The Third Convention of The Asia Missions Association, Seoul, Korea, 1982
The Third Triennial Convention of the Asia Missions Association took place on August 16-22, 1982, in Seoul, the capital city of the Republic of Korea.
Invitations were sent to representatives of Asian countries, including Japan, China, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Fiji, and Korea. Invitations were also sent to African and Latin American countries including Nigeria, Brazil, Mexico, and Guatemala. Among Western countries, invitations were sent to Germany and the United States.
As Asians, we have been able to bring together mission leaders from these countries in order to discuss and debate diverse issues and ideas with the common goal of increasing missionary outreach.
The theme of this Convention was Isaiah 62:10.
“Go through, go through the gates;
Clear the way for the people;
Build up, build up the highway;
Remove the stones, lift up a standard over the peoples.”
This theme was chosen to continue building toward the ideals articulated in our 1975 Seoul Declaration on Christian Mission.
Paul’s Epistle to the Philippines provided insights into the various ways of expressing the task of missions and evangelism in our Asian meeting. These were brought forth forcefully in the Bible studies every morning.
The Convention’s work units included: 1) East-West Dialogue for Missiological Encounter; 2) Asian Missiologists Symposium; 3) Asia, Africa, and America Consultation; 4) Asian Missionaries Workshop; 5) Third World Mission Rally.
In-depth Studies and exposure to Korean culture, religion, and urban industrial society provided valuable insight in our discussion and understanding of our task. Through prayer, research, dialogue, and careful analysis, we gained greater awareness of the following issues:
I. The Role of Christian Missions
A. Responsibility toward God
Fully conscious of our primary responsibility to God and His demands expressed in the Scriptures, we met Him anew as the God who shapes history to accomplish His perfect purposes. It is He who, because of His great love for the world and for the glory of His name, still longs for the redemption of the world through faith in Jesus Christ so that when the times have reached their fulfillment, all things in heaven and on earth will be brought together under one head, Christ, His Son. It is He who is still
full of compassion for a world held in darkness by Satanic forces. It is He who commands His own to spread His glad tidings of total redemption for the whole of man throughout the whole world.
B. Responsibility toward Man
The Christian understanding of human dignity consequently originates in the Biblical view that man was created in the image of God. Equality and freedom are basic rights established by God Himself. A Christian understanding of man’s nature takes human sinfulness seriously. Sin destroys man’s dignity and causes him to lose his freedom and sense of equality. Modern man’s greatest problem is rooted in his reluctance to recognize his own sin. When mission in the name of Christ fails
to make man aware of sin – its origin and consequences according to the Bible – then it fails in its basic responsibility of evangelizing mankind.
The doctrines of forgiveness and redemption cannot be adequately understood without consciousness and confession of sin. Sin, both personal and collective, should not be concealed, defended, or justified; it has its own high cost whose price must be paid. Because Christ has paid this price, He became our Savior. Blaming sin on society and its structures is neither Biblical nor Christian. Man’s first transgression was blaming elements outside himself for his own sin – God’s law, other creatures, circumstances, and even God Himself.
C. Responsibility toward Society
We are convinced that the nature of Christian faith compels us to befriend and help the weak, the oppressed, the poor, and the sick. We must encourage Christians to recognize their social responsibility as members of their community and to be aware of various type of social injustice so they may develop a Biblical standard of ethics to serve as an example for both rulers and those whom they rule.
Our ideal social structure is a community built on love where humanitarian sharing occurs between those who have and those who have not. We reject the idea that we should first divide society into classes and then agitate within the lower classes to seek through violence to build a new communitarian structure for social justice. We are reminded that we fight not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers.
D. Responsibility toward the Nations
Most countries in Asia are newly independent, emerging countries, created after the second World War. The responsibility of Christian missions toward the nations today is analogous to that of the Old Testament prophets who rebuilt their country after being freed from captivity and oppression. We believe that the role of missions among these newly independent nations should be one of providing a spiritual and ideological foundation for growth, social justice, and industrial development. This will be achieved neither by criticizing developing nations nor by completely rejecting their values. Rather, we believe Christian missions should not fail to exhort the churches to assume a role of prophetic warning, providing leadership, and pastoral comforting and encouragement so that trial-and-error repercussions, inappropriate authoritarianism, and disorder will not exist in these developing nations.
E. The Ultimate Responsibility of Missions
We believe that Christian missions will terminate. According to Scripture, the end will come after the Gospel has been proclaimed to all nations and all peoples (Matthew 24:14). Thus, the end of missions is related to the end of history, the day of Christ’s Second Coming.
In Matthew 28:19-20 we see the strategic step, to establish within each people at least a small group of disciplined converts. Only by that method can the rest of the people in that group then hear in their own language, from someone of their own kind. This follow-through evangelism then fulfills what Mark 16:15 seems to say as it exhorts us to reach “all creation.”
The Ultimate Christian Missionary responsibility should be the tireless campaign to give all nations and people the chance to receive the Gospel of Christ. We recognize the mandate to continue knocking until all nations open their doors to Christian missions. We believe that the time will come when the door will open for the Gospel and we eagerly prepare for that day.
II. The Crisis of Christian Mission
In three major conferences of 1980, we see various mission strategies emerging for this decade. These strategies include carrying forward a social Gospel and humanization campaign (May, Melbourne, Australia); applying principles of research and planning (June, Pattaya, Thailand); and prioritizing frontier missions (October, Edinburgh, Scotland).
A. The Melbourne Conference
The Melbourne Conference was unable to move beyond the political and theological trends of the 1970’s; it did not address the challenge of establishing the spiritual Kingdom of God. The danger of Melbourne’s conclusion lies in the idea that the church is a political entity, and as such should be involved in revolution and “liberation.”
According to Melbourne, all countries must undergo a polarizing power confrontation so that the people will become aware of the political, urban, economic, industrial, labor, and education crises in their midst. Thus, laying down one’s life in agitation for social change is “the true path of mission.” This “true path” was capsulized in slogans such as “until all power is returned to the powerless.” Melbourne advocated spawning a pattern of social revolution convincing people that liberation through revolution is equivalent to establishing the Kingdom of God.
B. The Pattaya Consultation
The Consultation mainly developed mission strategies by investigating and analyzing the world, using principles of social science. The world was divided and analyzed along the lines of race, language, and culture. Under the slogan “How shall they hear?” Pattaya delegates strove to identify the remaining task in terms of area-population statistics, languages, cultures, ideologies, and religions. This type of “Marketing research” is of real value if used properly, but can be misleading if it is
employed mechanically apart from an alertness to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
We rejoice in the deeper commitment to missions resulting in the lives of the wide variety of Christian leaders invited to this conference.
C. The Edinburgh Consultation
The Edinburgh Consultation, having been called the “World Consultation on Frontier Missions,” especially emphasized reaching out beyond where the church is now established under the slogan “A church for every people by the year 2000.” As with the AMA Triennial Conventions, mission professionals were primary participants, being sent as delegate by mission agencies.
This conference emphasized the role of non-Western mission forces. One-third of the agencies represented and one-third of the delegates attending were from non-Western missions. Three of four major plenary addresses in the morning sessions were assigned to non-Western mission leaders. The only one of these addressed delivered by a Westerner predicted that the final era of missions we are now entering would soon be dominated by non-Western mission forces.
Despite whatever defects these three conferences may have had, we must rejoice in the increased awareness they have generated concerning the significant internal changes which have taken place in Asian, African, and Latin American churches as their nations have broken away from Western domination, mostly in the last third of a century. We also rejoice that Western missions are changing their attitudes toward churches of the newly independent nations, recognizing that these can become
major new forces of mission outreach in this final era of history. Clearly, non-Western missions are not valuable merely as a maturing branch of the Western Church. Such a perspective is both gloomy and inappropriate. On the other hand, Asian missions must build and expand with relentless urgency lest the loss of momentum of many of the older denominational missions in the West create a vacuum of outreach from confusion and lost opportunity.
III. The Future of Christian Mission
Christianity may well face greater resistance in the future as many people all over the world increasingly reject missions, both socially and spiritually. At the same time, in not a few nations the evangelical presence is growing to the point where it is making many vital contributions.
Due in significant part to the efforts of the Asia Missions Association in the 1970’s, a social foundation of cooperation and solidarity of purpose now exists among Christian mission leaders. At this convention we have pledged ourselves to clear away the old, narrow ways of the past, the obstacles that stand in the way of rapid progress, and lift high the guiding lamp of Christian truth so that the nations will not founder on the shoals of error and sin. Through cooperation in the fulfilling of this pledge, we can with God’s promised help break through the crisis of opportunity which faces us in Christian mission today.
We recognize and appreciate the great value of involving a number of young people in future meetings of mission leaders. More than any other professional gathering, meetings of mission leaders must be aware of future leadership. In every Triennial Convention, youth leaders have been involved. The Edinburgh 1980 conference was also greatly enhanced by the additional presence of young people from many countries. We applaud this kind of foresight and hope future meetings can always achieve this welding together of the generations in close and harmonious respect and collaboration.
IV. Our Commitment
“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). Throughout the Third Triennial Convention, we discussed the common task as perceived by both Western missions (the main force in 200 years of Christian outreach) and the new mission forces emerging from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The following seven tasks were focal points:
1) The urgency of strengthening Asian mission forces and increasing cooperation among them.
2) The consequent need for an organization facilitating interchange between non-Western missions all over the world.
3) The need for appropriate de-Westernization in order to allow for a Christian fulfillment of Asian self-hood.
4) The need for the establishment of new relationships of cooperation between traditional Western missions and newly emerging non-Western mission.
5) The need for more research to effectively counter negative religious policies in post-war, independent, nationalistic, and social countries.
6) The need to counter the dangers of the two extremes of quasi-secular global ecumenism and pseudo-spiritual, cultic authoritarianism.
7) The urgent need for innovations in mission structure to contend with the future situation.
Despite our diverse national and cultural backgrounds we have reached a consensus on these tasks. Thus we commit ourselves to these tasks as guidelines as we carry forward the task of world missions. We yearn to manifest the unity and commonality of Asians, and we thus hereby boldly proclaim our Asian mission commitment to both the Christian and the non-Christian worlds.