This is part two of CC.com’s overview of the Lausanne Congress, held in Cape Town October 16-25. Part one is available here.
Believers & reconciliation
Varying forms of reconciliation were key themes at Lausanne III. Speaking on the topic of ‘Reconciliation with Creation,’ Sir John Houghton — co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — emphasized that the rising of sea levels might displace many of the world’s poor in some countries. Global warming, he contended, “is a Christian issue because it’s affecting the world, the ecosystem, God’s creation — and because it affects the poor more than anything.”
‘Reconciliation with the Poor’ was addressed by Ajith Fernando, national director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka. He encouraged participants to re-evaluate their view of the effects of poverty, observing: “One of the things we found as soon as the poor started coming to Christ was that we encountered strong anger within them — because they suddenly realized that they were equal in Christ, but they had not been treated as equal all these years.”
‘Reconciliation between Peoples’ provided a dramatic pairing of speakers from two often opposed factions.
Shadia Qubti, a Palestinian Christian, works with Musalaha, a ministry dedicated to bringing together Palestinian and Jewish people who believe in Jesus. “As a Palestinian, it’s very difficult to reach out to my enemy,” he noted, adding: “But as a Christian Palestinian, I have the ability to do that. Because Jesus gives me the eyes to see them as he sees me, Jesus gives me the confidence to go against my society; he gives me the power to embrace them.”
Sharing the platform with him was Daniel Sered, director of Jews for Jesus in Israel. “When Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs can say to one another, ‘I love you in Jesus’ name,’ the world will see the powerful reconciliation work of the good news,” he said, emphasizing: “The only hope for peace for the Middle East is truly Jesus.”
Leadership & God’s love
Leadership was another issue addressed by several participants.
Canadian Carson Pue, president of Arrow Leadership, shared some insights on the Lausanne Global Conversation website:
“God loves you as a person even more than he loves what you do as a leader . . . There is a subtle erosion that begins to take place in many of us leaders, and we begin to question God’s intentions for us. We come to misunderstand what God intends [for] us, and begin to compensate by ‘doing’ more.
“By doing so, we lose track of some of the most important things in life and faith. We become less convinced that it is all about being a son or daughter of Christ, and that the cross is central to our identity as leaders. Our busyness and success in ministry trick us into thinking that it is all about us — when it is all about God.”
The presentation of one leading thinker, however, stirred some controversy. According to Doug Koop, editorial director of Winnipeg- based ChristianWeek, some participants found a speech by author Os Guinness “a little hard to swallow.” In the October 20 edition of his blog, Koop described “a particularly forceful presentation that isn’t sitting well with many Canadian attendees.”
All or nothing
Guinness, he noted, is “a very thoughtful and articulate man who presented the case for truth.” The speaker, he said, contended that “a biblical view of truth is obscene to modern minds.” Guinness “then went on to make six blistering points bolstering the need for a high view of truth. And it turned out to be an all or nothing proposition.”
Koop quoted Guinness admonishing his audience: “If we do not stand for Truth, this congress might as well stop here. Shame on those Western Christians who casually neglect or deny what many of our brothers and sisters would rather die than deny: Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.” Koop objected to what he termed “the colonial tone,” which he found “problematic.”
He hastened to add: “I suspect that Dr. Guinness is a humble and congenial man in person.” However, he lamented, “the platform persona was that of an Oxford don — ruddy and certain — fulminating and finger-wagging laggard students into a correct understanding. He spoke with a powerful, uncompromising tone that brooked no further questions. It came across as sloganeering . . . Indeed, we are eager for Truth. But this voice was over-amplified to the point of distortion.”
Blessed are the persecuted
The persecution of Christians was a topic which resonated with many in attendance, as noted by the October 19 InterVarsity blog written by York Moore.
Western Christians, he noted, “often read and hear about the persecuted church; but here at Lausanne 2010, the persecuted church has faces and names. While most nearly all Chinese delegates to Lausanne were denied departure from China and some detained, a handful of Chinese Christians are here in Cape Town for the Congress.
“While speaking to one of them at length today, I asked him why he would risk arrest and persecution for coming to Lausanne. His words moved me to tears. ‘How can I decline this invitation? How can I fail to be here and receive what this event has to offer me and my people? How can I be silent about Jesus? I must come and I must speak!’
“These words were repeated over many times from the platform and around tables, as women and men from Serbia, from India, from the Middle East, shared stories of suffering and persecution for the gospel.”
One of this country’s pre-eminent Christian leaders considered Cape Town 2010 a very valuable experience for the Canadians in attendance. “Canada had 50 participants and almost on equal number of support staff present during the Congress,” Bruce Clemenger told CC.com. The president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada found the experience “a stimulating and uplifting gathering,” and noted several highlights.
“The theme verse was ‘God in Christ, reconciling the world to himself,’ from 2 Corinthians 5:19. Amidst the music, drama and excellent speakers, everyone was assigned to a table… where each morning we studied the letter of Ephesians and prayed together.
“My table had older leaders from Europe and younger leaders from India, including an observer from the World Council of Churches. It was a wonderful experience to study and learn together… The plenary sessions, panels and workshops manifested the amazing diversity of evangelical expression in loving God, doing justice and making disciples.”
The challenge of integrity
Murray Moerman, formerly with Outreach Canada and now ministering in England, took some powerful lessons from his own Lausanne experience.
“We were confronted in Cape Town with the reality that, too often, the lifestyles of those who claim the name of Jesus are too little different from the lives of those around us . . . Too often, those who claim the name of Christ seek power, wealth and success in the same terms as the world. This is not that to which we have been called. We have been called to be servants, lording it over no one, givers rather than takers.”
Integrity, he observed, “requires that repentance begins with us before we speak of it to the world.”
In his Executive Summary of Observations, Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada general superintendent David Wells noted that “the challenge of moving people from conversion to whole-life discipleship was a consistent theme” of the gathering. Further, “the global concern regarding the spread of the ‘prosperity gospel’ — as a theological integrity issue — was raised in a number of sessions.”
Cape Town 2010, he declared, “continued to address what it looks like for the global church to both proclaim and practice the truth, to be like our Lord — full of grace and truth. It was clear the organizers are concerned about ‘truth drift.'”
Wells concluded: “There continues to be a strong call and multiple resources available, to participate in the shared endeavours of reaching the unreached and eradicating both biblical and physical poverty. There is an expectation of follow-up actions — such as each missional agency identifying what part it will continue to play in engaging unreached people groups.”
New zeal & motivation
In his eloquent November 2 summation of the experience, African Enterprise founder Michael Cassidy proclaimed: “From 2010 Cape Town, people from almost every country in the world have gone forth with new zeal, energy, determination, motivation, and biblical conviction to take the gospel afresh to every corner of the globe.” Cassidy also noted that “compromise with religious pluralism and syncretism postures of inter- faith were dealt 10,000 blows from 10,000 corners of the church around the world.”
Citing Acts 1:8, he said Lausanne III particpants were called “to be witnesses . . . in our Jerusalems (i.e. where we immediately are), our Judeas (the areas round about where we reside), our Samarias (the people with whom we normally have no dealings) and to the ends of the earth. And to do it recognizing that it can only be done in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in faithfulness to God’s Word.”
Lausanne III, he said, “was unforgettable. It was hugely inspirational. It was deeply motivational. It was history-making for the global church of Jesus Christ. And it was a landmark happening that set a benchmark of mega organizational excellence, which I can’t visualize being matched again anywhere for a long time to come.
“More than that, it wrote in the sky in letters of fire, and in a myriad hearts and minds, that Jesus Christ is both ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’ and that ‘no one comes to the Father’ except through him.”
Fresh motivation for the furthering of world evangelization was also the theme of the Cape Town Commitment, a major statement from the Lausanne organizers.
The document declared: “The biblical covenants, old and new, are the expression of God’s redeeming love and grace reaching out to lost humanity and spoiled creation. They call for our love in return.”
The whole truths
The statement then affirmed three key points:
- “Our love for the whole gospel, as God’s glorious good news in Christ, for every dimension of his creation — for it has all been ravaged by sin and evil.
- “Our love for the whole church, as God’s people, redeemed by Christ from every nation on earth and every age of history, to share God’s mission in this age and glorify him forever in the age to come.
- “Our love for the whole world, so far from God but so close to his heart, the world that God so loved that he gave his only Son for its salvation.
“In the grip of that three-fold love, we commit ourselves afresh to be the whole church, to believe, obey, and share the whole gospel, and to go to the whole world to make disciples of all nations.”
As it was during the event, the concern for persecuted Christians remained uppermost afterwards in the thoughts of some participants.
“It was heart-stopping and deeply moving,” wrote Michael Cassidy, “to hear from and meet people from multiplied places on Planet Earth who constantly and almost daily put their lives on the line to bear uncompromising witness in biblical faithfulness to our Lord Jesus Christ and his unique and exclusive saving grace.”
David Wells, too, stressed the “immense impact” made by “the sharing of those who have endured unbelievable persecution and sorrow. The sessions where the 18 year old from North Korea shared regarding her father’s martyrdom and her plans to return there; or the widow of one the medical people murdered in Afghanistan this past summer, sharing regarding her husband’s last message from the bloodied sheets of paper found on his body… well, what can you say?”
He ended on a very personal note: “I was robbed at knife point in Cape Town. But more importantly, those sessions robbed me of my Western view of an easy Christianity — for which I am grateful.”
Photos courtesy of The Lausanne Movement, except where otherwise noted.