The Lausanne Movement: Seminal Issues and Emerging Leaders

The Lausanne movement is being rejuvenated with a new generation of leaders from around the globe. This will be most clearly evident when the Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering (YLG ’06) is convened in Malaysia during the last week of September 2006. At that time, 550 carefully selected younger leaders between the ages of 25 and 35 will gather together to be informed, developed, united and inspired to advance the cause of world evangelization.

Younger Leaders Gathering

They are young men and women who embrace the highest ideals of the Lausanne Covenant and who embody the spirit of Lausanne, a spirit of humility, prayer, partnership and hope. Their expressed hope is for a more authentic demonstration of the unity of the Church, for a more prophetic expression of the gospel and for a more strategic engagement with the world in which we live.

This gathering represents the heart and soul of the Lausanne movement. From its beginning, Lausanne has been distinguished by two hallmarks. First, Lausanne has a sustained commitment to identifying the seminal ideas that are before the Church with respect to world evangelization. These ideas and issues are dealt with in a substantive way, both in terms of profound theological reflection as well as strategic and creative action. There is a conviction within the movement that all theological reflection must have a missiological focus, and that all mission activity must have a theological foundation.

Second, there is a legacy of commitment on the part of Lausanne leadership to identify, develop and encourage younger leaders who God is raising up. The first generation of Lausanne leaders, including Billy Graham, John Stott, Leighton Ford and Gottfried Osei-Mensah, demonstrated this in their own lives and ministries. Leighton Ford provided vision and leadership to the first Lausanne Younger Leaders Conference in Singapore in 1987, which brought together a generation of younger leaders who are now in positions of significant leadership and influence. This includes people like Ajith Fernando, Jorge Atiencia, Clive Calver, Peter Kuzmic, Janet Morgan, Jude Hama and John Piper.

Just as people like John Stott, Leighton Ford and Gottfried Osei-Mensah and other senior leaders in the Lausanne Movement were at Singapore in 1987, so also people like Ajith Fernando, Peter Kuzmic, Paul Eshleman, Robyn Claydon and Elke Werner, along with seventy-five additional Lausanne mentors, will be at YLG ’06 to pass on vision, encourage character growth and enable the development of leadership competence to a generation who will be used of God to provide leadership for the Church in its global mission in the twenty-first century.

This new generation which is bringing new vitality and energy into the Lausanne movement experiences a world that is much different from their Lausanne predecessors. Thus, the gathering will be forward looking. It will seek to be faithful to a rich heritage of the past just as it is committed to responsible obedience with the challenges and opportunities of the future.

God used a generation of great people to develop the Lausanne movement. Billy Graham gave it birth through his vision for the Lausanne Congress. John Stott gave it an enduring framework through the Lausanne Covenant. Leighton Ford gave it strength through his leadership for the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. Gottfried Osei-Mensah gave it global presence through his leadership as the first international director.

We pray that God will raise up a new generation of men and women who will be like the men of Issachar “who understand their times, and who know what to do” (I Chronicles 12:32). We pray that they will be faithful and effective in advancing the cause and advocating the vision of “the whole Church taking 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.