What better way to kick off a historic missions conference than with a continent-wide evangelistic operation?
"[God] has chosen Africa to carry the touch of the Gospel to the world,' said Scott Lenning, co-director of the "Mission Africa" events which took place in 18 African nations between March and September. "This is why we see great responses to the Gospel anywhere in Africa today."
Created in fellowship with the Third Lausanne Congress on Global Evangelization, which kicked off in Cape Town this weekend, Mission Africa paired evangelists from around the world with local ministry organizations at 21 sites from Sudan to South Africa, Liberia to Tanzania.
Lenning, who helmed the operation with co-director Songe Chibambo and Eliot Winks, says that the events "more than matched" expectations. Mission Africa estimates a total attendance of 488,394 at 890 meetings, with 58,245 responses from "Individuals Inquiring About Relationship With Christ." Organizers are already talking about a second campaign next year, and eventually expanding from Africa to the world.
On the eve of the Lausanne Congress, Lenning and his colleagues told CT more about the operation.
Why did you create these events?
The initial idea for the events was discussed by local leaders in Cape Town who wanted to follow the tradition of Billy Graham at the original Lausanne Congress in 1974, where he had a crusade in Lausanne in addition to the congress. Local leaders did not want to limit the potential evangelistic events to just Cape Town or even South Africa, but to take them to as much of Africa as possible.
What did international evangelists and local churches each bring to the table?
We sought international evangelists, not just Western evangelists, so there could be a truer worldwide range of participation and partnerships. The international evangelists brought a variety of skills and passions ranging from classic community-wide evangelism to working with students or specific "stratified" evangelism approaches. The international evangelists brought the African community the feeling that they were part of an international event that was larger than just the local event. Finances were also partnered with both the international evangelists and the African ministries taking portions of the finances.
Local churches participated by having people trained as counselors and friends inviting friends' friends to events. Local churches were also trained for long-term follow-up; respondents at the events were referred to local churches for post-mission Bible studies.
Did you sense the movement of God in these events?
Absolutely. Songe and I have adopted a saying to work by: 'Attempt something so big for God that it is doomed to failure unless God be in it.' We definitely feel God has been in Mission Africa to see this level of involvement and response.
Even this week, as part of the Mission Africa reporting [at Lausanne], we are challenging new partnerships for 2011 and calling it Mission Africa Stage II. While 2011 may still be focused in Africa, the hope is that in 2012 and beyond, other regions of the world can become host communities.
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Christianity Today earlier reported on Lausanne, "The Most Diverse Gathering Ever."
To join the conversations at this year's congress, visit Lausanne.org/globalinkreg.