Cape Town 2010: The Third Lausanne Congress

Lindsay Brown, International Director of The Lausanne Movement, speaks about his hopes for Cape Town 2010: The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization (16-25 October), and why he believes it could leave a lasting mark on global evangelicalism.


Putting on an event like this is a huge task. What have you found especially challenging – or indeed fulfilling?

LB: Cape Town 2010 is probably the widest-ever gathering of evangelicals in history, with over 4,000 people coming from some 200 countries. Ensuring balanced representation has been complicated, but we had an excellent selection committee chaired by Bishop Hwa Yung of Malaysia. We set up national selection committees in at least 150 countries to make sure the Congress would range across all evangelical groupings and traditions. That has been important. We hoped initially that all registrations could be handled online, but soon realized this would be impossible, as the disparity between first world countries and the majority world is still too wide.

Rather than have a small group resolve the Congress themes, we have worked to listen to evangelical leaders and influencers around the world. We hosted about 15 or 20 consultations, covering every major region. We asked them to consider the major spurs and impediments to evangelization in their region, and to reflect on speakers who had something to offer the rest of the world. Responses were fed into a small team, drawn globally, who then put the programme together. The chair of this team is Ramez Atallah, head of the Bible Society in Egypt, and its Director is Grace Mathews from India. This deliberate and demanding process has resulted in a rich programme which truly reflects the global evangelical church.


Tell us what you heard from them.

LB: We had enormous feedback. Three broad categories of concerns emerged – the gospel, the world we live in, and the work of the Church. From these we identified six key issues, to be addressed, one per day:

  • TRUTH – the truth of the Christian message and the uniqueness of Christ; and how the Church can declare and defend the gospel in a pluralistic and relativistic world

  • RECONCILIATION – how the Church can bring the peace of Christ to a divided world

  • WORLD FAITHS – the challenge of bearing witness to the gospel message to people of other faiths

  • PRIORITIES – the evangelistic priorities of the Church in our generation

  • INTEGRITY – a fresh call to the global Church for its integrity and authenticity

  • PARTNERSHIP – how the Church can partner effectively, especially between the northern and southern hemispheres, in the cause of the gospel

Each morning will start with an exposition from Ephesians, then we move to an issue-based plenary session. Practical detail will be worked out in the afternoons. You can read the advance papers now where we have our multilingual discussions already in progress.


What do you think will be defining from Cape Town 2010?

LB: I would like to see several major outcomes.

First, a clear definition on the nature of Church, of evangelism and of the gospel. There is a lack of clarity, particularly in the West, and we need agreement among evangelicals as to the message we are proclaiming.

Secondly a fresh call to the Church to bear witness to Jesus Christ and all his teaching in all of the world – not only geographically, but in the sphere of ideas. Business, education, governance, the sciences, the emerging technologies: the Lordship of Christ touches on all these areas.

We face many key challenges as we seek to bear witness to Christ today. Some are straightforward, like the advance of other faiths. But there are areas the Church has only just begun to reflect on, like care of creation, genetic manipulation or how to approach end of life issues. These need to be identified.

People working in the same sphere, like politicians or evangelists, will meet in small groups and begin grappling with issues which bear on their spheres. The last Congress in Manila in 1989 produced 330 new international partnerships and we hope that this Congress will produce many, many more. The task is so great that we need to work together. To have lots of fresh and creative initiatives centred on taking the gospel of Christ to every area of the world geographically and every sphere of human existence would be a wonderful achievement.


How will churches at the grassroots level benefit from Cape Town 2010?

LB: We have GlobaLink (remote) sites set up in 74 countries. Here thousands more Christian influencers and thought leaders will watch broadcasts from the Congress and interact with us. We will make the talks available online and in print format in eight languages, so they can be used for teaching, training and equipping long after the Congress. Local churches could use them for training days, for example. Having the global Church talking together will create a unique resource to get church members thinking about new issues in new ways, and how to apply scripture to them. I would encourage you to consider participating online during the Congress itself. Plenary sessions will be available in this way, starting with the Opening Ceremony on Sunday 17 October.

In 2011, we are asking the national selection committees and the participants of each country to host a debriefing event, to share the outcomes of the Congress with a wider group of leaders and influencers, and so to expand its reach. Here they will consider the implications for their country. Those debriefing events will be critical. We are also planning similar regional-level events. There are 12 regions in The Lausanne Movement, each with their own regional director. They will have the task of hosting a regional debriefing event.


What lies ahead for Lausanne after the Congress?

LB: The key question is what Lausanne can contribute that is unique and special. Lausanne has no desire to replicate. Where networks, consultations or collaborations exist, we will not set up new ones but point people to what is there, in a spirit of partnership and cooperation.

There may be issues which arise from the Congress, like genetic manipulation for example, where a new consultation is needed, and we’ll try to make provision for that. Other possibilities are to launch a biennial global evangelical forum, bringing together several hundred key leaders; to develop a database of information on the global evangelical Church; to form a staff team who would be available to teach and minister according to specific issues wherever there was need across the globe. (Such staff would be seconded to Lausanne to serve as needed; we have no plans to build a centralized structure.)

We want to see what comes out of the Congress before setting anything in stone, but plans are in place for The Lausanne Movement to continue. Our approach is to hear from the grassroots around the world, rather than work out a strategy to impose on the rest of the world. We aspire to be a thought leader and a group of theologically reflective practitioners. That is to say, people who reflect, not in an ivory tower – but actually out there, engaged in doing the work. The Church is sometimes criticized for having people who are either locked away in ivory towers or hyperactive without being reflective. Our task is to try to bring the two together. Please consider joining the Congress online, and playing a part in this unique endeavour for Christ’s glory.


Thank you, Lindsay.

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