Lausanne since Cape Town

The year since Cape Town 2010 has been an exciting one for The Lausanne Movement. The world came to Cape Town last October and a world of good has come as a result. We have seen new partnerships formed, consultations held, leaders emerge, and The Cape Town Commitment studied and embraced by individuals and institutions around the world.

I like to use the imagery of a bow and arrow to describe the relationship between the moment that was Cape Town and the movement that is Lausanne. The Congress was the bow, the movement is the arrow. Drawing its strength from participants around the world and the energy of the Congress program, Cape Town 2010 propelled the movement forward with new vigor.

The tip of that arrow is now The Cape Town Commitment, a penetrating document of Christian mission and conviction that provides clear focus for the global Church. The arrow’s shaft is comprised of Lausanne’s working groups, senior associates, special interest committees, and national and regional committees. The feathers on the back of the arrow represent the board, giving balance and guidance. In all of this, we trust God is ultimately the archer, keeping us on target to fulfill his purposes.

The most tangible product of last year’s congress was the Commitment, the culmination of several years of international consultation. The story began in 2007 in Budapest, where three hundred Christian leaders from sixty countries gathered to discuss issues of importance to Christian mission. With a framework in place, Lindsay Brown, Lausanne’s international director, led a team in reviewing the great ecumenical creeds as well as other major theological statements produced by historic councils throughout church history. These included The Lausanne Covenant and The Manila Manifesto.

The responsibility for drafting the Commitment was given to a team chaired by Chris Wright, at that time chair of Lausanne’s Theology Working Group and long-time protégé of Dr. John Stott. Wright’s team received input from all twelve of Lausanne’s international deputy directors, many theologians, hundreds of leaders involved in pre-Cape Town consultations, and those who participated in Cape Town onsite and online. A “data mining team” culled input from the web-based Lausanne Global Conversation and from 643 GlobaLink sights around the world. The resulting Commitment is the most globally representative Christian statement ever produced.

In prose that is precise, substantive, and elegant, the Commitment relates historic evangelical convictions to a twenty-first-century context. Framed entirely in the language of covenantal love, the Commitment echoes the congress theme of reconciliation and speaks directly to a world that knows pain and brokenness.

With the Commitment pointing the way, The Lausanne Movement presses forward in its work of equipping and uniting the Church in the task of world evangelization. Several new initiatives bear mentioning:

  • Global Executive Leadership Forum (GELF): The emergence of GELF may prove to be one of the most significant developments from Cape Town 2010. Under the leadership of Bob and Leslie Doll, along with GELF chairman and former Citibank executive, Atul Tandon, GELF will connect and resource business leaders of global influence who share a commitment to Christ and his mission in the world.

  • Younger Leaders Gathering: As an expression of Lausanne’s commitment to the development of younger leaders, we have begun planning the next Younger Leaders Gathering to be held in 2015. In the years leading up to that gathering, emerging leaders will be identified, developed, and connected to mentors and to one another in each of the twelve Lausanne regions. Many of the participants at Cape Town 2010 were brought into the Movement at the 1987 or 2006 Younger Leaders gatherings.
  • Pew Forum Report on Lausanne: The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has published its survey of Cape Town 2010 participants. This report reveals the dynamism, complexity, and maturity of global evangelicalism, as well as our diversity across geographic regions. The report has generated significant media attention and has raised the visibility of Lausanne among scholars and journalists.
  • Lausanne/Cape Town 2010 Curriculum: We are developing curricula for use in colleges and seminaries, as well as course material carefully developed for adult study groups, Sunday School classes, and mission committees. The curricula will include course outlines, video clips of Cape Town 2010 presentations, and papers prepared for the Lausanne Global Conversation and the congress.

In addition to launching these new efforts, Lausanne has revamped its organizational structure in order to maximize our strategic impact. We restructured our board and expanded it to include leaders from every region and a wider variety of vocations. I am delighted that Ram Gidoomal has agreed to serve as board chairman. Ram is the embodiment of a global Christian leader. A Hindu convert to Christianity, he was raised in Africa and has built a successful global enterprise while based in Geneva and London. He has served with distinction in business, government, higher education, and mission. He now brings his wealth of talent and experience to the position.

We have also strengthened and reconfigured one the main organizational distinctives of The Lausanne Movement: our team of international deputy directors (IDDs). This year, we welcomed seven new IDDs. Working under the leadership of Brown, the IDDs provide regional advice, access, and advocacy for the Movement. They plan to convene regional consultations in the next eighteen months, with the next two major consultations in Moscow (Eurasia) and in Cairo (Middle East/North Africa region).

Lausanne’s basis for full participation has always been the evangelical Lausanne Covenant, but we continue to actively engage leaders from Catholic, Orthodox, and mainline Protestant traditions. Several leaders and representatives from these traditions attended Cape Town 2010 and were impressed by the intellectual vigor, compelling stories of sacrifice and reconciliation, and vibrancy of the fellowship and worship.

It is still far too soon to assess the full impact of Cape Town 2010, but even in this first year we can see God answering our prayers.

Lausanne has broadened to include more young leaders, more women, more leaders from more denominations and from the fields of government, business, the arts, and academia.

As we broaden, we also seek to deepen our friendships, our partnerships, and our impact. Lausanne is a movement. We don’t seek to build a large staff or a large budget. We seek only to resource, unite, and catalyze. We are a network of networks. The fruit of Lausanne always grows on someone else’s tree. As we begin this post-Cape Town era, we also reflect on the end of an era. John Stott, the architect of The Lausanne Covenant and long-time honorary chair of the Movement, went to be with the Lord on 27 July.

When I talked with “Uncle John” for what was to be the last time, I found him sitting with a friend who was carefully reading the Commitment aloud to him. Uncle John said to me “You seem to have achieved an astonishing degree of unity with this new Lausanne document.”

It is my prayer that God will use the Commitment and the movement as a continuing source of unity, direction, and inspiration for the whole Church as we take the whole gospel to the whole world.


Doug Birdsall is executive chair of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. He served as president of Asian Access from 1991 to 2007 and continues to serve on their board of directors. Birdsall is a graduate of Wheaton College, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Harvard University. He is co-publisher of Lausanne World Pulse.