at the Brandenburg Gate, Communist politics, or the Cold War. The first was the appearance of a genuine Christian ruler. We were introduced to His Imperial Majesty, the reigning Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie I. Following is a segment of the address which His Royal Highness delivered in person to the 900 delegates from around the world, plus the 300 observers and 170 members of the press:

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Jesus Christ has said, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." It is therefore our expressed hope that these words will be realized in their full significance in this great assembly. We are happy to be present in this famous city of Berlin. We thank Mr. Billy Graham for inviting us to address this meeting.

    We learn from the Holy Scriptures that the first Ethiopian who confesses faith in Jesus Christ was baptized only a few months after the death and resurrection of our Lord. From then on Christianity spread steadily among the Ethiopian people and became the religion of the Ethiopians in the fourth century A.D.

    In these modern days there are a multitude of things published and broadcast. Many new ideas are disseminated, and wonderful appliances are produced to make life more comfortable. The rich powers are vying with each other to explore and conquer the moon and the planets. Knowledge is increasing in a bewildering manner. All this is good and praiseworthy, but what will be the end of it all? It is our firm belief that only what the Lord wills will be done. Man makes himself and his wisdom the beginning and end of his aim in life, and we are convinced that the end of this is destruction and death.

    All the activities of the children of men not guided by the Spirit and counsel of God will bear no lasting fruit and will not be acceptable in the sight of the Lord and will come to nought as did the Tower of Babel. For this reason Christian leaders have an enormous responsibility. Oh, Christians, let us arise and with the spiritual zeal and earnestness which characterized the apostles and early Christians, let us labor to lead our brothers and sisters to our Savior Jesus Christ who only can give life in its fullest sense.

    The second spectacular event was the testimony of two converted spear hunters out of the Stone Age. These Auca Indian converts from South America had been dressed in European clothes and brought to Berlin by an American missionary. One of them, Yaeti Kimo, had taken part in the tragic slaughter of five young American missionaries in the Curaray River deep in the jungles of eastern Ecuador ten

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years earlier on January 6, 1956. The appearance of these two tribesmen created a sensation at the congress. They were the fruit of American missionary efforts among a savage people.

    The missionary who accompanied them to Berlin was Rachel Saint, sister of Nate Saint, one of the five martyrs. As I wrote in Decision at the time, "Scarcely a delegate was not stirred to his roots as he listened to Yaeti Kimo and Komi Gikita, members of the dreaded Auca tribe of Ecuador, describe in clear, vivid language the change that Jesus had wrought in their hearts."

    When I asked Kimo to "tell us where you live," he replied, "I live in Tiwaeno, and I came here to speak for God and go home." We stared at the two savage Indians, tamed by a power beyond the natural man's ability to fathom, as they spoke in solemn church assembly and declared the Lord Jesus and His love. At the close of their testimonies, joy erupted as one African delegate leaped onto the stage and hugged the two Indian visitors.


The International Congress on World Evangelization

This congress was called by Billy Graham to bring together from around the globe persons actually engaged in evangelistic work, whether pastors, lay persons, or traveling evangelists. It met in the Palais de Beaulieu in Lausanne, Switzerland, from July 16 to 25, 1974.

    From the very beginning Billy ruled out the perennial tendency of church gatherings to concentrate on world miseries and then spend the precious days debating the "social implications of the Gospel." He quoted Robert E. Speer, a distinguished missionary statesman of the past generation: "It is a dangerous thing to charge ourselves openly before the world with the aim of reorganizing states and reconstructing society. Missions are powerful... because they ignore the face of society and deal with it at its heart."

    For a few days Lausanne became a global village of love at a time when the Cold War was waxing in intensity. The distinguished Swiss

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Reformed church leader, Georges-Andre Chavallaz, who welcomed the delegates, spoke of the current "diplomatic colloquies" that were "nothing less than elegant dances with the polite purpose of deferring the brutal shock which is stubbornly approaching." The "brutal shock" was the outbreak of nuclear war.

    I wrote these words at the time:

What was Lausanne '74? It was a catalyst. What the Christian leaders learned about winning people to Christ, they were to take home in order to train others. The pooling of information was not just for training the participants; it was for the mobilizing of the whole church to evangelize.

    It was a potato masher. The phrase was used by Juan Carlos Ortiz of Buenos Aires, and I quote from his speech: "We are like potatoes. Potatoes when they are planted are grouped by two, three, or four in each plant. Then comes the harvest; they take the potatoes and put all of them in one box. But that is not unity yet; that's only regrouping. That's only confraternity and fellowship, but not unity. Those potatoes have to be peeled. When they are peeled and put together, they say, 'Ah, now we are one." Not yet. They must be cut. Because cut ones become mashed potatoes. Hallelujah! Not many potatoes but one mashed potato!

    "When the potatoes are mashed, not one of the potatoes can say, "Ah, this is me!' And that is what the Holy Spirit — Hallelujah! — is starting to do today. Love is the key to world evangelization."

    Lausanne was also a global village. Never before had so many individuals from so many evangelical churches, nations, and language groups gathered together. Among them were Korean missionaries to Thailand, Japanese missionaries to Indonesia, and African missionaries to the United States.

    It was a watershed. The Lausanne Covenant affirmed among other things the participants' belief in the "divine inspiration, truthfulness and authority of the Scriptures in their entirety." Signing was voluntary but virtually unanimous.

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    It was an altar. At the deeply moving closing service at the Lord's Table, centered as it was on the cross of Christ, the congress became for precious moments a devout, worshiping world community. As Bishop Silvanus Goi Wani of East Africa expressed it: "This congress is a kind of preparation for God to meet His people here on earth before He meets them in heaven."

    The congress drew 4,051 delegates from 150 nations, half of whom had come from the Third World countries. It closed with the signing of the Lausanne Covenant, committing the evangelists afresh to the worldwide task of spreading the Gospel and winning men and women to Christ.


The International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists

Its abbreviated name was ICIE, and it was a congress that came close to matching Dr. Graham's dreams for bringing together from around the world evangelists who travel from place to place — either from village to village or continent to continent. As Leighton Ford, associate evangelist and program director, expressed it: "The conference grew out of the heart of Billy Graham."

    Nothing like it has ever been held. In 1983, some 4,000 carefully chosen itinerant evangelists gathered at the RAI Conference Center auditorium in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, for ten days, July 12-21. Many, if not most, of those who came were unrecognized, the unknown servants of the Lord who preach in cities and towns in Third World countries like Guatemala and Tanzania and Sri Lanka and in Palestinian refugee camps.

    To convey the tone of the conference, I have selected a few excerpts from the talks given during the week. The first is from Billy Graham's message "The Evangelist's Plea for Decision":   

The call for decision — the invitation — is not something just added to the end of an evangelistic sermon as an afterthought.

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The whole sermon leads toward it ... Every time I give an invitation, I am in an attitude of prayer inwardly, because I know I am totally dependent on God. This is the moment when I feel emotionally, physically and spiritually drained. I think one of the reasons may be the terrible spiritual battle going on in the hearts of so many people. With me it becomes such a spiritual battle that sometimes I feel almost faint. There is an inward groaning and agonizing in prayer that I cannot possible put into words.

    Rev. Tom Houston, originally of Scotland, spoke on "The Evangelist's Task of Communication." He said:

The Gospels often describe the body language of Jesus. He stretched out His hand and touched the leper.... He expressed surprise at the Roman officer who showed faith in Him.... He touched the eyes of the blind... Often it was a look, as it was with the rich young ruler, and Peter when he denied Him. He looked to heaven before giving thanks to

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God... He bent over, He wept, He placed His hands on children, knelt. He washed and dried His disciples' feet with a towel. For communication to be successful, the hearer must trust the speaker. The way we stand and sit, our facial expressions, the way we use our hands, are all conveying the real, inner person and increasing or decreasing trust.

    The late Dr. J. Edwin Orr, distinguished historian of revivals in the life of the church, gave some discriminating counsel in his discussion of "What evangelists can do about revival." He said:

Evangelism is not revival. Popular use of the word revival to describe a purely evangelistic effort borders upon the ridiculous. A sign in California's San Fernando Valley announced: "Revival Every Monday!" Five miles away in Burbank another sign proclaimed: "Revival every night except Monday." The revival of the church and the awakening of the masses is the result of the outpouring of the Spirit upon the whole body of Christ, which is exclusively the work of God.   

    Mildred Dienert, a longtime member of the Graham team who served as prayer director for Amsterdam I, told a charming story of the way in which a busy woman found time to pray:

A great-aunt of mine who lived on Long Island, New York, had a neighbor with fourteen children. My great-aunt had no children. She would bake loaves of bread and take fruit off her trees for this family. One day she said to the mother, "I admire your gentle, quiet, loving, joyous attitude. You must be a spiritual person."

    The mother smiled and said, "I do love the Lord. He's special to me."

    My great-aunt said, "That's wonderful, but with all this confusion you mustn't get much time to be with Him."

    The mother laughed and said, "I have a secret. You notice I wear a big apron. When I want to come apart with the Lord, I just flip the apron over my head, and the noise and chatter stops. The children all know that Mother is having her quiet

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time. I talk to the Lord and have Him renew my strength and revive my spirit.

    Dr. Walter Smyth and Rev. Werner Burklin served as chairman and director of the ICIE. Dr. Roger Palms, editor of Decision magazine at that time, published a splendid special report of Amsterdam I in his November 1983 issue. During the closing Communion service the participants read together the "Amsterdam Affirmations," which provided ongoing motivation in Christ for those attending.


Second International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists

The last of the congresses turned out to be the greatest. As the Continental Orchestra struck the notes of "All Hail the Pow'r of Jesus' Name," six torchbearers came into the Europahal at the RAI Conference Center in Amsterdam on July 12, 1986. It was an awesome moment. Representing the six continents, these men fused their flames to signify the Light of the World. At the same time 8,160 evangelists, 1,900 workers, teachers, stewards and technicians from 174 nations and territories sang the mighty words, "...To Him all majesty ascribe, and crown Him Lord of all!"

    Credit for this magnificent meeting goes to planners Dr. Walter Smyth, Rev. Werner Burklin, Dr. John Corts, and Rev. Robert Williams. But looking back after more than a decade, I see it now as the shadow of a man who passed by. The shadow is observable elsewhere, but during those eight days its spiritual effect on the participants was unmistakable.

    What led Billy Graham to undertake these four great congresses in the twenty years from 1966 to 1986? What manner of commission did he receive from God? Were they truly human expressions of divine love? I can't answer such questions, but when I asked a fellow team member, Charlie Riggs, to say something on the subject, he simply pointed to the results.

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What Mr. Graham did at the World Congress in Berlin was to start a networking of Christian leaders and organizations. Then came Lausanne in Switzerland, and plans were laid to reach the world with evangelism. The Lausanne Committee was formed, and thirty years later Lausanne committees are still at work around the world in evangelism.

    In 1983 Mr. Graham brought together 4,000 itinerant evangelists in Amsterdam, Holland, to equip and encourage their ministries. It was so successful, and demands for a repeat were so pressing that he invited 8,000 more who had missed Amsterdam I to the same location in 1986. This networking was what led to the Global Mission ministry.

    For us on the team the love motive in all this labor is unquestioned. We know, however, that the questions may be raised afresh in century twenty-one by a "generation that knows not Billy." We who have known and loved him need to have sound answers to hand on to future generations, since it is not only Billy's, but our own ministries that are involved.

    Therefore I want to share with you excerpts from a well-received talk given at Amsterdam II. The speaker was Billy Kim, a prominent Korean pastor who served as interpreter for Billy Graham during his record-breaking 1973 crusade in Seoul. Whether Dr. Kim's view of revival is the same as Dr. Edwin Orr's is for you, the reader, to decide. Here in part is what Billy Kim told the delegates in 1986:   

Many people ask me why the Korean church is experiencing revival today. In the last decade, hundreds of thousands of people have come to Christ. What is the explanation? Every Christian wants to know.

    In 1955 there were only 4,000 churches in Korea and only one million Christians. In 1985 the census showed that Korea had 32,000 churches with nearly ten million Christians. We are building 15 new churches every day in Korea. The population of South Korea is only forty million people.

    I have pondered the possible reasons for this present-day revival among the people of my country. You will find more prayer meetings in the Korean church than (pardon my expression)

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a dog has fleas! We start at 4:30 every morning — not only in my church, but in all the churches. At 4:30 every morning there is a prayer meeting, winter or summer, rain or shine. I don't know who started it, but I would like to meet him.

    Sometimes I have wondered why God called me back to Korea to be a pastor. It's hard to get up at four o'clock in the morning! But I wish you could see some of those early morning prayer meetings — they pray for hours! They pound on the floor, crying out to God. No wonder God is blessing the Korean church today!

    Every Friday night there is an all-night prayer meeting. They have prayer and fasting meetings, 40-day prayer meetings, 100-day prayer meetings. They have more titles for prayer meetings than anything in the church program. I don't know why they have so much to pray about!

    I wish you could hear some of their prayers. They pray for the unification of Korea so their families can be reunited. They pray for their pastors, for their church to have a revival. They pray for world revival, and they pray for you evangelists; and I know God answers their prayers!

     I have a friend for whom we coined the name of "Hallelujah Choi." He built and owns the tallest building in the city of Seoul — sixty-three stories. He founded the first professional soccer team in Korea and named it Hallelujah. That team played in Hong Kong against the People's Republic of  China; can't you hear the television commentator saying, "Hallelujah's driving the ball into left field," and "Hallelujah scored a goal! Hallelujah!"

    We Korean people like that word so much. One man built a church and called it The Hallelujah Church. We have a Hallelujah Beauty Shop and a Hallelujah Supermarket. I asked the manager of The Hallelujah Restaurant," Are you a Christian?" He said, "Sure, hallelujah!"

    Let me add a personal word to what Billy Kim said back in 1986. In 1973 I was in Korea with Billy Graham, and one morning I rose at four o'clock. In company with Dr. Walter Smyth of the ream, I rode in a taxi through the dark, empty streets of Seoul looking for one of

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those prayer meetings. Our directions were not clear, but finally we spied a woman hurrying across a street. By following her, we found the church and the people inside singing heartily. Billy Kim's description of what we saw and heard there proved to be accurate. He told it as it was.

    To God be the glory!

    Persons wishing further information about the messages given at these four international congresses may write to World Wide Publications, P.O. Box 668029, Charlotte, NC 28266.

Chapter 26  ||  Table of Contents

1. The official report of the four international congresses are contained in the following volumes, each of which was published following the event by World Wide Publications, 1300 Harmon Place, Minneapolis, Minnesota:

Carl F.H. Henry and W. Stanley Mooneyham, eds. One Race, One Gospel, One Task. World Congress on Evangelism, Berlin, West Germany, October 1966, 2 vol.

J.D. Douglas, ed. Let the Earth Hear His Voice. International Congress on World Evangelization, Lausanne, Switzerland, July 1974.

J.D. Douglas, ed. The Work on an Evangelist. International Conference for Itinerant Evangelist, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, July 1983.

J.D. Douglas, ed. The Calling of an Evangelist. The Second International Conference for Itinerant Evangelist, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, July 1986.

Chapter 26  ||  Table of Contents