AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands (BP)–A pop star, a former White House official who went to prison and a tribesman who murdered missionaries testified about the power of Jesus Christ to transform their lives Aug. 2 at Amsterdam 2000.
British singer Cliff Richard and Mincaye, a member of the Waodani tribe in Ecuador, joined Chuck Colson, Prison Fellowship’s founder, in urging the audience of 10,000-plus evangelists and church leaders from around the world to preach the gospel. Their testimonies, and Richard’s performance of a song, brought the crowd to its feet at the RAI Centre in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Key portions of the Billy Graham-sponsored conference are being webcast on Crosswalk.com, with news and features also being posted at the Internet site.
Steve Saint, whose father, Nate, was among the five missionaries killed by the tribesman and his friends in 1956, introduced Mincaye. “In God’s great economy, what they meant for evil was turned to good,” Saint told the crowd. Nate’s sister, Rachel, went to work among the tribe members after the murders, and many subsequently have become Christians, Saint said.
“When I killed Steve’s father, I didn’t know better. No one told us that he had come to show us God’s trail,” Mincaye said, as Saint interpreted. “My heart was black and sick in sin, but I heard [that] God sent his own Son, his blood dripping and dripping. He washed my heart clean.”
Mincaye exhorted the crowd to tell others about Christ. “Now I see you God-followers from all over the [world]. I see well my brothers and sisters that God’s blood has washed your hearts, too. Go speak [about God] all over the world. Let’s take many with us to God’s place in heaven.”
Steve Saint came to Amsterdam in the midst of a personal tragedy. His daughter Stephanie had died of a cerebral hemorrhage less than two weeks earlier. His children have a close relationship with Mincaye, and use the Waodani word for “grandfather” to refer to him, Saint said.
Stephanie “has gone to live with God in heaven,” Mincaye told Saint at the hospital where his daughter died. “I will go there soon and I will wait” with Steve’s father and aunt, he said. “We will wait for you in God’s place.”
Colson told the audience that “I thought I knew power” as special counsel to President Nixon, a man intimately involved in the major decisions of his presidency. “But I have discovered how quickly that power vanished,” said Colson, who spent time in prison for his involvement in the Watergate conspiracy. In the middle of the scandal that ensued when the conspiracy was uncovered, he said he became a Christian.
“Kingdoms come, kingdoms collapse. In prison I saw the real power: It is the power of the gospel to transform the human heart. That’s the only enduring power. That’s the power that ultimately conquers the world and transforms kingdoms.”
Richard performed his hit song “Millennium Prayer.” Billy Graham had asked him to perform the song, a rendition of the Lord’s Prayer set to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne.” Despite opposition from radio stations, the public in England purchased the record in droves and it became a number one hit. The crowd whistled and cheered for Richard’s performance.
Richard, who has numerous number one hits, became a Christian at the height of his career in the mid-1960s. He made his first public statement of faith at a Billy Graham evangelistic event in 1966. “It was a terrifying moment, but I needed, as a public figure, to unashamedly be a Christian,” he said.
Nearly 3,000 participants came from North America, but most of the rest are from developing nations. More than 2,100 are from Africa, 1,380 from Asia and 1,282 Latin America, conference organizers said. More than 800 came from Europe, 726 from the Commonwealth of Independent States, 250 from the Middle East, more than 200 from the Caribbean and 306 from Oceania.
“The diversity here is remarkable, but the unity within the diversity is even more remarkable,” said John Stott, the British evangelist and Bible teacher.
An evangelist who preaches without the Bible “has nothing to say, nothing worth listening to, and no hope of success,” Stott said. The Scriptures have the content, authority, and power for a proper evangelistic message, he said.
“God has clothed his thoughts in words” and there is no way to know him except by knowing the Scriptures, Stott said in his message to the evangelists July 31. “We can’t even read each other’s minds, much less what is in the mind of God. … A wise evangelist looks to the Bible because it gives him authority,” Stott said.
But the Bible must be approached with humility, Stott said. God answers many, but not all, questions in the Scriptures, and evangelicals should be more willing to say, “I don’t know,” he said. They sometimes are more dogmatic than the Bible on particular issues and their arrogance can give offense, he said.
The power of a Bible-based evangelistic message will change lives, Stott said. “The Word of God is like fire — it burns up the rubbish, it is like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces.”
Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, in another message July 31 to the conference, exhorted, “Preach the Word, preach the Word, preach the Word.”
The Bible is a schoolteacher revealing mankind’s sin and need of a Savior, she said. Many preachers have God’s Word in their heads, but their message will bring life to others when they preach it from their hearts, she said.
Lotz began her remarks with a word of encouragement for her father, who is watching the event by satellite in Rochester, Minn., where he is recovering from an operation in June. “Daddy, I want to say that I miss you. I wish you were here. I love you and everyone in this hall is praying for the restoration of your health and ministry.”
(Two shunts have been implanted in the 81-year-old Graham’s brain to drain off fluid and relieve pressure, according to a report in The New York Times. He now is being treated on an outpatient basis.)
Lotz stirred the audience members as she challenged them to examine their hearts, confess their sins to God and resolve “to choose to be great in God’s eyes.” Deep, buried sin that has not been done away with will lead to failure in ministry, she said.
Korean pastor Billy Kim exhorted the evangelists July 29 to “join God’s search party” and bring lost souls into his kingdom. Kim, president of the Baptist World Alliance and pastor of the 13,000-member Suwon Central Baptist Church, said evangelism is imperative because only the power of Christ can stop the increasing violence and despair in the world.
“Without Jesus, the future is an awful catastrophe,” Kim said.
Christians must have more compassion for people, Kim said, and must be fully convinced that heaven and hell are real. “We must believe that those without Jesus Christ have no hope in this world or the next.” Forty million people die every year, and two-thirds of them don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, he said. “Is this not enough to motivate us?”
J.I. Packer, professor of theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in a July 30 message to the conference, said evangelists must “tell the whole story” of the gospel from Scripture. “There is a danger of reducing the gospel to the minimum” and leaving out key teachings, which can hinder people’s spiritual growth, he said.
Evangelism that doesn’t include the truths of the Trinity, original sin, repentance, establishing God’s kingdom and the family of God is incomplete, Packer said. The evangelists’ objective should be to tell the whole story as soon and as fully as possible, he said.
Daunting challenges lie ahead in reaching the next generation, Ravi Zacharias, an Indian-born evangelist and Bible teacher who lives in the United States, said in another message to the conference July 30. Atheism and Eastern religious thought are prevalent, and many people believe there is no truth, no meaning and no certainty, he said. A preference for visual images over the written Word of God have produced a generation that “hears with its eyes and thinks with its feelings.”
But they can be reached if followers of Jesus become living examples of Christ, Zacharias said. “We cannot just speak the gospel. We have to embody the gospel. If our proclamation is to reach a generation like ours, we too will have to live lives that make the gospel visible.”
Little, on site at Amsterdam 2000, is associate editor of Religion Today, part of the News and Culture channel at Crosswalk.com.