Consultation on Gospel and Culture

6 - 13 Jan 1978 Willowbank, Somerset Bridge, Bermuda

The process of communicating the gospel cannot be isolated from the human culture from which it comes, or from that in which it is to be proclaimed. This fact constituted one of the preoccupations of the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in July 1974.

So the Lausanne Committee’s Theology and Education Group convened a consultation on this topic to meet in January 1978. It brought 33 theologians, anthropologists, linguists, missionaries, and pastors together from all six continents to study ‘Gospel and Culture’.

Co-sponsored by the Lausanne Committee’s Strategy Working Group, it had four goals:

  • To develop our understanding of the interrelation of the gospel and culture with special reference to God’s revelation, to our interpretation and communication of it, and to the response of the hearers in their conversion, their churches and their life style.
  • To reflect critically on the implications of the communication of the gospel cross-culturally.
  • To identify the tools required for more adequate communication of the gospel.
  • To share the fruits of the consultation with Christian leaders in church and mission.

The Willowbank Report reflects the content of 17 written papers circulated in advance, summaries of them, and reactions to them made during the consultation, and many viewpoints expressed in plenary and group discussions.

John Stott said about The Willowbank Report:

‘Cross-cultural messengers of the gospel have to ask themselves: “How can I, having been born and raised in one culture, take the gospel from Scripture which was written in other cultures, and communicate it to people in a third culture, without either distorting the message or rendering it unintelligible?” To help us to answer this question, the report contains both a moving analysis of missionary humility and a reflection on the Incarnation as a model of Christian witness.’ (John Stott, ed, Making Christ Known (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B Eerdmans, 1997), xvii.)

Read the Lausanne Occasional Paper (LOP 2) that emerged from this gathering: The Willowbank Report on Gospel and Culture.