A Vision for World Evangelization

The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization – Cape Town 2010

The Lausanne Movement is a global network of ‘reflective-practitioners’ who share a vision for the work of World Evangelization.

In October, 4000 church leaders from 200 counties around the world came to Cape Town to discuss issues of world evangelization. A third of those present were women; a third under 40, and there was a broad diversity of representation from many people groups. The goal of the congress was to re-energise the vision of Lausanne, to strengthen, inspire and equip the Church for world evangelization in our generation and to exhort Christians to engage in issues of public and social concern, to hear stories from around the world and develop fruitful partnerships.

The vision of Lausanne began with Billy Graham. Preaching internationally, he developed a passion to ‘unite all evangelicals in the common task of the total evangelization of the world’.  

The First Lausanne Congress (1974) developed the Lausanne Covenant, raised awareness of unreached people groups; and highlighted a fresh discovery of the holistic nature of Christian mission. The Second Lausanne Congress, in Manila (1989), inspired 300 strategic partnerships.

The Third Lausanne Congress has taken place in Africa, reflecting the fact that three quarters of the world’s Christians now live in the continents of the global south and east. This change of the centre of Christian gravity from north to south was also highlighted by the fact it overshadowed the Edinburgh 2010 centenary celebration of the historic 1910 Edinburgh World Missionary Conference. 300 delegates attended Edinburgh 2010 in the global north. This 2010 Conference had scant mention in Cape Town, although the overall world evangelism theme was similar.

At the heart of the Congress was work done in small groups. This reflected an underlying value throughout the Congress of the centrality of Scripture. Scripture sustains us, grounds us in love of God and neighbour and challenges us to radical love. The daily themes were underpinned in an inductive Bible study of Ephesians. This began with a dramatic, artistic presentation of the passage, before each delegate marked observations on her own unmarked manuscript of Ephesians. The group shared insights before listening to an exposition of the text, and reflecting on practical applications for their context.

In a culturally diverse group, it was a challenge to hear, receive and connect with different contexts. My group consisted of a Christian Jew, involved in the Jews for Jesus movement; a teacher from Rwanda in a school for children with disabilities - she had 5 children, and 10 adopted orphans from the genocide; a Vietnamese boat refugee who now lived in the States; a worker for Wycliffe Caribbean translators; and a black South African who had lived through apartheid and its dismantlement. When we talked about issues of reconciliation, this was not a theoretical exercise. 

Each day the Congress tackled through Bible study, presentations and panels, different issues affecting strategies for evangelization. The first day we tackled ‘What is Truth?’ How do we make the case for Christ in a pluralistic, globalised world? Our lack of clarity about the truth of Christ muddles our presentation of what Christ offers and undermines our confidence in the Gospel message. Belief that Christ is of cosmic significance is not an arrogant assumption that we are right and other faiths are wrong. It signposts the unique insight into God’s universal concern for all people and all Creation. My personal God is not limited to me, my family or tribe, but my God is also your God, and their God ...and so my sphere of concern is not just for me, my tribe, but also for you and your tribe. Christianity is not private truth, but public truth in the public square – raising questions and challenging us with visions with which all need to wrestle. Truth is both spoken and embodied. Christian truth is not a set of propositions to be learnt, but nor is it unframed experience.

Day two we wrestled with the call to be a reconciling body of Christ, embodying the peace of Christ in a broken world. There was a strong re-calling to whole life counter-cultural discipleship. Mark Green from the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity led a thought provoking multi-plex, suggesting one of the largest unreached people groups spanning across all nations is the marketplace. Some are effective in using their workplace to invite colleagues to join them on their journey, while for others work is a place where faith shapes their behaviour but not much more. We are called to be salt and light where we are placed, but the reality is that we have fallen short in our passion to live out our responsibility to declare Jesus Christ as Saviour. If you have 3 people at work as bricklayers, they can describe their work in very different ways. One might say, ‘I am doing a job’; another, ‘I am laying bricks’; and another, ‘I am building a cathedral’. There is great potential for Monday ministries. “Make a difference, where you can make a difference.” We must change the metaphor of how we see ourselves as Church: from a ‘building on Sundays’ to a body gathered/dispersed.

On other days we looked at how we bear witness to the truth of Christ in the entire world, engaging with other world faiths. Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism constitute 50% of the world’s population and are also active in their missionary endeavour. Competing world-views can create tensions and even violence. We need to learn new ways to live in fidelity to Scripture while being engaged meaningfully with people of other faiths, so our witness is compelling, humble, courageous, consistent and convincing. We need to learn to speak of new birth, new identity and a new allegiance of ‘one new humanity in Christ’ to others whose national and ethnic identity, in their perception, is bound together with their religion. We must strive to show acts of love to complement our words of truth.

The task of evangelization is not merely one of reaching all nations. The gospel must permeate the world of ideas, values and public policy; it must reach into the academy, and the world of governance and business. It needs continually to be proclaimed to each generation, even where the Church is already established, and there are nations where re-evangelization is needed. Massive waves of migration mean new peoples arriving and settling in new places. We need much discernment to allocate resources such as gifted teachers and evangelists, thinkers, professionals in every arena, and those with creative ministry ideas – and how should we allocate money?

Part of the focus on discipleship is the recalling to a life of simplicity and integrity in a greedy consumerist society. Often we are barely indistinguishable from the divided and broken world to which we are called to minister. We need to live counter-culturally.

The Lausanne Congress Cape Town 2010 released a powerful life of the Spirit all round the world as 4000 people, energised and networked, returned back home to work with renewed inspiration in their contexts.