Lessons from the Lausanne Gathering
The Cape Town congress reveals the blessings, and burdens, of the global body of Christ.

Over the course of the last week, I've joined more than 4200 representatives from 198 nations to listen to dozens upon dozens upon many more dozens of speakers address many of the most challenging issues of our age. Here are a few lessons I learned along the way.

The Third Lausanne Congress on Global Evangelism should have been called The Lausanne Global Gathering. Many delegates were led to believe that we would have the opportunity to speak into the issues the church is facing. Using the word "delegate" to describe our involvement as well as the word "congress" suggested each of us would be given an opportunity to address issues as diverse as Scripture, poverty, AIDS, human trafficking, the shift of power taking place around the globe, and many more.

But the statements and papers issued at the Congress were written beforehand by a group of academics from around the world (many of whom I respect and appreciate very much!). For the first few days, I kept wondering, "When do we get to watch and participate in the exchange of ideas in a meaningful way outside of our assigned table groups?" Then I finally figured out the only outlets were the multiplex afternoon workshops where some of the academics would sit in and listen to the presenters and the very limited question and answer time with participants.

Once I wrapped my head around this discovery and figured out that the real purpose of placing 5000 people in a convention center was really for a "Gathering" rather than a "Congress," I had a ball and made the most of my time in and around the event focusing all of our energy (and then some) on hanging out and relationship building. Truly, the brilliance and power of Lausanne is creating a forum for unlikely people and outreaches from around the globe to connect.

Lausanne offered a microcosm of the macro-challenges faced by the church around the world. Throughout the week, almost everyone I encountered felt marginalized in one way or another. I met a woman from a notable U.S. church who mentioned that her pastor couldn't attend because he was "a white man over 50" and the U.S. delegation already had too many representatives from that demographic. A man serving as a missionary in Israel was frustrated that key leaders from the Messianic Jewish community fighting for peace in the Middle East were not present (though other Messianic believers as well as Arab were represented). I listened to a passionate Native American (who loves lattes) express his concern over the low Native American representation, a Hispanic concerned with the disproportionally low Hispanic representation, women express disappointment with the low female attendance (and a speaker who went out of his way to correct the first female Bible expositor but affirm every male Bible expositor), and I could keep going on and on until everyone was represented.

October 26, 2010

Displaying 1–10 of 11 comments


November 14, 2010  6:47am

Who speaks for the murdered and dispossessed Christian white Zimbabweans? Who at the Lausanne Congress condemned the racist Jacob Zuma of South Africa and the ANC cadre who wishes to do the same to the white South Africans and who proudly sing the song "Kill the Boers"? Why only praise for the terrorist bomber Mandela (who targeted civilians) and his 'necklacing' wife Winnie? Who dares speak the truth that that non-whites can be as racist as any white? I'm sick of hypocrisy and opportunism among Christians. You are alienating whites and marginalizing yourselves when you dismiss these concerns as irrelevant and irrational 'fear'.

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November 13, 2010  2:19pm

I think it is simply amazing that this many Christian people from this many diverse places are able to come together around Jesus! Even though we may have disagreements about various issues, what is important is that we are centered on the gospel and willing to learn from each other. How often do we try and shove people into a mold that we have created? God loves diversity and we should revel in it too!

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Mark Russell

October 31, 2010  11:25pm

As one of the academics who presented at a dialogue session and who was involved in the drafting of the pre-conference documents (as a member of the Lausanne Theology Working Group), I was likewise frustrated by the lack of meaningful conversation around my presentation and the document we drafted. I genuinely wanted more Q&A and more feedback. But the time was so packed so very packed. It is probably impossible to have such a broad gathering and make everyone happy. The meetings themselves were exceptionally diverse in a wonderful way. But there did seem to be a continual imbalance of white, male and western power at critical points of decision making and influence. We're still on the road to true equality. Lausanne was a tremendous experience and I am sure lots will come of it both personally and corporately. I attended the Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering in Malaysia in 2006 and still have best friends that I met there. In fact, four of us met there and decided to write a book together which was just published by Zondervan. Perhaps in four years I'll look back at new friends and professional developments based on interactions I had in Cape Town. But only God knows. And what was the real point of Lausanne? Well only God knows that too! Mark

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Charles Kelley

October 29, 2010  7:21am

I am a missionary to Latvia. It was my privilege to take part in the recent Cape Town Lausanne Congress. I was also at Lausanne II in Manilla, where I met several key leaders with whom I have worked more than 20 years. The Lausanne Movement is wonderful...not perfect...but wonderful. Blessed worship, solid Bible teaching, many times of extended prayer, unlimited networking, informative and educational films about many regions of the world, opportunities to renew old friendships (I met two people I hadn't seen since 1982), and make new friendships. Lausanne creates a context for a multitude of important and critical missional and missiological partnerships and initiatives. I thank the Lord for the Lausanne movement.

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Mark Clark

October 27, 2010  4:00pm

"A glimpse of Heaven" is a reminder that we are the Body of Christ made up of many parts. They are not all alike, but each serves to its purpose. The issue is when we attempt to vacuform others into our image instead of the image of Christ. He wants hands and feet and arms and legs, and yes, even "less honorable" parts and parts that are "unpresentable". But God gives those parts special honor and combines us all together so that there is "no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, everypart rejoices with it." I Cor 12 reminds us that God is the Creator and we are the Created. Let's strive to make the Body one inspite of the barriers and heritages that could divide. "Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a part of it." It only works when it is to His honor and purpose and not our own.

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Eric Wakeling

October 27, 2010  11:30am

Good grief people, talk about missing the point. Take a breath and read the article again.

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October 27, 2010  11:02am

Prosperity Gospel, as we know it, is garbage, and not biblical. And the charge that G-d wants us to be rich wasn't dealing with the widgets we collect to fill our already overstuffed homes with...G-d wants us to be rich in friendships, in life, in seeing the magic that is life, in relishing the beauty that is life, in recognizing that widgets and gadgets are neat, but their just that...neat. Nothing more. I'm surprised you weren't able to communicate that to her, Ms. Feinberg, because you should have told her, "Madam, do you really want to be like us, Americans? Look at us. Self-centered, self-absorbed, self-serving, fat with our own importance that we care not for the least of our own. Do you really want to be like that? Because if you do...all you have to do is want more...and before you know it...you will want more than what you have, or ever need. And in a short generation you too will be fat, self-absorbed, self-serving, and self-centered...and G-d will be little more than a platitude to you or your neighbors...be careful of what you wish for...you may just get it, and you will regret it." Because that is what she saw in you...she didn't see a follower of Christ, she saw an American fat with wealth, and importance, and she wanted that too. I know...a lot of Africans look at Americans and are astonished at how fat we are..."they're so fat, it's unbelievable how fat they all are." That was from NPR, this American Life about Africans coming to America and how they describe us to their families back home. Not saying she shouldn't seek to improve her community with hospitals and schools, but prosperity as we know it...it comes with a price that costs a lot more than she can imagine.

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Cody Kimmel

October 27, 2010  8:49am

Sounds like a great "gathering" as you called it and what a wonderful glimpse into what it looks like for people of all nations coming together under one Name! Thanks for your insights into this, I wish I could have been there.

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October 26, 2010  4:37pm

The fact that the prosperity gospel is even debated, and that someone calls is "good news" is testimony to the bankruptcy of Lausanne. The reason you don't preach the prosperity gospel to people in African congregation mentioned should be quite evident. Jesus didn't die to make them rich in this age. The "blessing of God" is not material necessarily. Jesus doesn't "want to prosper them." Jesus died to forgive their sins and rescue them from eternal hell. That's the gospel. I worried up front that Lausanne might fail because of a lack of clarity on the gospel. It seems that my worry is well placed, for at least some.

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David Peterson

October 26, 2010  4:26pm

The blanket condemnation of the prosperity gospel isn't helpful (as was demonstrated in this article). What needs to be condemned is the use of manipulation (mentioned by the author) and the elements of the teaching that truly are false. Self-righteously condemning a teaching without demonstrating what is false is just another form of authoritianism/paternalism.

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