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This summer the world’s attention was focused on South Africa as teams from around the globe competed against one another for the most prestigious prize in international football. Although many of the results may now be forgotten (or we may wish they were!), this October the country will again host another notable international event, this time attended by members of the Zacharias Trust team.

Although the third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization may not receive the same level of attention that the football enjoyed, the conference is, nevertheless, likely to be one of the most significant Christian gatherings for many years. Julia Cameron, director of external relationships for the event in Cape Town, explains more about the history and vision behind the movement and how you can get involved with it:

THE LAUSANNE MOVEMENT:

A covenant, a process, and a global conversation

Evangelicals bring passion to what we believe – how can we not? And we do so in a big way. At one level, it is the most natural and honourable thing to do; on another level, it brings subtle danger. We are fallen human beings and can care more about secondary matters held dear in our own tradition than we do about the advance of the gospel. We never intend this, but our splintering shows we do it.

The harvest is plentiful, and we are sent by the Lord of the Harvest to make disciples of all nations. We are, in the words of the Apostle Paul, to ‘strive side by side’ for the sake of the gospel (Philippians 1:27). May we follow the Apostle’s lead in doing so ‘with all the energy he [Christ] mightily inspires within us’ (Colossians 1:28). We need each other, and we must link arms around the world, pouring all our passion and our conviction into the great task of getting the gospel out. Out into the marketplace, out into the media, out into the universities and among the policy-formers, out into megacities, and into the villages. To seize opportunities, we must work together.

Lausanne Legacy begins

In July 1974, Billy Graham convened a congress in Lausanne, Switzerland, to look at the critical need for world evangelization. 2,300 gathered from 150 nations. It was an extraordinary gathering. TIME Magazine described it as ‘formidable’, and as ‘possibly the widest-ranging meeting of Christians ever held’. Now known as Lausanne 1, that congress led to the birth of The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelisation, commonly known as The Lausanne Movement. It was a seminal event; an historic and pivotal moment in church history.

There were three remarkable outcomes from those nine summer days, each bringing a lasting legacy.

  1. The Lausanne Covenant: widely regarded as one of the most significant documents in recent church history. Its 15 paragraphs define what it means to be evangelical. The British pastor theologian John Stott was its chief architect.
  2. A commitment to bring the gospel to those still unreached, and from here missiologist Ralph Winter’s term ‘unreached people groups’ gained strong currency.
  3. A rediscovery of the holistic gospel, for which our debt of gratitude under God goes to two Latin Americans, then young men whose names had not yet travelled far, Prof Samuel Escobar and Dr Rene Padilla.

Partnerships and strategic alliances

The second Lausanne Congress was held in Manila, Philippines in 1989, and its ‘Manila Manifesto’ may be read on the Lausanne.org website. Over 300 strategic partnerships were born out of this Congress, giving rise to many new initiatives in western and non-western nations.

Creativity in working together for gospel advance continues to be a hallmark of The Lausanne Movement. A phrase coined in 1974, ‘the spirit of Lausanne’ serves to remind of the Movement’s distinctives. While the very feel of the phrase suggests ‘the spirit’ is not anything which can be pinned down, the Lausanne senior leadership is clear as to what it embodies. It is a spirit of fellowship, of prayer, of study, of partnership, of hope. And underlying these runs a spirit of humility in serving the global Church.

Join the Lausanne Global Conversation

We are now just a month away from The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization: ‘Cape Town 2010’. Seismic changes have taken place since 1989 and we need to engage with new realities. We now live in a post-Communist world; a post 9/11 world; a digital world; a world of ethnic cleansing and alienation; a biotech world; and the emerging giants of Brazil and Russia, as well as India and China, dominate our new map.

The AIDS virus has killed millions; genocide and ethnic cleansing have traumatised nations; Islam has developed strategies to penetrate new nations, through strategic funding of the universities – not least here in the West; and new technologies have not only changed the way we live, but have raised profound questions about the nature of human life.

As Doug Birdsall, Executive Chairman, said: ‘Global issues need global conversations to find global solutions.’ To that end, Cape Town 2010 gives us a new possibility. For the first time in history, evangelicals can take part in a truly global conversation. It stretches beyond the web to a wide network of radio stations across Africa. You are invited to join the Lausanne Global Conversation online. We want to hear your voice. Through the Conversation website, you will have access to sessions in Cape Town. The Congress will have remote sites in 60 nations.

Prepare to be part of what’s happening

We hope many churches will work through John Stott’s reissued study guide to The Lausanne Covenant, published under the title For the Lord we Love.[1. Available as a free download or from Christianbook.com] As the congress draws nearer there will be recommended study and reading around the keynote issues to be discussed. This will be available to all who register through the website.

Perhaps you could plan to join 200 nations on Sunday 17 or 24 October for the Opening or Closing Ceremony of the Congress, to be live webcast?

The theme for Cape Town 2010 is taken from 2 Corinthians 5:17 ‘God in Christ, reconciling the world to himself’. Let us seek God in a humble spirit, and work together, uniting around the great central truths of the gospel, as we hold out the word of life.

We live at a time in world history when there has never been more opportunity for the advance of the gospel in more countries. We also live at a time when the West is in a process of moral disintegration. As the digital age, the new ‘nano’ world, and the biotech century all converge, we need to bring the best minds together to think and reason and dissect argument, and to present Christian critique. There is no ism or ideology, no religion or humanistic mindset which can outflank the gospel. Christ is the sovereign agent of Creation; the One in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He is not taken by surprise at human cleverness, nor at any new manifestation of human pride.

Our model is the servant Apostle, whose commanding intellect towered above all in the ancient Academy; he would have been rated off-the-scale on any attempt to measure passion or conviction. Yes, it is time for Christians to be more intentional about claiming the intellectual high ground, and about sending our best to do battle at the toughest frontiers of thinking and ideas.[2. The Lausanne Movement has several working groups looking at trends in a range of areas, including its Theology Working Group chaired by Dr Chris Wright of Langham Partnership International and its Strategy Working Group chaired by Paul Eshelman of Campus Crusade.] These as, never before, are the mission frontiers, as well as those where the gospel is pitted against other belief systems. But let us do so in the spirit of the servant Apostle.

We have a range of Lausanne Occasional Papers on Lausanne.org which could prove stimulating for you. But more than that, we trust you will find the spirit of Lausanne – that spirit of fellowship, partnership, study, prayer, hope and humility – a provocative friend, as do thousands of us the world over.

Julia Cameron has served for many years in world mission, largely through communications and publishing. She is Director of External Relations for Cape Town 2010: The Third Lausanne Congress, and founding editor of The Didasko Files.