These social and cultural changes and this shift within European Evangelicalism began to take place just as the 'new' theology started to arrive and wield a greater influence. It has been aggressively promoted and heavily backed by American money. The effects have been nothing like what is happening in the United States and frankly seem 'minimal' by comparison.
Mission Eurasia is but one of many such ministries that works to propagate these ideas.
While the concepts are certainly worthy of criticism and do not accurately reflect New Testament doctrine or ethics it's hard to wholly discount the outreach. When one reads such testimonials as this example from Kyrgyzstan it's difficult to write such persons off. Clearly there are some positive effects and yet with this agenda comes great concerns.
I continue to try and remain hopeful that Dominionism (practically speaking) has little traction outside the European or Western context. But seeds are being planted and these actions warrant the issuance of a warning.
The perpetuators and proponents of the Lausanne movement are opening doors and exposing these rather vulnerable converts to the Evangelical Ecumenical movement. The Church is defined as Western Civilisation. D James Kennedy's well known work, What if Jesus Had Never Been Born? puts forward this view. For the late Dominionist pastor, Western Civilisation and all its supposed glories was the manifestation of God's Kingdom in this age. His revisionist history, lies and whitewashing of evil has done untold harm to the Church. And though that wolf in sheep's clothing has been dead almost a decade his legacy lives on.
Since the so-called Christian West is God's Kingdom it is Secularism that is identified as the great evil. The Lausanne Movement has worked to bring together Evangelicals, Roman Catholics, Pentecostals and the 'Conservatives' within the Liberal/Mainline Churches. Increasingly the latter category all but overlaps with a growing chorus of Evangelicals (or more properly Neo-Evangelicals) who are inclined toward Barthianism and sometimes theological liberalism... or at least are willing to operate under its assumptions.
Downplaying doctrine it has opened the door to women preachers like Anne Graham-Lotz, and has successfully recruited ecumenically inclined figures like Os Guinness, David Platt and Ravi Zacharias from Conservative Evangelical circles and even Reformed celebrities such as Tim Keller and John Piper.
But for this to work the message has to be watered down. Doctrine cannot be the focus. It will only bring division. The gospel must be presented in broad and simple terms. It's easier to focus on culture instead.
For so many years Billy Graham was praised because he preached a simple gospel message. And he was respected because he kept it plain, pure and didn't stir controversy. He was viewed as unsophisticated but full of great zeal and worthy of tremendous respect.
Actually Billy Graham is anything but simple and unsophisticated. His message is simple not because he is incapable of greater elaboration. It's a basic message because this is in keeping with his ecumenical bent. Interestingly as his project has attained greater success and the tent pegs have been widened as it were, the message continued to grow ever broader and yet increasingly shallow. Eventually he lost it altogether. While in great error even in the 1950s it can be said that by 1980s or even the 1990s if one wants to be extra charitable, Graham lost the gospel altogether and turned his back on it. His statements, though Christ affirming to be sure, lead to one to seriously question if he's a Christian at all.
If you're of the ecumenical mind you don't dive too deep. The basis of the Christian relationship is weak and shallow. The profundity of the relationship is in terms of the cultural war. General principles are agreed upon but there's no absolute authority and in order to hold the project together there must be a great deal of leeway.
In addition there is the great push for numbers. In fact they are critical. A remnant pilgrim Church cannot execute or complete the Dominionist project. You need vast numbers to build a movement. You have to build an energy and generate social momentum. You need people who will vote and just as important people who will tithe and give money to the cause.
The Gospel of the New Testament is offensive and Billy Graham needed to water it down and make it simple in order to make it effective... in terms of social and cultural impact. While his older sermons come across as fairly sound, again with success the need for even greater numbers meant that the message was slowly compromised.
D James Kennedy emulated this and in many ways took Graham's vision and transformed it into an international marketing scheme. He worked diligently to forge relationships between Charismatics and Evangelicals and did what he could to help Dominionism gain ground in those circles. After all even the Reformed or Evangelical version of Dominionism is in the end just another (perhaps less glitzy and tacky) form of the so-called Prosperity Gospel.
Kennedy also famously created Evangelism Explosion a Billy Graham style programme for evangelisation that packaged the gospel in terms of a manipulative sales pitch. Getting someone saved became similar to 'closing a deal'. This Easy Believism or as it sometimes called Decisionism has also been employed by fellow traveler Bill Bright and his Campus Crusade.
While the Kennedy version perhaps contains a bit more substance, it's clear his watered down gospel was in the end focused on numbers, money and the acquisition of political influence.
I have heard salesmen (my father being one of them) who upon conversion encountered these techniques and were surprised (and certainly disappointed) to find the very tactics they used to sell products and close deals are the methods being employed to grow the Church. Many have rightly criticised the Barna-Willow Creek and Seeker Sensitive models of Church growth that became some prominent in the 1990s. They were simply building on already established Evangelical foundations... a Church crafted by the world's means and ultimately to suit the world.
Did Billy Graham preach a 'basic' gospel? Well then Kennedy preached one that was little more than Patriotic-Political vignettes peppered with many a misquoted Bible text. I cannot recall ever hearing much in the way of depth or substance. His congregation was constantly subjected to one message. America is God's blessed nation and you had better fight body, wallet and soul to defend her.
His so-called sermons were simple but nevertheless filled with lies, heresies and attempts at psychological manipulation. To this day I am still amazed that this charlatan is still held in high esteem among many within the Reformed community. D James Kennedy was a fraud and a heretic and he along with Graham have wrought untold damage to the Church and its testimony. European Evangelicalism has not been exempted from the influence of his Evangelism Explosion and its watered down Gospel.
Returning to the Lausanne movement and the Czech theological school we are introduced to Josiah Venture, a partner ministry of Mission Eurasia. I immediately wanted to examine their vision statement.
We find that it is somewhat nebulous. Again there's the sort of coded language that we so often encounter with such groups. What does transform mean?
The term can be meant in a good Biblical way speaking of the Holy Spirit transforming the lives of individuals and delivering them from the power of sin. But it can also be code for the transformation of culture and I'm inclined to believe they mean the latter.
As one pokes around the search results associated with them we find a network of Dominionist businesses including a Wheaton based accounting firm plugged into a larger network of the Evangelical world. It's clear that while these are not necessarily Theonomist/Reconstructionists of the Rushdoony stripe, they are certainly inculcating the vision in how they present, market and operate their business.
It's very sad this stuff is being pumped into the European Christian community. You cannot tell me the American Church isn't viewed as the 'leader' of worldwide Evangelicalism. If your vision is based on ministries and social transformation then money is essential. And no one can compete with the resources available to the United States. Couple this with diplomatic and business sector support, the American Evangelical sector wields a great deal of power and influence.
American Evangelicalism and now Neo-Evangelicalism are leading the way and demonstrating organisationally and doctrinally how to transform Europe's Christians into a social and ultimately a political force.
While many theological conservatives are less than thrilled with the style and certainly some of the packaging, they are willing to look the other way if serves the greater purpose.
This same ecumenical impulse also drove divisions within British Evangelicalism, most famously the 1966 split between Martyn Lloyd-Jones and the John Stott/JI Packer Evangelical wing within the Church of England. Stott went on to wield great influence in the formation of the Lausanne Movement in 1974. Packer shocked many when twenty-years later he supported Charles Colson's Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) in 1994. They hoped to strengthen Evangelical influence within Anglican circles and help bring Christian influence to the culture. Their failure cannot be overstated and if anyone understood the meaning of the split with Lloyd-Jones in 1966 their subsequent actions and outlook shouldn't have been that much of a surprise.
From Lausanne's website we read the following with regard to John Stott:
For as long as the Lausanne Movement was characterized by ‘the spirit of Lausanne’, John Stott sensed it was critically placed. Humility would always be needful. It was often said of Lausanne that its fruit ‘grew on other peoples’ trees’ and that it acted most effectively as a catalyst. It drew, and draws, from across the divides of secondary issues, so gathers the whole evangelical church. Within that, Lausanne can host smaller meetings for specialized mission agencies with expert knowledge in their fields – Christians in the public arenas of government, business, academia – to shake salt and shine light – believers North and South, rich and poor, in nominally Christian cultures and as minority groups under oppressive regimes … Through such consultations, as leaders met face-to-face and got to know one another as friends, Lausanne would offer a unique means to share freely in the gifts Christ gives to his church.
This watered-down, generalised and somewhat coded language describes why Stott, Packer and others affiliated with the movement were more than happy, indeed felt the need to ally themselves with those who did not even remotely profess faith in the Christianity presented in the New Testament.
The Theonomic relationship with the Charismatic movement is the clearest demonstration of this tendency to 'look the other way' within the United States. Many were baffled to see D James Kennedy a Reformed minister affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) on stage with Trinity Broadcasting Network's (TBN) Paul and Jan Crouch. To me it made perfect sense. Kennedy was happy to endure their tacky lunacy and rank error for the sake of the larger agenda. The money and audience TBN accessed was just too great to pass up.
This same impulse has long driven Billy Graham to compromise for the sake of the greater goal.
He forgot the exhortation of Christ in Matthew 16.
24Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 27For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.