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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

AGTV Video
Connections: Christopher Wright

The Truth of the Gospel

Dr. Christopher J.H. Wright grew up an Irish Presbyterian in Belfast. The son of pioneer missionaries in Brazil, Wright holds a doctorate from Cambridge in Old Testament studies. Wright is the international director of Langham Partnership International, known in the U.S. as John Stott Ministries. He is also the theological chair of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, an organization dedicated to maintaining the integrity of God’s Word and a passion to reach souls for Christ. Wright spoke recently with Editor Ken Horn and Dr. Charles Self of Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.

evangel: How did John Stott and you become ministry partners?
I first met John in 1978. John was a leader in a movement to engage Christians in both evangelization and social action, and he convened a conference in 1978. I had just completed my doctorate in the Old Testament and did an exposition of one of the Psalms at the conference. John kindly expressed his appreciation, and we developed a friendship.

John visited our family when we ministered in India in the 1980s. When I came back from India, John invited me to serve on a trust providing evangelical literature for pastors, libraries and seminaries around the world. That trust worked alongside the Langham Partnership, which provided scholarships for people to do Ph.D.s and to teach in seminaries. John was no longer the senior pastor of All Souls Church, Langham Place, in London, but was still very much a part of the preaching team there.

In 2001, I joined the work of the Langham Partnership at John’s invitation, and it felt natural that I should move to London, become a part of All Souls Church, Langham Place, and work alongside John. By that time he was into his 80s, but remarkably resilient. It has been a joy and a privilege to know him and to work with him.

evangel: Talk about your years in India.
When I went to India in 1983, our three older children were already into their early teens, and we had a baby of 8 months. They grew up for nearly six years in India. I was doing what I love to do, which is teach the Bible, and I was doing it in the midst of a culture with interesting similarities with Old Testament realities. India’s community of believers lives as a minority people in a community that worships other gods, with many practices and social realities very like what you find in the ancient world that Israel was part of. Discussing in class the relevance and issues of Old Testament texts to Indian social and religious reality was quite mind-bending, very challenging and very enjoyable. I met and trained some very fine young men and women who are now in Christian leadership around the world.

evangel: Explain the Lausanne Movement.
Billy Graham and John Stott, in essence, are the co-founders of it. It’s wonderful that those two brothers are still alive and giving their blessing to it as it goes on. Lausanne grew out of Billy Graham’s desire, from 1966 onward, to bring together world evangelicals and promote world evangelization. He convened a congress in the Swiss city of Lausanne in 1974, and that’s where the name comes from.

The Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization brought not only representatives from many different churches and missions agencies from the Western world, but also a large number of representatives from Latin America, Africa and many parts of Asia. Some of those younger, non-Western evangelicals said, “Look, we live in a world where the gospel is more than something that has to be heard as a message. It has to be lived; it has to be seen; it has to connect with the culture and reality of suffering and injustice and poverty where we live.”

The Lausanne Covenant of 1974 — which John Stott largely drafted, obviously with a committee — is a wonderfully balanced document connecting the proclamation of the gospel with compassion for the needy, justice for the poor, and concern for all of God’s world in its need. World evangelization needs “the whole church to be taking the whole gospel to the whole world.”

The second Lausanne Congress was in Manila in 1989, and the third one is set for October 2010 in Cape Town. Africa is very much the heartbeat and the center of gravity of world Christianity now. It’s the place where the majority of the world’s Christians live.

evangel: Why should believers see the Old Testament as an exciting component of their lives?
I don’t believe people should find the Old Testament problematic. I know there are difficult passages and challenging cultural realities to understand. But we must remember that the Old Testament was the Bible of Jesus. What Jesus meant by “the Scriptures” is what we call the Old Testament. And the Old Testament was never a problem for the New Testament Church. We have a problem when we ask, “Is the Old Testament really Christian?” They were asking, “Are Christians consistent with what the Old Testament says?”

The second thing, from a Christian point of view, is the Old Testament shapes our worldview. With Genesis 1-2, we know that we live in God’s earth, God’s creation; that God loves it and cares for it. In Revelation 21-22, we know that God’s plan is the redemption of the whole of creation. Therefore we are in a very big story with a very big agenda, and the Bible is a big book because that’s what God wants to tell us about. I’m excited about the Old Testament because it tells us that story, gives us those truths, and then we see Jesus as the center point of all of that.

evangel: What evidence do you see of God reaching out to the lost cultures of the West?
Especially in Europe where I come from, there’s been a huge lapse in Christianity. But I believe that we see, through the 2,000-year history of Christianity and the preceding thousands of years of Jewish faith, that God works on a very big canvas and God is able to move people around the world. In the West, we’re now seeing an influx of believers from nations and countries we used to think of as “the mission field.” Sometimes they come by economic migration; sometimes quite intentionally as missionaries. They are living in our countries, sometimes in extreme poverty, and witnessing for their faith in the midst of their suffering.

I believe God often revitalizes older churches through the injection of the simplicity and sometimes the suffering of churches that we sometimes think of as younger churches, but actually they’ve been there sometimes longer than we’ve even existed as peoples. The church in Africa, for example, goes back even before Saint Patrick was taking the gospel to Ireland. Frumentius was taking the gospel to Ethiopia. It’s been there since A.D. 300 or even earlier.

We need to learn with humility and respect from some of these cultures, a) how to suffer, b) how to be faithful to the truth of Jesus Christ in the purest of contexts, and c) how to recover confidence in the truth of the gospel and the uniqueness of Christ.


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