About the Movement
The beginnings of the Lausanne Movement
Our story begins with the evangelist Dr Billy Graham. As he started preaching internationally, he developed a passion to ‘unite all evangelicals in the common task of the total evangelization of the world’.
In the 1970s, Billy Graham perceived the need for a global congress to re-frame Christian mission in a world of political, economic, intellectual, and religious upheaval. The church, he believed, had to grasp the ideas and values behind rapid changes in society.
In July 1974, over 2,400 participants from 150 nations gathered in Lausanne, Switzerland, for the first International Congress on World Evangelization. TIME magazine described it as ‘a formidable forum, possibly the widest-ranging meeting of Christians ever held’. Speakers included some of the world’s most respected evangelical thinkers of the time: Francis Schaeffer, Ralph Winter, Carl Henry, and John Stott.
Those who attended remember with gratitude God’s presence and favor on those ten days of prayer and planning for global mission, which galvanized the church in three major ways:
1. Theological foundation for global mission
The Lausanne Covenant, drafted by an international committee chaired by John Stott, defined the necessity and goals of evangelism. The Covenant came to be regarded as one of the most significant documents in modern church history; it would bring together evangelicals from diverse backgrounds for missional partnership and shape much of their endeavours for the rest of the century.
2. Unreached people groups
Ralph Winter’s plenary address in 1974, in which he introduced the term ‘unreached people groups’, was hailed as ‘one of the milestone events in missiology’. Some in the church were calling for a moratorium on missions, but Winter argued the opposite. Thousands of ethnic groups remained without a single Christian and with no access to Scripture in their language, so cross-cultural mission needed to be the primary task of the church.
3. Holistic mission
The Congress urged the necessity of both evangelism and social justice in mission, with the voices of Latin American theologians Samuel Escobar and René Padilla among the clearest to be heard. This created a paradigm shift for much of the evangelical thinking of the time, and today the widespread embrace of holistic, or integral, mission can largely be attributed to the 1974 Congress.
I would estimate that 85% of mission organizations in Latin America use The Lausanne Covenant as their statement of faith. — David Ruiz, WEA Mission Commission
A year later, the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE, now known as the Lausanne Movement) was formed. Its aim then as now is to facilitate global collaboration in making Christ known to all people.
40 years of connections
Through the ’70s and ’80s, the Lausanne Movement built on the 1974 Congress by convening smaller groups of influencers around critical mission topics like the Gospel and Culture, Muslim Evangelization, and Living Simply. Consultations would typically result in the publication of a seminal statement with a call to action in an ongoing series of Lausanne Occasional Papers (LOPs), which continue to help shape mission theology and practice.
Lausanne’s paper on Gospel and Culture articulated for us the way forward in reaching our nation. It remains the dominant approach in Sri Lanka. — Ajith Fernando, Teaching Director, Youth for Christ, Sri Lanka
Two major global congresses followed, Manila 1989 and Cape Town 2010, serving as a launch pad for further key strategies and milestones in global mission:
Luis Bush built on Ralph Winter’s 1974 presentation of unreached people groups (UPGs) by identifying the geographical region where the majority of UPGs are located. The concept of the 10/40 Window has helped numerous mission agencies and churches to focus their ministries between the 10 to 40 degree latitudinal areas of North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
Over 300 mission partnerships, networks, and new ministries came out of Manila 1989 to address a wide range of critical missional issues. Many of these new partnerships were among groups working in the majority world.
Before the second Lausanne Congress in 1989, Scripture translation organizations never talked to each other. It took Lausanne to bring us together. There were two world leaders of the translation movement spending time together at Lausanne ll: one from Wycliffe Bible Translators, the other from United Bible Societies. They determined the Lord wanted them to call together all the Bible agencies of the world to collaborate and work with more synergy in the areas of translation and distribution. From that vision the International Forum of Bible Agencies was born. — Roy Peterson, President and CEO, American Bible Society
Identifying missional challenges of the 21st century
Over 30 pressing missional challenges were identified at Cape Town 2010. These included the advance of the gospel among oral learners, in diaspora communities, in the world of ideas, and in every sphere of society including the marketplace, the academy, and the public square.
A platform for the global church
Cape Town 2010 has been called the widest and most ethnically diverse gathering of evangelical Christian leaders ever. It was carefully assembled to depict an accurate demographic of the global church, giving particular voice to the church in the majority world.
Africans embracing their role in mission is, in large part, due to Lausanne. It has served as a catalyst for the whole continent to say, ‘We can play a part!’ — Daniel Bourdanné, General Secretary, International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES)
A road map for global mission
The Cape Town Commitment spurs the global church to definite action in over 30 key issues. Crafted by a team led by Chris Wright, it captures what we believe the Holy Spirit is saying to the church in our times and serves as a road map for the activities of the Movement.
Engaging generations of younger leaders
A few years before the second and third global congresses, in 1987 and 2006, Lausanne held a Younger Leaders Gathering (YLG) to identify evangelical leaders between the ages of 25-35 who were already impacting their country or region. The gatherings connected participants with other global leaders to build up the next generation of influencers. The next YLG is planned for 2016.
Connecting today’s influencers for global mission
While much has changed in the 40 years since the first Lausanne Congress, our global vision is unchanged. It is a vision of:
The gospel for every person
An evangelical church for every people
Christ-like leaders for every church
Kingdom impact in every sphere of society
Like our founders Billy Graham and John Stott, we seek to be faithful stewards of God’s calling to connect influencers and ideas for global mission. We want to serve the global church with a spirit of humility, friendship, prayer, study, partnership, and hope, which Billy Graham called ‘the spirit of Lausanne’.
The Lausanne Movement connects influencers in two types of networks:
Over thirty issue networks led by Lausanne Catalysts are involved in the pressing missional opportunities and challenges of issues as diverse as Freedom and Justice, Islam, Cities, Media Engagement, and Business as Mission.
From East Asia to Latin America, and Francophone Africa to the South Pacific, our 12 Regional Directors give leadership to Lausanne’s initiatives across continental or sub-continental regions.
An invitation to connect
We invite you to connect with the Lausanne Movement in a number of different ways:
Most of all, we ask for your prayers, that we would be faithful to the calling God has given us, and that God would use us all in his mission, for the glory of Christ our Lord.