A Look Inside the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization: a book review

Christ Our Reconciler: Gospel/Church/World from the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, edited by Julia Cameron.

In 1974, Billy Graham convened the first Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland. The historic meeting brought together 2700 religious leaders from 150 different nations and out of it came the Lausanne covenant (drafted by a committee chaired by the late John Stott). That historic meeting set the trajectory for unity and partnership in mission for Evangelicals across the globe.

In 2010, the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization was held in Capetown, South Africa (the second was in Manila, 1989).  Like the earlier congresses evangelicals across the globe gathered, some 4,000 participants from a 198 countries, for the purpose of seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit as they advance God’s mission in the world.   From this historic meeting  the Cape Town Commitment was drafted providing a confession of faith for Evangelicals worldwide across denominational, cultural and ethnic lines and issuing a call to action. Graham and Stott, the movers behind the original Lausanne Congress, were unable to attend due to age and poor health (Stott has since passed on); however they each sent their greetings which were read as the congress was convened and their influence was felt throughout the proceedings.  For those who were privileged to attend this meeting (I know a few people who were there), they heard testimonies, expository meetings and papers delivered which addressed the priority of evangelism and holistic mission and the unity of the global church.

In Christ Our Reconciler, Julia Cameron has edited together each of the speeches and addresses which happened over the six days of Lausanne.  The six themes which formed the basis of the Cape Town Commitment’s call to action were discussed over the course of the six days of the third Lausanne and were based on an exposition of Ephesians (another way in which Stott’s abiding influence was felt at the Third Congress). Each day began with a testimony from the global church, a message from Ephesians and presentations based on the day’s themes.  These messages spoke passionately about the need for the church:

  1. To uphold Truth is a pluralistic age
  2. To carry on the ministry of Reconciliation and build peace in a world that is broken
  3. To bear witness to the love of Christ among various World Faiths
  4. To set Priorities for Evangelization in the next century
  5. To call the church back to integrity, humility and simplicity
  6. Partnership between Evangelicals across the globe in mission and evangelism.

The force of the essays collected here from more than thirty contributors are challenging and inspiring. Rather than give you a detailed analysis of all that was said, let me give you several reasons why you should read this book for yourself:

First, the Lausanne movement has set the trajectory for evangelical mission across the globe for the last 38 years. The significance of the Cape Town Commitment and the Third Congress have yet to be seen, but it is a historic meeting which will impact Christian witness across the world and the themes of Christ’s reconciliation and mutual partnership in mission will bear fruit.

Secondly, American Christians like me are sometimes tempted towards a form of nationalism or ethnocentricity which prevents us from appreciating the experience of Christians in the two-thirds world.  Half of the attendees of the Cape Town Congress were from the majority world and bring a fresh experience to mission, the need for reconciliation, and perspective on  the way the prosperity gospel affects the world’s poor.  They also have had to navigate mission in culture’s which are antagonistic to the Christian faith, or lack basic literacy. If the mission of the church is to succeed we need their wisdom and experience. Thankfully these essays reveal some of the exciting things happening in the global church.

Thirdly, these essays are not short on prophetic challenge. By reading these essays we become more aware of the ways the church worldwide faces persecution and navigates ethnic and economic tensions. See for example the testimony of Archbishop Ben Kwashi of Nigeria  who miraculously was delivered by God from thirty people intent  on killing him, or Nour Armagan (not his real name) who courageously share’s his faith in the Muslim world,  pr  Tim Keller’s essay which challenges Christian’s across the globe to center their missional efforts in urban centers, or Nigel Cameron and John Wyatt’s challenge evangelicals to consider how new bio- technologies challenge the dignity of human beings, or Calisto Odede and Chris Wright both challenge Christians to live lives of integrity, or . . . . I think it is impossible to read these or any of the other essays in this book and not feel called to grow in our commitment to Christ and his church.

Fourth, the Third Lausanne is a powerful testimony to the ways in which Christ is Reconciler.  This a gathering of Christians from different cultures across the globe from different cultural, ethnic and denominational heritages. Not all the participants (or presenters) agree with one another on every point of doctrine or theology but they are committed to the historic Christian faith, the priority of holistic world mission and to being gracious with one another (For example the Cape Town Commitment’s statement on Men and Women in partnership accommodates both complementarian and biblical egalitarianism).

I for one am energized by what I have read here, am grateful for the thoughtfulness of the Cape Town Commitment and upon reading these essays have a better sense of how I can prayerfully support God’s mission and the global church.

 

Here is a  a full look at the contents of this book:

 

The Lausanne Movement
Foreword
Greetings from Billy Graham and John Stott to the Congress

Day 1
Truth: Making the case for the truth of Christ in our pluralistic and globalized world

Testimony: ‘I know the gospel is true’
Gyeong Ju Son (North Korea)
Ephesians 1
Ajith Fernando (Sri Lanka)
Truth matters
Carver T. Yu (Hong Kong)
Why we need a high view of truth
Os Guinness (UK)
Truth in the workplace: Equipping the whole church
Willy Kotiuga (Canada)
Sharing the irresistible, true Christ
Rebecca Manley Pippert (USA)

Day 2
Reconciliation: Building the peace of Christ in our divided and broken world

Testimony: Palestinian-Jewish reconciliation
Shadia Qubti and Dan Sered
Ephesians 2
Ruth Padilla DeBorst (Argentina/Costa Rica)
Our gospel of reconciliation
Antoine Rutayisire (Rwanda)
Ethnicity in the mission of God
Dewi Hughes (UK)

Day 3
World Faiths: Bearing witness to the love of Christ among people of other faiths

Testimony: Costly witness and the God who protects
Archbishop Ben Kwashi (Nigeria)
Ephesians 3:1-21
John Piper (USA)
The gospel, the global church and the world of Islam
Nour Armagan (Middle East)
Bearing witness to Christ’s love among those of other faiths
Michael Ramsden (UK)
Discipleship and mission in the age of globalization
Os Guinness (UK) and David Wells (USA)

Day 4
Priorities: Discerning the will of God for evangelization in our century

Testimony: Sharing stories, sharing truth
Steve Evans (US/South Africa)
Ephesians 4:1-16
Vaughan Roberts (UK)
What is God’s global urban mission?
Tim Keller (USA)
Ethics, emerging technologies and the human future
Nigel Cameron (UK/USA) and John Wyatt (UK)

Day 5
Integrity: Calling the church of Christ back to humility, integrity and simplicity

Testimony: Shaking salt, shining light in national life
Paul Batchelor (UK)
Ephesians 4:17 — 6:9
Calisto Odede (Kenya)
Calling the church back to Humility, Integrity, Simplicity
Chris Wright (UK)
The prosperity gospel
Femi Adeleye (Nigeria)
Human sexuality, by God’s design
Cape Town Commitment

Day 6
Partnership: Partnering in the body of Christ towards a new global equilibrium

Testimony: Transformation in the garbage village
Rebecca Atallah (Egypt)
Ephesians 6:10-24
Ramez Atallah (Egypt)
Unreached and unengaged peoples
Strategy Working Group
Working towards a new global equilibrium
Patrick Fung (Singapore)
Scripture in mission
Scripture in Mission Resource Team
Men and women in partnership
Cape Town Commitment

Closing Address
We have a gospel to proclaim
Lindsay Brown

Appendix: The Lausanne Global Conversation
Embracing suffering in service
Ajith Fernando (Sri Lanka)
A small version of the grand narrative: A response to Ajith Fernando
Elizabeth Little

Notes
Recommended Reading

Thank you to InterVarsity Press for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this review

What if the Evangelical Obsession With Sex Keeps us From Admitting Our Sins?

In an election year, like every year, you will here a lot of Evangelicals talking about sex. Recently prominent Evangelicals threw their support behind Rick Santorum. This is probably because of Santorum’s strong opposition to gay marriage, abortion and his integrity in sexual relationships (unlike Newt Gingrich who is on his third marriage). But of course Evangelical obsession with sex goes far beyond the realm of politics. Practically everything Mark Driscoll says about sex goes on the internet and goes viral and books, software and conferences directed at helping Christians have sexual integrity is a huge industry. I bet you are reading this because I’m talking about sex. We like sex, we love to talk about it, we want to have more satisfying sex and we want to be free from sexual sin. And yes, some of this is quite appropriate, though not all.

The Temptation of St. Hilarion
But what if our obsession with sex keeps us from examining other areas of our heart and life where sin has been crouching at the door?

My thoughts on this come to me as I am preparing a Bible Study on Galatians for my church small group. I have been reading through No Other Gospel: 31 Reasons From Galatians Why Justification By Faith Alone is the Only Gospel by Josh Moody. Josh Moody is the pastor of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois. Whenever I prep something I check more technical commentaries (for Galatians I always look at Richard Longnecker’s Word Commentary and
Jimmy Dunn’s Black’s New Testament Commentary) but I also want to know how it preaches. This is what Josh Moody provides. For the most part he has solid exegesis (with a Reformed Evangelical bias) which attends to the text, but as a preacher he proclaims and draws out the implications for life. In his exposition of Galatians 1:11-12 (verses that are not about sex) he says this:

The gospel of sexual liberation is a gospel of man that hasn’t worked. Why are our inner cities facing great difficulties? Why do our men cave in to the addiction of lust? Why is there rising risk of abuse? The gospel of sexual liberation is running its course. We are told that the Victorians were too strict and prim with their sexual repression, but now we have the fire of sexuality let out of the fireplace and running rampant through the house and setting ablaze and burning out and destroying people in our society.

This is a fairly typical conservative Evangelical interpretation of where society has run amiss. Sexual freedom leads to the breakdown of marriage which in turn causes all hell to break loose. But really? Sexual liberation is why the inner city faces such difficulties?
Or is it that we as a church have failed to take care of the most vulnerable members of our society?

    Could it be that we talk about sex so that we don’t have to take an honest look at where we as individuals and as a church have been complicit in injustice?

    Have we done our part to care for widows and orphans (James 1:27)?

    Have we cared for the resident aliens (Exodus 22:21) in our land or have we ghettoized them?

    Are we guilty of racism? Are there those in our suburban congregations (like, lets say in Wheaton, Illinois) who engaged in ‘white flight’ leaving the inner-city when minorities moved in? Did we as a church combat housing policies which discriminated against African-Americans and other minorities (essentially creating the ghettos we have today)?

    Are we doing all we can to combat injustice in our neighborhoods and society or are we turning a blind eye?

Does society’s libertine attitudes towards sex contribute to problems in society? Yes. But my problem with naming this as the sole cause of problems in the inner-city is that it doesn’t name our sin. It talks about the sins of those sex-crazed poor folk and not about the sins of an educated, mostly white evangelicalism which has failed to care for the poor.If our obsession with sex causes us to look in judgement on others, maybe we need to also look inward at the ways where our actions (and inaction) have contributed to societies ills.

I am absolutely in favor of sexual purity and fidelity to one’s spouse. Let’s just not end our discussion of sin there.