Considering the Lausanne movement and its development since 1974 from a Latin American missiological perspective, I am moved to thanksgiving to God for its reality and promise. Some of us feared that the Lausanne movement would be taken over by the managerial missiological trend in the USA. But I am glad that the convictions and vision of John Stott, Leighton Ford, and others like them kept the spirit of the 1974 Congress and the Covenant alive and functional in shaping ongoing missiological dialogue and evangelical global mission practice.
I find refreshing the fact that Chris Wright has quoted Visser't Hooft, because a key mark of the Lausanne Movement that I valued was its evangelical openness. In the corridors of the Lausanne Congress in 1974, evangelical stars such as Francis Schaeffer and Bill Bright interacted with people such as Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder, Baptist missiologist Orlando Costas and Lutheran preacher Oswald Hoffman. These individuals, who moved in churches and organizations beyond evangelicalism, may never have been invited to the average American congress, but they had proved their evangelistic concern. It was the genius and rich world experience of Plymouth Brethren Paul Little and Anglican Bishop Jack Dain that kept the door open to such leaders. Billy Graham's growing willingness to engage a broader context in his crusade policies helped much at this point. I anticipate Lausanne III will provide opportunities for similar dialogue. [Editor's note: Alongside the 4,000 evangelical leaders drawn globally, Cape Town 2010 will also include a small group of personally-invited observers from other traditions.]
We have to thank Chris Wright for focusing on the whole Bible as the foundation for the whole gospel. He has made a rich contribution to evangelical missiology by reminding us of the indispensable need to take into account the Old Testament in order to understand the missionary message of the Bible. I find his argument very helpful in dismantling the dispensational dogma that has impoverished so much theology and mission practice around the world.
A tribute is due to John Stott for his Bible lectures at Berlin 1966, in which he emphasized the Great Commission in the gospel of John, launching a theological reflection that continued at Lausanne 1974 (and carried over to the Lausanne movement), and providing a solid Christological base for our understanding of the gospel and evangelism. This base, enriched by theological reflection from Latin American evangelicals, for instance, made clear the conviction that the qualities of the missionary's presence were as important as his or her message, and that such presence preceded the verbal communication. This was the basis of René Padilla's outstanding and polemical contribution to Lausanne, and for my effort to articulate its missiological consequences.
The New Migration Challenge
The reality of migration in today's whole world makes us face anew the challenges to human integration and acceptance, to which the early whole church responded in such a courageous, creative way. The globalization process pushes the poor of the Southern hemisphere and Eastern Europe toward the rich North in search of a better life. Africans, Filipinos, and Latin Americans—distant "brothers and sisters" for European and American churches in the past—have now become neighbors down the street. So traditional Anglo-Saxon Protestant churches in the United States or white churches in Europe are now challenged to respond to the dilemma so well posed by Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf : "exclusion or embrace." Paul's language about acceptance in the Epistle to the Romans, within his exposition of the fundamentals of the gospel, is seen with new light as we read it with contemporary questions in mind. As we consider the future evangelization of the world, here is the great challenge: How will a global church express its unity and variety through an international and multicultural missionary force?
Against the Stream of Secularism
In Valencia, Spain, where I now live, as well as in Vancouver, Canada, and all the cities of what used to be Christendom, a militant secularism and the cheap, meaningless culture provided by the media seem to make the church irrelevant and its message an outdated fantasy. Only by proclaiming that Jesus of Nazareth is God, and by the power of the Spirit following him in a way of life that goes against the stream, will churches be able to survive. And they will have to partner in mission with the lively and dynamic evangelicalism now flourishing among the poor in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This partnering, unlike the global franchising of evangelistic strategies developed in North America or Europe, begins in a truly global dialogue about how to announce the whole gospel, how to become a whole church, and how to understand what God is already doing in the whole world today. Such is the missionary agenda for the decades to come. Chris Wright's reflection offers today's Lausanne movement a good road map.
J. Samuel Escobar, chair of the Lausanne III (Cape Town 2010) Advisory Council, teaches at the Theological Seminary of the Baptist Union in Madrid, Spain, and is honorary president of the United Bible Societies. A native of Peru, Dr. Escobar has served as a staff worker with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES), as a missionary, and as a professor of missiology.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more
Read These Next
- TrendingChristian and Missionary Alliance Will Ordain WomenMinisters may now use the title “pastor” regardless of gender.
- From the MagazineI Find Comfort in the Divine WarriorA surprising psalm changed my view on God’s presence during seasons of trial.
- Editor's PickMost US Pastors Use Armed Congregants as Church SecurityWith shootings on the rise, more churches are dropping no-firearms policies and turning to gun-carriers in their flock, survey finds.