Below are blog postings about the Lausanne Congress in Cape Town. These blogs were written by Dr. Glenn Davies, Anglican Bishop of North Sydney, Australia. Bishop Davies may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Bishop Davies is a member of the World Reformed Fellowship.
Cape Town 2010 is the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. The first was held in Lausanne in 1974, under the leadership of John Stott and Billy Graham. The second was held in Manila in 1989, at which I was privileged to be a participant, and the third is currently being held over eight days from 17-24 October in South Africa. Each iteration of the Lausanne Congress has grown in size from its predecessor, so that Cape Town 2010 is host to 4,200 participants from 192 countries. Sadly the Chinese delegation is missing due to last minute travel restrictions imposed by the Chinese Government, as they were in Manila. What is the most notable development from 1989 is the use of technology for communication. Thus all the major papers were released on the Lausanne website well in advance of the congress allowing for a global conversation with facilities for many participants to post their comments.
The most significant structural change in the Congress is the introduction of Table Groups. Unlike Lausanne I and II, where the participants passively listened to talks in a tiered auditorium, Cape Town 2010 has been promoted as an interactive congress, where all participants are assigned to a table group of six persons, with a designated leader, for the two morning plenary sessions. The logistics of providing 700 tables in an auditorium with five large screens for those (like me) who are not within cooee of the main podium is a challenge, but it has proved very successful for providing a degree of intimacy within a very large space.
On Saturday six hours of training were available for all table group leaders (and a condensed three hour session on Sunday morning for those not able to come a day early). Having listened to and been involved in the provision of small group training for many years, I was impressed with the preparation and delivery of these sessions, The process of how the groups would actually work, the importance of gaining feedback from the groups, and the importance of recognising cultural sensitivities were all well explained. An introduction to the methodology of inductive Bible study as a tool for exploring the letter to the Ephesians was also well handled. A copy of the ESV of Ephesians on one long concertina-fold piece of paper was issued to all participants to foster the sense of a letter on papyrus, as it might have looked to the first century readers. Each table group would then use the methodology of observation and interpretation, followed by a plenary speaker expounding the passage, after which the table groups looked at aspects of application of the passage to their lives.
The first day of the congress began at 3.30pm, having allowed time for participants to attend local churches in and around Cape Town. The first session was ‘Welcome to the Table’. With congress sitting in view of Table Mountain and the biblical image of table fellowship, time was given to an introduction of each person’s life and ministry, including an honest evaluation of gifts and weaknesses/hardships, their hopes for the congress and a prayer request. A person then prayed for the one who shared. In the space of 90 minutes there was a degree of sharing and knowledge among six persons rarely achieved at such international gatherings. Knowing that we would all be sitting together in the two morning sessions for the rest of the week helped us open up more readily than we might otherwise have done. In my group was a woman who pastors a rural congregation north of Johannesburg, a German Salvation Army member who is a Christian Democrat Member of Parliament, a missions director from California, a doctoral student at Oxford and a pastor from Jordan – six persons spanning five continents!
After dinner we had the opening ceremony which was a splendid mix of African dance and song amidst a flurry of flags from all nations represented. As a reminder of the seminal Edinburgh Conference on world missions held in 1910, the same opening hymn at that conference, ”Crown him with many crowns”, was also sung in Cape Town one hundred years later. Greetings were conveyed from John Stott and Billy Graham, both too elderly to travel, but not too elderly to pray for the congress! Short messages were given by several speakers including Doug Birdsall (Executive Chair of Lausanne Movement), Michael Cassidy and Archbishop Henry Orombi and others, interspersed with some drama and video presentations.
It was a great night, but with a 6am rise to get to the early morning table group leaders meeting, I was refreshed in spirit but also ready for bed.
The Congress has been planned around issues concerning the Gospel, the World and the Church. Two focal points are developed within each of these areas: The Gospel – Truth and Reconciliation; the World – World Faiths and Priorities; the Church – Integrity and Partnership. The second morning session is devoted to one of these six topics with various presenters, who are each only allowed to speak for 15 minutes.
Monday’s topic was Truth. The Bible study on Ephesians 1 was led by Ajith Fernando who exhorted us never to lose the wonder of God’s grace. His talk was complemented by discussion in table groups. The truths of the gospel of grace were a fitting springboard for the second morning session with its accent on making a case for the truth of Christ in a pluralistic globalised world. Although all four speakers gave some helpful insights, the standout address came from veteran social analyst and international speaker, Os Guinness. Os had also addressed a session at GAFCON in 2008 and he was no less impressive here, as he eloquently and concisely identified the threats to proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ. ‘Only a high view of truth honours the God of truth’, he said, ‘and one word of truth outweighs the whole world and the prince of this world.’ In the words of Martin Luther, ‘one little word will fell him.’ Dr Guinness concluded, ‘If we are not prepared to contend for the truth then this congress should stop now.’ Os Guinness’ talk received sustained applause (in fact some enthusiasts, from a country I prefer not to name, kept interrupting with applause, thinking he had finished, when in fact his talk was making steady progress to a resounding crescendo of recognising Jesus to be the way, the truth and the life.
Following lunch there were four seminar sessions, called multiplexes, addressing diverse themes from ‘a fresh approach to witness in the 21st century’ to ‘Dogma and Diversity - addressing secularity in a pluralistic world’. The second afternoon session was given over to Regional Gatherings when Australia and New Zealand participants met and workshopped some ideas about the gaps in Christian ministry and the challenges we face in our respective countries. The real challenge, of course, is how we shall address these matters in a meaningful way, and that is the hope that some practical ideas will develop through the week before the second Regional Gathering on the final day of the Congress.
The evening plenary sessions are given over to snapshots of God’s work in the world. Tonight’s geographical focus was Asia. A multi-ethnic and multi-talented singing group led us through the chorus “King of kings and Lord of lords” in English, French, German, Spanish, Japanese and Zulu. This was a great reminder of the multilingual nature of the congress, which while the platform speakers spoke in English, simultaneous translations were available for those who needed it. Likewise some table groups were language specific.
The evening session was highly professional with videos and drama interspersed throughout the 2 hour presentation, however the highlight was the testimony of a petite 18yr old North Korean young lady. She was born in North Korea and her father was a high ranking government official. Some crisis in the government required the family to flee to China and in China the father was converted. Soon after he was betrayed into the hands of North Korean authorities and returned to North Korea to be interned for four years. Meanwhile the daughter was adopted into the family of a Chinese pastor and she became a Christian too. She returned to North Korea after seeing a vision of Jesus in a dream calling her home. Her father was released, but soon after was again arrested for political/religious reasons. This was four years ago and the daughter is yet to hear from her father and presumes he is dead. This moving testimony brought sustained applause with thanks to God for his marvellous grace to this North Korean family. Her heart is burdened for North Korea and she asked us to pray for this communist country which lacks a visible Christian witness.
The evening finished with a tribute to Billy Graham with a video montage of his 70 years of ministry. A fitting reminder of our debt to our leaders (Heb 13:7) and our thanks to God for one who has served God so faithfully throughout his life. Probably no one has preached the gospel to as many people in their life time nor seen the gospel fruit of God’s blessing upon his preaching ministry – to God be the glory!
The day began at 7.30am for Table Group Leaders for a briefing and feedback to the Program Committee. Then the first session began at 8.30am with praise and prayer. Ruth Padilla DeBorst led the Bible study on Ephesians 2, after the table groups spent some individual time in reflection and observation of the text. However her exposition was marred by advancing and imposing an agenda for egalitarian women’s ministry which was plainly not in the text and derived from an inadequate understanding of Paul’s redemptive-historical description of the wall of hostility being broken down between Jews and Gentiles (2:14). She clearly preferred to have spoken on Eph 5:21 (though perhaps not 5:22). Nonetheless some helpful points were made and hopefully these were the focus of attention on the table groups as they spent their time on application.
Reconciliation was the theme for the second plenary session and here we were exposed to some of the uglier truths of a fallen world. We heard of child slavery in India, exacerbated by the caste system, where the trafficking in children is second only to the trafficking in drugs. It is estimated that there are 27 million child slaves around the world—a staggering statistic. The speaker called upon the Congress and the church to be people of integrity and compassion, imitating the deep compassion of our God who desires justice in the world. Next we heard from a Christian Palestinian woman and a Messianic Jew. The lady first spoke of her initial deep distrust of Jews, especially Messianic Jews. Yet as she had become more deeply aware of the Father’s love in reconciling the world, she realised that she too had to live out and embrace reconciliation, especially towards her Jewish brothers and sisters (powerfully symbolised by her standing next to a Jew). He too spoke of resentment towards Palestinians and how he needed the love of Christ to transform his relationship with those he had been brought up to despise. The closing remark of the session summed it up: ‘In the Messiah there is room for all of us.’ This was followed by a moving drama involving two soldiers, one Jewish and the other Palestinian, standing at the border crossing with guns in their hands and fear in their faces, not knowing how to resolve the tension between them.
We then heard about the problems in Rwanda which led to the massacre of 1 million people within 100 days in 1994. Despite the Christian population of Rwanda being 91% in 1994, the tribal rivalries between Hutus and Tutsis erupted in bloodshed. The speaker believes the cause of this rivalry stems from a lack of contextualisation, where the old world views of the two tribes had never been challenged and so the hostilities merely festered. Evangelism without discipleship leads to shallow Christianity. Reconciliation in Christ must bear its fruit in reconciliation among Christians, despite one’s ethnic or tribal origins. For Christ paid not only the price of our sins, but also bore our pain on the cross.
My table group discussion continued this theme with the testimony of a Korean member of our group who had gone to Japan as a missionary. This had outraged his Christian Korean parents, believing he should go to any country, except Japan (who were occupying forces in Korea for more than a century). Yet it was even more humiliating for his two grandmothers who had been ‘comfort women’ to the Japanese soldiers in WWII. How do you practise reconciliation in such circumstances? My friend believed that he needed to go to Japan, for the love of God constrained him, and that he also needed to pray for his family that they too would experience a deeper understanding of God’s love. Food for thought for Australians, who probably do not face such extreme tests of ‘reconciling love’, yet how proactive are we in the comparatively smaller issues of congregational rivalry, either within or between congregations?
One of the afternoon sessions was devoted to the Anglican Communion. Archbishops Henry Orombi (Uganda), Mouneer Anis (Jerusalem & Middle East), John Chew (South East Asia) and Bob Duncan (ACNA) were all members of the panel addressing respectively the history of the current crisis in Anglicanism, the challenges in North Africa and Middle East, the proposed Anglican Covenant seeking to address the crisis, and the formation of the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). Archbishop Nicholas Okoh (Nigeria) was also due to speak on the Jerusalem Declaration, but in his absence I was asked to stand in for the Archbishop (thus representing 20 million Anglicans in Nigeria!). Although the time was short, it gave an opportunity to put GAFCON on the map and the significance of the Jerusalem Declaration (JD) as a contemporary expression of historic Anglicanism to which all true Anglicans should be able to subscribe. A number of requests for Standing Firm, the commentary on the JD, were received and Canon Chris Sugden was on hand to sell them.
The evening session again proved to be a powerful expression of how Christians face adversity, with two HIV positive speakers, and how it has not inhibited their ministry but provided a platform for addressing the epidemic of HIV/AIDS in Africa in particular. The man, a candidate for ministry at theological college when he learned of his HIV status, spoke of the success of antiviral drugs, which had kept him alive for 20years, despite an original prognosis of a few months. At the end of his speech he asked how many people in the Congress were wondering how he got HIV – the person next to me confessed as much! He announced it was through blood products after an operation, but he used this as an illustration of how easily we judge others, and mete out our compassion accordingly. The other speaker, a woman, had contracted HIV from her parents and had lived with it all her life. She too spoke powerfully of the need to address the government’s lack of action in producing antiviral drugs, which have proved so effective, to the poor and marginalised whose life expectancy is drastically reduced due to the onset of AIDS.
A full and interesting day, interspersed with conversations with people from all over the world. I met a Chilean friend of mine at morning tea, but his English is weak (where my Spanish is non-existent), but by God’s providence a Spanish lady came up and joined us and agreed to be our translator – which was worth my buying her (and him) a cup of coffee (since it is not free at this congress L). It is always a joy to witness God’s answer to our needs, even before we ask!
It is wonderful to start each day with a Bible study, and here in Cape Town 2010 we have the letter to the Ephesians in manuscript copy which is explored in small groups, expounded by a gifted preacher and then applied through table discussion groups. John Piper did not disappoint. He refreshed our souls with a passionate and powerful address on Ephesians 3. He painted three scenes for us: the purpose of God to make known his wisdom to the demonic powers; suffering as an instrument leading to glory; and prayer as the channel for displaying God’s wisdom. However, the high point of the address for me was Piper’s boldness in addressing a perceived tension on the floor of the Congress after some of the presentations the previous day which had, in Piper’s view, placed too much emphasis upon relieving human suffering in this life, in isolation from the need for gospel preaching that will alleviate human suffering for eternity. We should be as concerned with eradicating Bible poverty as we are with eradicating economic poverty. He proposed the following one sentence commitment for the participants to ponder and adopt: ‘For the sake of Christ, Christians care about for all human suffering, but especially eternal suffering.’ This was a powerful, biblical expression of the balance that is sorely needed in some circles, for it is the love of Christ that impels us to care for the whole person, both in this age and the age to come.
Normally the Bible study is followed by table group discussion, but for some inexplicable reason the program design team allowed a lady to give her testimony immediately after Piper finished speaking. The exposition cried out for some reflection time, but this was denied us as we listened to the story of the death of ten people, including the lady’s husband, in a Middle Eastern country. We have been asked to suppress her name and any details of her story, but suffice it to say that the testimony was very moving, all the more so as the events took place in the last three months; yet it was entirely misplaced in the program. She was allotted 9 minutes and took 19 minutes, so no time was available for any discussion and application of the Bible passage in our groups. An opportunity sorely missed.
With the theme of World Faiths, the second plenary session was devoted to Christians living as a minority group among other faiths and the opportunities available for witness. Archbishop Ben Kwashi of the Nigerian Diocese of Jos (one of the speakers at GAFCON) gave a moving story of how Muslim rebels earlier this year had burned 100 churches and 300 Christian homes, yet his counsel and advice to his Anglican diocese was: do nothing—show the love of Christ with patient endurance. A hard call in the face of many seeking revenge. Kwashi then told of the attack upon his home in 2006 when militants left his wife, Gloria, for dead and totally blind. After treatment in the US, she returned a year later with her sight restored, but again Muslim militants came to his house to kill him. He asked if he could pray for his attackers, which he did, and when he had finished praying they had left. Stories like this abound in Northern Nigeria and elsewhere, but not always with such remarkable endings.
We then heard from a converted Muslim Indian woman who became a believer in 1978 and ten years later her husband was converted. With a burdened heart for the 1.3 billion Muslims living in the world, she began a ministry to Muslims by starting an “Islamic culture” church. The pastor is called a mullah, they sit on the floor, as in a mosque, use some of the cultural expressions familiar to Muslims, but present Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Muslims would come in, thinking it was a mosque, and some would stay and get converted! In the past seven years 25 men and 12 women have been baptised. One of the ‘fresh expressions’ of church that I don’t think has been tried in Australia!
The courage of some of these Christians in Muslim cultures is truly remarkable. One story that deserves repeating concerned a husband and wife in Iran who were travelling to the shops. As the husband was about to go into the shop, the wife noticed a military man with a rifle sitting outside. ‘You should give him a Bible’, said the wife to her husband. After he returned from the shop, she asked him if he had given the soldier a Bible. ‘No’, he said, ‘I prayed about it and it didn’t seem right.’ As they drove on, the wife prayed out loud in the car: ‘Dear Lord, may the blood of that man not be held to my account on the Day of Judgment, but to my husband’s.’ There then ensued a domestic discussion, which resulted in the man returning to the shop to give the man the Bible. When he did so, the man exclaimed, ‘I had a dream last night that I was to come to this shop today and wait outside where someone would give me the word of eternal life.’ God does indeed work in remarkable ways!
The evening session was devoted to scattered peoples, the modern diaspora of megacities and then a regional focus on Latin America. Tim Keller addressed the Congress on the importance of city ministry. Keller outlined three reasons why the church needs to be in the city, being cultural, missiological and visceral. The 21st century will not be dominated by countries, but by cities, where currently 50% of the world’s population lives, compared with 3% in 1700. There are 21 megacities (over 10 million in population), and two people are added to the cities of our world every second of the day! The most unreached peoples are more easily reached in the cities, where young people make up a disproportionate percentage. Both the poor and the elite live in cities. Yet the heart of the matter is that God cares for the city (unfortunately Keller’s articulation of this point gave the impression that God did not equally cares for the rural sector!). Citing the final recorded words of God to Jonah, Keller admonished us not to love plants more than people, for God has many thousands (120,000 in Nineveh) in the city. Just as Abraham prayed for the pagan cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, so we too should.
Yesterday was a day off. Participants took the opportunity to climb Table Mountain, ferry to Robben Island, visit a winery, walk around the city or just sleep! It was a refreshing break in the midst of a busy schedule. So today marks the halfway point of the Congress and it was wonderful to be encouraged by the teaching of Vaughan Roberts (another GAFCON speaker) from St Ebbe’s Oxford on Ephesians 4:1-6. He addressed the importance of the God-given gift of unity, which we do not create, but are charged with the responsibility of maintaining, Unity in Christ is enhanced by the gifts of Christ, especially the word ministries of apostles and prophets (foundational gifts grounded in propositional revelation) and the superstructure gifts of evangelists, shepherds and teachers. He gave special attention to the importance of recruiting and training the next generation of shepherds and teachers.
The next session was devoted to unreached people groups. Under the general theme of priorities, mention was made of Ralph Winter’s seminal address at Lausanne 1974 where he challenged that Congress to consider the 60% of the world’s population who live within unreached people groups. At that time most of the church’s mission resources were directed to countries where the gospel had been available for many years. Winter’s challenge changed the face of the modern missionary movement, so that 35 years later this statistic has been reduced to 40%. Yet 40% is still a large number, which equates to 3,700 people groups. The world has 3.5 billion who are Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist, and 85% of them do know a person who is a believer. Of the 8,000 languages in the world, only 400 have the Bible in their own language, over 800 have some books of the Bible, but over 2,000 languages have not one Scripture verse in their own language.
Paul Eshleman, the founder of the Jesus Film Project, then encouraged all the participants to make a commitment towards reaching one of the unreached people groups. The commitment ranged from being an intercessor to going as a missionary to an unreached people group, and everything in between. In many ways this was a global model of what Connect09 (now Connect for Life) has been in Sydney, where we have been seeking to reach local ‘tribes and deserts’ (the unreached or unengaged peoples on our door step), Some helpful practical suggestions were placed before the participants, for example: inviting a Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist to your home or for a meal; visiting a Muslim mullah, Hindu priest or Buddhist monk to express friendship; sponsor training for those planning to engage in mission work with unreached peoples. These examples could be easily modified to those of no faith within our own Australian communities.
One of the leaders of the Lausanne Movement shared a question with the Congress that he had asked of the executive leadership two years ago: How would you finish the sentence, ‘Lausanne III will fail if…’ The most frequent answer was: ‘…if the participants do not make a commitment to do something.’ In this session the invitation to make a commitment was on the table and the participants were asked to respond prayerfully and sincerely. This was not planned to be a conference where you return home and continue on as if nothing had happened, other than having attended another conference!
The evening session was again devoted to snapshots of God’s work in the world with a special focus on Africa and children and youth. This allowed us to experience some characteristic African praise sessions with vibrant singing and dancing. We also heard that one hundred years ago Africa was a missionary receiving continent, but now it is a missionary sending continent. In a moving and symbolic act all westerners were then asked to stand so that the rest of the Congress could thank them (representing their forebears) for sending missionaries to Africa, often at the cost of their own lives.
In Africa 50% of the population is under 25 and 33% is under 15. While young Africans are vulnerable to being recruited to local militia or enticed into antisocial behaviour, soccer has been used as a tool for engaging with young people. Christians have been trained as soccer coaches, but have also taken on the role as life coaches so that through these sporting contacts the good news of Jesus can also be explained and embraced. This has proved to be a very successful strategy across various nations in Africa.
Much to think about and much to reflect upon.
As a gift to the table group leaders, there was no early morning meeting for us, which meant an extra hour of sleep for some weary bodies (including mine), which was much appreciated. The first plenary session started at 8.30am as usual with some lively singing, with gifted multilingual singers delighting us with a range of languages sung, with the words on the screen enabling us all to join in – of course when the Hebrew words ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Amen’ occur so often in these songs, translation is hardly needed
Calisto Odede, senior Pastor at Nairobi Pentecostal Church led the Bible study on the lengthy passage from Ephesians 4:17−6:9. His IFES roots were more evident than any identifiable Pentecostal theology as Odede led us through a passionate and eloquent exposition of this important section of Paul’s letter. He challenged all participants, but especially leaders of churches, to walk ‘in love’ and walk ‘in the light’ and to leave footprints that honour God in their holiness and edifying the church in their modelling. With illustrations of moral failures among clergy, especially the misuse of money and the manipulation of congregations, Odede gave us food for thought and stirred us to greater faithfulness in our lives. Unfortunately time did not allow any consideration of, apart from a passing reference to, the relationship between husbands and wives or parents and children, but those parts of the passage he did expound he did so with passion and clarity.
The second plenary session tackled the theme of integrity. Chris Wright from the Langham Partnership opened with a fine address on the importance on integrity, addressing the temptations of power, manipulation of people and the idolatry of covetousness. ‘What hurts God most’, he said, ‘is not just the sins of the world, but the failure, disobedience and rebellion of those he has redeemed.’ Wright closed his address with three words: humility, integrity and simplicity (using the helpful anagram of HIS). These fundamental characteristics should be characteristic of all God’s people, but especially leaders. He reminded the Congress that as we take the word of the gospel to the world we must also take with us words of confession to God, and before we get out of our seats to seek the lost, we need to get on our knees to seek the Lord. Two further talks rounded out this session with Femi Adeleye (Nigeria) providing a clear biblical response to the counterfeit gospel of prosperity and Elke Werner (Germany) speaking on the value of including women in partnerships. This latter address once again reinforced the egalitarian view of partnership without any acknowledgement or existence, let alone value, of the complementarian view of partnership which has been the accepted teaching of the church for 1900 years.
The evening session was devoted to our response of prayer and praise to all that we had heard during the Congress. We were encouraged to sit at our table groups (since the evening meetings had unassigned seating) so that we could have an extended time of guided prayer with those with whom we had studied the Bible each morning. This proved to be a further bonding among those who sat at table. The regional focus was on Eurasia and the Western World. We were reminded that at Lausanne II, there was only a handful of participants from the Soviet Union. At Lausanne III, following the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the 12 countries of (the newly coined regional name) Eurasia, we had 120 participants. In 1989 Siberia was a prison state, now it is a mission field! This was an exciting session hearing of God’s sustaining his church throughout 70 years of Soviet oppression which is now bearing fruit with many conversions.
At the end of the evening we were all given a copy of Part 1 of the Cape Town Commitment. This had been prepared some months before the Congress outlining core values and beliefs of Evangelicals. Unfortunately due to printing delays the copies were not available until 24 hours before the Congress closed. The Statement Writing Group had been working all week on Part 2 of the Commitment, incorporating most of the ideas that had emanated from the platform, multiplexes or Dialogue meetings. The final completed document (combining Parts 1 & 2) is expected to be available later in the year. However, I was disappointed with the process. At Lausanne I and II respective draft copies of the Covenant and Manifesto were circulated to participants for comment and feedback with sufficient time for these to be refined and incorporated into the final document, which was adopted by each congress on the last day. Given the innovative development of Table Groups, the infrastructure was in place for an orderly and simplified process of feedback. But alas, it was not to be. Instead, we received a ‘top down’ document to which the participants had no input. This was antithetical the nature of the Congress which had lauded the working of Table Groups and had repeatedly stated that the number of presenters was the number of participants—an active participation rather than a passive one. There was precious little time for people even to read Part 1 of the Commitment before the closing ceremony, which in hindsight is wrongly titled as ‘Commitment’. It is not our commitment (we who attended Lausanne); it is the commitment of the Working Group who drafted the document. This break from the well established and highly satisfactory methodology for adopting a congress statement at Lausanne and Manila was disappointing, to say the least.
One of the aspects, which I mentioned previously, is the use of technology to facilitate preparation for the Congress as well as to enhance the experience of the Congress for participants, through prepared videos and impromptu videos and vox pops, highlighting the many facets of Congress. Free wireless internet usage us also available to participants, including access to on-line feedback forms and bar-coded nametags for easy electronic identification. However, the technology is not just limited to those who came to Cape Town, as 700 GlobaLink sites across 95 countries have been relaying the platform addresses from Cape Town into these scattered venues across the globe. Unfortunately there were a few hiccups in the internet and GlobaLink relays, which were difficult to identify and we were asked to pray for those investigating the problem. Our prayers were answered by a volunteer steward, who happened to be a highly qualified IT problem solver. Within an hour he had identified the problem and within three hours he had fixed it. Apparently it was a combination of a virus unwittingly introduced from an iphone plus cyber attacks with malicious hits from various overseas locations. However, once these matters were remedied mid-week, the internet systems have been working well and we have been told that there has been more internet traffic with Lausanne III than during the World Cup held in South Africa three months ago!
The Bible exposition from Ephesians 6:10-24 gave Ramez Atallah (Bible Society in Egypt) opportunity to remind the participants that our warfare is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers, citing the internet hacking as the work of the Evil One and the power of prayer as one of our weapons. Although the exposition was not as strongly exegetical as other studies during the week, Atallah spoke passionately about our responsibilities to put on the armour of God which contains the essential values, beliefs and resources that God has supplied. He was complemented by his wife, Rebecca, who shared a story of the evangelisation and regeneration of the Mokattam Garbage Village in Cairo, where the poorest of the poor live in appalling conditions recycling garbage to eke out a living. Here a layman shared the gospel with his garbage man, who became a believer, and this began a chain reaction of gospel conversations with many nominal Christians becoming active in their faith, so much so that the Coptic Church decided to ordain the layman and establish a church building for them in their village.
Interestingly both Ramez and Rebecca modelled a partnership in their presentation where Ramez taught and Rebecca supplemented the talk by way of illustration. This was in contrast to the next plenary session, where partnership was the theme, which saw a husband and wife advocating that the only partnership of real equality was where the woman had no limitations upon her ministry— equal in every respect to that of men. This recurring theme in the Congress was disappointing as there was no advocacy, let alone acknowledgment, of the complementarian view of women’s ministry (apart from the modelling of Ramez and Rebecca), as if to say that the egalitarian view is here to stay and there is no place for a complementarian view. One of the discussion questions at the table groups was: ‘To what extent are women as well as men being affirmed and released for ministry and leadership in your context?’ The subtext is that women are not released nor affirmed unless they are sharing equal leadership with men. However the other two presentations on partnership by David Ruiz (Guatemala) and Patrick Fung (Singapore) were less controversial and well received, as each presented the biblical imperative for partnership (koinonia) among Christians.
The afternoon sessions had four multiplexes on incarnational partnerships, local leaders and the global church, Scripture in mission and children’s ministry. These were followed by regional meetings which provided the Australians and New Zealanders, together with the islanders of the South Pacific, to explore the future of evangelistic partnership in our own countries and region.
The final closing session was a treat of music, dance, video and inspirational addresses. Lindsay Brown, the International Director of the Lausanne Movement gave a stirring address on 2 Cor 4:1-7 in the light of what we had heard and learned during the week, stressing integrity and privilege of preaching the glory of God through Christ, so that we do not lose heart. Archbishop Henry Orombi presided over the gathering, but since he had lost his voice, Doug Birdsall, the Executive Chair of Lausanne, administered the sacrament—so effectively we had lay administration, but no one seemed to mind! The 250 voice choir and the 30 member orchestra lifted out spirits with songs of praise and adoration, which became a fitting closing ceremony for such a significant Congress, finishing as we began by singing ‘Crown him with many crowns’.
As we said our farewells, we recognised that many at our table groups and others we had met, we were unlikely to see again. We were reminded that some may lose their lives for the sake of Christ, as did one young man shortly after attending Lausanne II. While the joy of a heavenly reunion awaits us, there remains the challenge of finishing the task of reaching all people groups with the gospel of God’s grace with its offer of forgiveness and gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. It has been a rare privilege to gather with so many believers from so many countries and cultures, and diverse denominations, all united in our allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ. While one can always quibble over some elements of the Congress (and I have), yet my assessment is that it will be seen as another landmark in world missions for reigniting, re-energising and recommitting Evangelicals to the Great Commission in the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
PS For those who have followed these blogs, flawed as they may be, you can visit the www.lausanne.org for audio, video and photos of the Congress and also access a rich online library of mission and evangelisation resources. There is also a discussion group available if you wish to continue the conversation at www.lausanne.org/conversaton.