By: Erica Redmond
The third Lausanne Congress brought over 4,000 people from 198 countries together from October 16-25 to discuss God’s mission for the church on a global spectrum.
The focus? The whole church relaying the gospel to the world.
According to Dean of Haggard School of Theology Scott Daniels, Ph.D., the board organizing the 2010 Lausanne Congress worked hard to have high representation from each nation. Although the setting easily could have been filled with tension due to disagreements and comparisons, Lausanne III was a united congregation of evangelists with one goal in mind: Spreading the Word of God.
“When we become missional together, we find a great deal of unity,” Daniels said.
Junior communication studies major Omari McNeil had the privilege to travel with his parents to Cape Town, South Africa for the third Lausanne Congress.
“The powerful part was that you were literally in a room worshiping, listening, interacting and talking with people that are from all over the world,” McNeil said.
A Call To Unite All Nations
The Lausanne Congress began with Rev. Billy Graham, a prominent preacher who began his work in the 1940s. According to the Lausanne Congress website, Graham had a passion to “unite all evangelicals in the common task of the total evangelization of the world.” After organizing smaller conferences in the 1960s, Graham saw the need for a larger, more diverse gathering of Christian leaders.
In July 1974, about 2,700 participants gathered in Lausanne, Switzerland in order to reframe the Christian mission of evangelization. For 10 days, the attendees discussed, fellowshipped, worshiped and prayed. Time magazine called the first Lausanne Congress “a formidable forum, possibly the widest-ranging meeting of Christians ever held.”
The second Lausanne Congress was held in Manila, Philippines in 1989. There was much division among those present at the congress because of three major issues: Denominational differences, the role of women in the church and the relationship between evangelizing and dealing with social issues.
Over the last 21 years, the evangelical church has changed significantly, according to Daniels. After the second Lausanne Congress, many believed there would never be another gathering due to the tension caused by disagreement. The effect globalization has had on the church is part of the reason why this year’s congress was called to order.
“People were looking for that kind of leadership from the church that could be very inclusive and could bring voices together,” said Dr. Andrea McAleenan, APU’s Special Advisor to the President and attendee of the third Lausanne on behalf of APU. “They thought getting the whole world together again would bring energy, clarity, vision and get us all moving in the same direction.”
McAleenan and Daniels agreed that much could be taken from this unique gathering of people at a period of time where the church is evaluating how to deal with various social issues.
“There isn’t a split between social aspects of the gospel and leading people into a relationship with Christ,” Daniels said. “The congress really affirmed those two things go together. We can’t do one without the other.”
Daniels also said evangelism and social issues go together like two parts of a scissor. If one is part is used without the other, neither part works.
McAleenan appreciated the diverse group present because she believes Americans do not have all the answers. She looks forward to keeping in contact with the leaders she met in South Africa.
“To have equal representation from all the regions in the world and trying to talk together was really very valuable,” McAleenan said. “That’s what we want to keep going, keep this very diverse group talking.”
McNeil agreed and valued the opportunity to be with other cultures.
“When I was there, I was distinctly different than a lot of different cultures,” McNeil said. “So often, I’m only aware of what my American, black male, middle class college student perspective is and not really understand the broad spectrum of perspective. It doesn’t always have to be our way. You can all learn from these different perspectives.”
The Lausanne Congress Today
Six main issues were covered at the Lausanne Congress 2010: The challenge of atheism, the impact of hedonism (the pursuit of pleasure), the reality of Islam, the globalized world, the brokenness of our world and the shifts in global Christianity.
“We’re here to evangelize to the world,” Daniels said. “Largely, tension has been lost. It felt like we were able to talk about the role of the church in addressing these social issues as a part of what it means to evangelize the world.”
Because of the effect of globalization, there have been some major changes in evangelization. In 1989, globalization looked like the western nations taking the gospel to the rest of the world. According to Daniels, every nation is now taking the gospel everywhere. In some ways, the southern and eastern nations are bringing the good news to the west.
Missional communities associate pastor for Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa, Calif. Andrew Richards also attended Lausanne. He said the reality is that God’s family is a global family, and globalization helps further our awareness of what is happening around the world.
“I would say that if you’ve put your trust and life in Jesus, then you’ve been invited into participating in God’s kingdom – and that’s on a global scale,” Richards said. “What things has God placed on your heart as an issue to address? What do you look at, or hear about, and say, ‘That has to end. That’s unacceptable.”
Richards said it is important to be aware of what is going on in the world, and a great place to find that information is through the Lausanne movement at conversation.lausanne.org. There are informational videos on a number of topics including religious freedom, reconciliation, sexuality, unreached people groups, urban mission, world faith, and much more.
With this information available, Daniels said the global evangelism field is leveling out.
“I think the generation after me sees the world very differently – the globe is really flat in some ways,” Daniels said. “We really are beginning to think globally as a church, and not just the west reaching other places, but how those places reach back to us.”
McNeil also said there is a lot to learn from people from different areas of the world.
“We need to really be intentional about learning from people who are distinctly different, and not just to say it’s cool because of how global I am, but really just to understand there is so much broader of a spectrum,” McNeil said. “[The U.S.] just has such a grandiose mindset. We are literally where we dictate what the thought is and that’s where it ends. It’s great and humbling and confusing and scary to know that is not the case at all.”
Daniels and Richards agreed the Lausanne gathering exemplified God-honoring diversity.
“The times of worship were a picture of future reality. It was moving to be surrounded by 4500 people from 197 different nations all worshipping together… to have the world represented and singing together, that was an impacting experience,” Richards said.
Daniels mentioned singing the verse in All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name: “Let every kindred every tribe on this terrestrial ball, to Him all majesty ascribe, and crown Him Lord of all.”
“I lost it every time,” Daniels said. “It was just so moving to sing having all those people with you in the room. It was just amazing.”
Bringing the World Home
In light of Lausanne III, Richards recognized the importance of establishing partnerships and combining resources to continue the movement Jesus started. It is important to build bridges with other countries to further God’s work.
“[Rock Harbor] desires to offer the unique resources God has given our community in a way that can bridge with and join God at work in the countries we have relationships in,” Richards said.
This includes America.
Daniels mentioned the danger of becoming globally aware, but locally ignorant. According to Daniels, there is often a tendency to know what is going on in the world, but not even know the names of our neighbors. The resolution lies in the mindset of a person.
“I think the more missional we are generally, the more missional we become locally. I don’t think we have a choice to choose one or the other. I think the more missionally minded we become, the more active we are locally and the more aware we are of the needs around us,” Daniels said.
In addition to becoming more missional, McNeil said he thinks the church should be willing to learn from and adapt to new ideas from different cultures and younger generations.
“I think our local church has to not only just be serving the role that it is but also being willing to see where change needs to be made,” McNeil said. “I think a lot of times the church is slow to change due to fear of the unknown, so people latch onto other things and kind of adapt with that.”
From an APU point of view, McAleenan said we should be trying to connect with our sister schools and local churches. She mentioned learning the importance of keeping people together and making an effort to do certain things in Christian unity. McAleenan thinks we need to be better about making connections with fellow believers.
“That’s one of our weak, weak links in the church: We don’t have enough partnerships. Some of the African leaders has very definite views on that that they can be teaching us,” McAleenan said.
Over the next months – and even years – McAleenan is going to be trying to reconnect APU with local missions in an effort to bridge the gap between the local and global church.
“It’s a matter of us all being much more informed about what’s going on in each of those areas,” McAleenan said. “This is big – if we started doing it right. I think there’s a huge disconnect [between the local and global church].”
Richards said he hopes Lausanne does more for the world than gather Christian leaders together to discuss issues.
“I hope Lausanne reminds people that it is possible to live in the reality that we are God’s family together, working to love God and love our neighbors in the best way we know how,” Richards said.