Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the First International Congress on World Evangelization

Lausanne 1974

Forty years ago today, Billy Graham, John Stott, and more than 2,400 other evangelical leaders from 150 countries gathered for the opening ceremony of the first International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Billy Graham set the context for the Congress in his opening address, ‘Never before have so many representatives of so many evangelical Christian churches in so many nations and from so many tribal and language groups gathered to worship, pray, and plan together for world evangelization’.

In the ten days that followed, under the uniting missional theme of ‘Let the Earth Hear His Voice’, leaders participated in plenary sessions and Bible studies as well as discussions and debates over theology, strategy, and methods of evangelism.

The gathering produced The Lausanne Covenant, of which John Stott was the primary architect, and which to this day continues to challenge evangelical Christians of varied backgrounds and places to work together to make Jesus Christ known.

The concept of unreached people groups was also introduced at the Congress through Ralph Winter’s groundbreaking plenary presentation.

But perhaps most significantly, the Congress gave birth to The Lausanne Movement, originally named the Lausanne Continuation Committee for World Evangelization, as part of the answer to The Lausanne Covenant‘s call for ‘the development of regional and functional cooperation for the furtherance of the Church’s mission, for strategic planning, for mutual encouragement, and for the sharing of resources and experience’.

On this milestone in the life of The Lausanne Movement, we’ve prepared a special collection of materials to provide a unique glimpse into its beginnings as well as highlights from the past 40 years.

‘Lausanne ’74: Stewarding the Legacy’, reflections by S Douglas Birdsall ‘Why Lausanne?’, Billy Graham’s opening plenary address at the 1974 Congress
‘The Biblical Basis of Evangelism’, John Stott’s plenary presentation at the 1974 Congress News release announcing survey results from the ICOWE participants in favor of continuation committee, 23 July 1974
News release following the first Lausanne Continuation Committee meeting, 27 January 1975 lausannecovenant
Documentary film about the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization by World Wide Productions Photos from the 1974 Congress
‘We Have a Gospel to Proclaim’ – Lindsay Brown’s closing address at Cape Town 2010 ‘Lausanne and Global Evangelicalism – Theological Distinctives and Missiological Impact’, Tim Tennent
‘John Stott and the Lausanne Movement: A Formative Influence’, Julia Cameron 'The Holy Spirit and the Gospel’, David Wells
'Faith and Truth in a Pluralistic, Globalized World’, Stefan Gustavsson titetienou

We also invite you to celebrate this anniversary with us by responding in a number of ways:

  • Sharing the above resources with your small group or adult Sunday school class. You may also consider several additional resources available in the Lausanne Bookstore.
  • Thanking God for his work of grace the past 40 years in world evangelization and the growth of the global church
  • Praying for the future of The Lausanne Movement and the faithful stewardship of all God has entrusted to us
  • Giving a symbolic gift of $40 on this 40th anniversary as a personal investment in the future of the Movement

In reading, watching, and reflecting on the resources above, I hope that we are all stirred by a fresh remembrance of the ‘spirit of Lausanne’, a spirit of humble, passionate, collaborative commitment to global mission.

And may we hear and heed again the charge that rang from Lausanne 1974—Let the earth hear his voice!

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Michael Oh serves as the Global Executive Director / CEO of the Lausanne Movement.




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