Ì¢âÂÒSouth Dakota is so wide-open you can see that the earth is round.Ì¢âÂå Tomoaki Shimatani, my friend and staff at Christ Bible Seminary (who did his masters in business administration in South Dakota, USA), said this to me as he drove me to Nagoya’s Chubu International Airport today for my flight to America. It made me think about the recent week in Malaysia as 550 younger leaders from 112 nations gathered together from all over the world. It was not the geographical landscape that was impressive; instead, it was the cultural and spiritual landscape that moved the heart. Perhaps a fair summation might be: Ì¢âÂÒThe global body of Christ that met in Malaysia was so beautifully, culturally-diverse you could see that truly the whole world is the Lord’s.Ì¢âÂå
Prayer was important for participants of the Lausanne
Younger Leaders Gathering 2006.
And so in this context, the challenge came in the form of a historical statement from the 1974 Lausanne Covenant. This covenant has both a present day and a future urgency: May the whole Church take the whole gospel to the whole world.
Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering 2006
And truly the whole Church was gathered in Malaysia at the invitation of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE), which sought to bring together representatives of the whole world’s Christian leaders from 25 to 35 years of age. The goal of the Gathering was to inform, inspire, develop and connect younger leaders that the whole Church might bring the whole gospel to the whole world. All the participants had been nominated by a leader and invited to apply for the Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering (YLG-06). The selection committee was led by Rick Sessoms.
I was offered the tremendous privilege of giving the keynote address for the Gathering; this was a task clearly beyond both my age and experience! The opportunity came as an expression of the vision, faith and kindness of a man I have come to love, Paul Stanley, the lead organizer of the YLG-06. It was Paul’s vision to have a younger leader open the Gathering.
For the past two years Paul has led the PPT (Program Planning Team) of younger leaders from around the world who helped to organize the event. Although we came from Brazil, Malaysia, Germany, Australia, Japan, Uganda, Bulgaria and India, watching the love we shared and the way we worked together, you would think we were all blood relatives. And we are in Jesus ChristÌ¢âÂÛan exquisite expression of the diversity of the body of Christ not only in geography but in temperament and in giftingÌ¢âÂÛand oh how beautifully the various parts of our body functioned for the Lord before and during the YLG-06.
That diversity and unity extended beyond the ten of us to the 550 younger leaders who came from every continent of the world. These younger leaders seemingly were of no Ì¢âÂÒworldly reputeÌ¢âÂå; however, they had tremendous vision, hope, energy and love for Jesus Christ.
Fellowship and More at the YLG-06
Imagining airplanes leaving from cities all around the world descending upon Kuala Lumpur was cause for tremendous excitement and anticipation of what God might do during the Gathering! I believe that all of our expectations were unbelievably surpassed by the work of God who does exceedingly and abundantly more than all we can ask or imagine. And four things resulted from our week together:
1. We were truly informed. Mark Hornshaw led us in a session called, Ì¢âÂÒState of the GospelÌ¢âÂå with Jason Mandryk, co-editor of Operation World (and also a younger leader). Jason stated emphatically in response to the question of how the gospel was that, Ì¢âÂÒThe gospel is fine!Ì¢âÂå to the roaring affirmation of the crowd. We rejoiced together in the tremendous advance of the gospel that has been seen in Latin America, Africa and Asia. As representatives of the Church which has not done all that it can and should for the lost and the poor around the world, we were humbled and repentant. We were moved by testimonies throughout the week of younger leaders who are doing faithful, innovative, unglamorous, painful and sometimes even dangerous work for the Lord. We were in tears as a Brazilian brother shared about a sexually-abused 12-year-old girl they tried to rescue. She died before finding healing. We were praising the Lord as we heard the experiences of Heather Mercer, who shared her story of being held captive in Afghanistan by the Taliban.
2. We were truly inspired. After opening the Gathering on Sunday night, I was more than happy to yield the stage to the other more capable and experienced speakers, including Mutua Mahiaini, Ramez Atallah, Ajith Fernando, Doug Birdsall, Rebecca Pippert, Phill Butler and Peter Kuzmic. Collectively they taught, challenged and inspired us to Ì¢âÂÒlive and lead like Jesus,Ì¢âÂå which was the theme of the plenary talks. In both word and life they are wonderful models for us all.
We were led in worship by a Brazilian member of the PPT, Marcell Steuernagel, and the most wonderful group of young Singaporean musicians that one could ever meet. I grew to love them as I saw and felt their spirit and passion for the Lord. I wept more this week as we worshipped in the presence of the Lord than any week of my life. That weeping became uncontrollable as we shared communion on the last day of our week together. To celebrate the broken body and the shed blood of Jesus Christ with the tribes, languages, peoples and nations that he died for was one of the most moving moments of my life. That meal we shared, that worship we offered to the Lord, was the closest I have ever been to heaven.
4. We were connected. For many of us the highlight of our time was our small group, where we made what may become lifelong friendships. I had the unenviable task of putting all the small groups together. There were 550 younger leaders, seventy mentors and seventy groups. To be honest, I did this with little or no prayer. I simply squinted at the gender and the country of each participant and put the groups together. Because 150 of those individuals could not come because of a lack of funding, the groups were reshuffled. Then another eighty or so were added from places like China, North and South Korea and the Middle East. All I can say is thank God that he is sovereign and works all things together for good. His purposes were fulfilled in those groups as I heard numerous stories of the divine appointments experienced and deep relationships formed. Even I ended up putting myself, unknowingly, in a group with two other young brothers who are also presidents of theological training schools. We shared openly and honestly. We ate together, prayed together, dreamt together and wept together.
Although everyone at the YLG-06 was special in their own right, we had among us some very special guests: brothers and sisters from the underground Church in China and from the Muslim World. Most had never been out of their country. Some had never even had the opportunity to meet Christians from other parts of their own nation, let alone Christians from around the world. My heart was so moved to see a Mainland Chinese brotherÌ¢âÂÛwho had known nothing but silent worship of God for security reasons in his nationÌ¢âÂÛleaping and shouting in worship to God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. I felt tremendously honored to share in discussion with an Iraqi Christian professor during a meeting of people involved in education.
Saying “Good-bye” But Moving Ahead
At the end of seven full days of what many of us consider to be the greatest week of spiritual blessing in our lives, the hundreds of planes that brought young Christian leaders from around the world to the place of God’s own choosing sent us back to almost every major city of the world. We went back transformed, with a contagious passion for the world, the lost and each other. We returned with our eyes opened to the Lord, to his Church and to our own hearts.
We left with a tremendous sadness of heart, feeling the loss of the precious physical presence of our newly-found brothers and sisters from around the world. We left also with an undying hope and anticipation that the Lord will continue his kingdom work through our generation and that by his Spirit we are and will ever be spiritually together no matter where in the world we may be.
Ì¢âÂÒNow to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.Ì¢âÂå (Ephesians 3:20-21)
For more information on the YLG-06,