The Sixth Lausanne International Researchers’ Conference was held in Brazil in 2011.
The actual Conference was held in Atibaia, a town just outside São Paulo, the 5th biggest city in the world (19 million) in the 5th largest country. More than 50 were registered but as some were day visitors not everyone was there together at any one time. 20 different nationalities were present. The form of the Conference was the presentation of 18 papers by different researchers, plus two key-note addresses.
Bertil Ekstrom, the General Secretary of the Missions’ Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance, gave a majestic opening key-note address on “Mission in the Second Decade in the Third Millennium,” noting that mission is changing with a fast changing world, taking his definition of mission from Chris Wright’s work – the primacy of redemption. He focussed on two key elements – Contextualisation and Risk-taking, which he rephrased as Incarnation and Obedience. “What this sorry world needs today is life, welfare and non-violence,” he said, and focussed on the prophet Jonah who would not take a risk. “Mission is not just one aspect of the management of the Kingdom of God,” he insisted, “it is the Kingdom of God.”
Todd Johnson gave the second key-note address outlining some of the major features and findings of the Atlas of Global Christianity and their implications for church and mission. Some of his statements were particularly challenging. “80% of Muslims, Buddhist and Hindus in the world have never met a Christian person,” he said. So was the fact that the Global South has 60% of all the Christians but only 17% of Christian resources. He also illustrated that, while the Global South was growing in numbers of Christians, it was often growing with many of the characteristics of Northern culture. He indicated there were now 45,000 denominations in the world (in 2010), most of them Protestant.
Papers covered a wide variety of subjects from a Kazakhstan church survey, to Brazilian Disabled People Groups, Global Religious Trends, the best ways of church planting in Muslim communities, the importance of narrative to explain research findings, the current beliefs of UK evangelicals, Diaspora Missions, using Sinus Milieus in Church Development, Bible engagement, Trends in Australian Family Life, Natural Disasters, Muslim discipleship, Consumerism in the Christian Faith, Young People’s Attitudes to the Bible and much else.
Many of these papers are to be found in the website of the Lausanne Researchers’ Information Network at www.lrin.org. While the basic language used was English, all proceedings were also translated into Portuguese. Everything was also filmed and all presentations are on DVD; purchase details are available from [email protected].
It was altogether a very worthwhile time, with many of us anxious to repeat the experience in 2014! These kinds of international gatherings facilitate fellowship, give new thoughts on methodology, focus on some key findings which are relevant in a much wider context and challenge all of us to continue to seek to understand more of the ways in which the Lord is building His Church.