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10,000 evangelicals expected for global Amsterdam 2000 conference

MINNEAPOLIS (BP)–The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) is putting the final touches on “Amsterdam 2000,” which could be the last conference led by the internationally-known Southern Baptist evangelist.

Meeting July 29-Aug. 6 at the RAI Centre in The Netherlands, the event is expected to attract 10,000 participants from around the world, many of them from Third World nations.

Accenting its international scope will be a series of daily, Internet-accessible telecasts. The video feeds will include the introductory news conference with Graham on July 28, daily media briefings, and major morning and evening sessions.

The July 28 news conference will be shown at 10 a.m. EDT at www.media.amsterdam2000.org; on-line questions can be submitted. Daily media briefings will be held from 6:45 to 7:15 a.m. EDT.

The major sessions will be shown on a two-to-three hour time delay. Times are not set, but will be listed later in July on the Web site.

Interpreted into at least 25 languages, speeches and seminars will be led by 300 of the world’s most prominent Christian leaders, teachers and evangelists. Among the major evangelistic speakers are Billy Kim of Suwon, Korea, president of the Baptist World Alliance.

Among others are Bill Bright, president of Campus Crusade for Christ; Prison Fellowship president Chuck Colson; Canadian professor and author J.I. Packer; Hispanic evangelist Luis Palau; and English theologian and author John Stott.

In a statement released by his office, 81-year-old Graham calls the conference a figurative passing of the torch to the world’s next generation of evangelists. It will also mark one of the few meetings where the evangelist, his son, Franklin; and daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, will all speak.

“It seems the older I get the more I am asked who will succeed me,” he said. “Well, the fact is that I am just one of thousands who has been called to be an evangelist. I don’t need a successor, only willing hands to accept the torch for a new generation.”

Despite his recent hospitalization to relieve fluid on the brain, the North Carolina resident still expects to take part in the international conference, according to BGEA program director Bill Conard.

“His every intention is to go to Amsterdam,” Conard said. “Given his health, it is a passing of the baton to the next generation. Billy feels he is passing the baton to thousands of runners. He hasn’t carried it alone for the last 50 years.”

As part of its worldwide scope, the nine-day event will encompass a series of cutting-edge, socially relevant topics during a series of daily workshops. Among them are:

— “Effective Evangelism in a Post-Modern Culture,” led by Dr. Walter De Sousa, a Canadian evangelist with Mission Evangelism International.

— “Tolerance, Truth and Religious Diversity,” featuring well-known evangelist and author Josh McDowell of Dallas.

— Several youth-oriented seminars. Among them are “Reaching the Global Youth Culture,” taught by Arkansas evangelist Ron Hutchcraft; “Reaching Counter-Culture Youth” with Roy Crowne, national director of British Youth for Christ; and “Evangelism and Generation X,” led by Tom Hawkes of Uptown Christ Covenant Church in Charlotte, N.C.

— “Evangelism Through AIDS Education in Schools” features Alejandro Oviedo, who will discuss how biblical answers are helping stem the spread of the disease. Formerly with Campus Crusade for Christ, he serves with Camino a Emaus Church in Honduras.

Conard said the 230 workshops will address a wide variety of real-world issues faced by evangelists. Conditions for those in Africa are different than Europe or Australia, where post-modernism has a stronger foothold, he said.

“Some of these workshops are to prepare evangelists in Latin America, Africa and parts of Asia where post-modernism may not be so strong yet but is gaining,” he said, “so they can have an effective ministry and be a step ahead of the cultural change that is coming.

“We have workshops across a wide spectrum of topics. It’s to help those who are in very rudimentary situations, such as tribal thought, to those dealing with post-modern, technological thought.”

Despite the worldwide audience that will be able to view portions of the conference, the program director emphasized this is not a crusade but a training event. Its five-point goals include:

— To celebrate what God is doing through evangelists across the globe and to encourage them.

— To equip evangelists for accelerated outreach in an increasingly pluralistic world.

— Affirm evangelical distinctives, including Jesus Christ as the unique and only way to God.

— Developing strategies for reaching the masses and bringing them into the fellowship of local churches.

— Creating international networks for sharing information, prayer requests and spiritual victories.

Demand to attend the conference is high. While 28,000 applied, only about 10,000 will be admitted. While final numbers are not determined, the BGEA expects participants to come from approximately 190 nations.

The primary platform language will be English, although there will be two speakers from the Waodani (or Huaorani) tribe in Ecuador. Known earlier as the Acuas, they are the tribe responsible for the deaths of American Nate Saint and four other missionaries in 1958. Interpreting for them will be Saint’s son, Steve.

Up to 70 percent of the attendees may come from Third World countries. While no one is being given free lodging, the association is providing subsidized housing to evangelists from developing nations.

All attendees will gather for 22 plenary sessions in the 14,000-seat Europahal, one of three halls in the mammoth RAI Centre. Also scheduled are daily seminars on preaching evangelism, the workshops previously mentioned, and a series of task forces.

The latter will be divided into three groups of 300 to 500. One group will focus on evangelism strategies, another will discuss theology, and the third will be made up of top denominational leaders.

The latter will include Jerry Rankin, president of the SBC’s International Mission Board; and Bob Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board.

After compiling daily records of large and small-group discussions, each task force will develop position papers of 20 to 25 pages that will be published later and made available on the Internet.

Conard called the task forces one of the most exciting aspects of the conference. He said the cross-fertilization, networking and friendships developed in these groups may affect the future of evangelism for the next two decades.

“Baptists will have things to tell Anglicans, and the Assembly of God has things to tell Presbyterians, and vice versa,” he said. “To have these top leaders meeting and not setting policies, but sharing ideas — can you imagine the power there will be under the power of the Holy Spirit?”

    About the Author

  • Ken Walker