Third Lausanne Congress Closes with Ringing Call to Action

The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization closed in Cape Town with a ringing call to the Church. The Congress, perhaps the widest and most diverse gathering of Christians ever held in the history of the Church, drew 4,000 selected participants from 198 nations. Organizers extended its reach into over 650 GlobaLink sites in 91 countries and drew 100,000 unique visits to its website from 185 countries during the week of the Congress.

Lindsay Brown, Lausanne international director, shared this in his closing address:

Our vision and hope was firstly for a ringing affirmation of the uniqueness of Christ and the truth of the biblical gospel; and a clear statement on evangelism and the mission of the Church—all rooted in Scripture…. The evangelical Church has rightly put an emphasis on bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to every people group, but we have perhaps been a little weaker in our attempts to apply biblical principles to every area of society, and to public policy: to the media, to business, to government. We need to engage deeply with all human endeavour—and with the ideas which shape it.

The Congress included an Executive Leadership Forum and a Think Tank for leaders in government, business, and academia. “There is a groundswell of conviction,” said Brown, “that greater concerted effort is needed to apply biblical truth in these arenas.”

The Cape Town Commitment, a declaration of belief and a call to action, will stand in the historic tradition of The Lausanne Covenant, which issued from the 1974 Congress. The Lausanne Covenant has become one of the most significant documents in recent church history.

Since its founding by Billy Graham, Lausanne has worked to strengthen evangelical belief, and to reawaken the evangelical Church’s responsibility in God’s world. The Cape Town Commitment is therefore in two parts. The first part, a Trinitarian statement, fashioned in the language of love, is the fruit of discussion by senior evangelical theologians drawn from all continents. It is available on the Lausanne website, www.lausanne.org.

The consequent call to action, shaped from discussion at the Congress around critical issues facing the Church over the next ten years, will be completed this month. Chris Wright, international director of Langham Partnership International (John Stott Ministries / USA) is chief architect.

“We would like the Cape Town Commitment to be seen as ‘a gift to the local church from representatives of the global Church,’” said Doug Birdsall, chairman of Lausanne. He then outlined the board’s plans for Lausanne’s future:

  1. To stay light on its feet, remaining agile in its ability to respond to new challenges and opportunities

  2. To be strong theologically, firmly rooted in Scripture and nourished by the best reflection on how we take the Word to the world
  3. To provide a reliable and credible contribution to Christian discussion and mission
  4. To keep a focus on identifying and developing younger leaders
  5. To be strategic in gathering the right people at the right times in the right places

“Lausanne gatherings will breathe oxygen into the fire that sparks more fires, and track progress made on the priorities established in Cape Town,” Birdsall said, sketching out plans for a series of Davos-like gatherings, drawing thought-leaders from the Church, mission agencies, government, business, and academia. The first is planned for June 2012.

Lausanne is rooted globally under regional leadership around the world. Funding for the Congress had been raised from all regions, and from significant major gifts and many smaller gifts, often given sacrificially.

Prior to the Congress, Lausanne launched a multi-lingual, online Lausanne Global Conversation to begin the discussion process. This was complemented by a series of radio programmes in countries in the global South. The Global Conversation, the first of its kind, has gained significant momentum and will continue. Despite malicious attacks bringing down the Congress website for the first two days, a round-the-clock team mined the data of all responses throughout the Congress.

“The local church is God’s chosen locus of service and evangelism,” said Birdsall. The Congress closed with a celebration of Holy Communion, led by Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi of Uganda. For this, one hundred communion sets had been borrowed, each from a local church. “These represent the remembering of Christ’s death across many nations,” Birdsall explained.

Cape Town 2010 was held in collaboration with the World Evangelical Alliance.