Historical Congress on World Evangelization Concludes in South Africa

By Doug Wicks, Donor Communications Manager for the U.S. C&MA

The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization convened in Cape Town, South Africa, October 16-25, 2010. The goal of Cape Town 2010 was to re-stimulate the spirit of the original Lausanne Congress represented in the Lausanne Covenant: “to promote unity, humbleness in service, and a call to action for global evangelization.” The Lausanne Movement is a worldwide movement that mobilizes evangelical leaders to collaborate for world evangelization.

Cape Town 2010 drew together 4,200 participants from 198 nations. The Congress was possibly the most representative gathering of global Christian leaders in church history. The Participant Selection Team, consisting of church leaders from every continent, established selection criteria to ensure that the Congress included men and women who represented a broad diversity of nationalities, ethnicities, ages, occupations, and denominational affiliations.

Delegates to the Congress met to consider the theme “God in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19) and how to bear witness to Jesus Christ and all His teaching in every region of the world and every sphere of society.

In addition to the 4,200 delegates who attended the Congress, thousands of other leaders participated virtually via online and other digital technology.  Organizers extended the reach of the Congress sessions to over 650 GlobaLink sites in 91 countries and drew 100,000 unique visits to its Web site from 185 countries during the week of the Congress.

Doug Birdsall, executive chairman of The Lausanne Movement, said: “We have worked to engage evangelical leaders on all continents. This is the first Congress of its kind in the digital age, and we’re praying that the results will herald a new moment for the Church.”

The First Lausanne Congress

The First Lausanne Congress was held in Lausanne, Switzerland, in July 1974. Initiated by Dr. Billy Graham and Dr. John Stott, that First Congress involved some 2,700 participants and guests from over 150 nations.

According to Leighton Ford, the Lausanne committee’s first chairman, “The Lausanne spirit was a new and urgent commitment to world evangelization in all its aspects, a new attitude of cooperation in the task, and a new cultural sensitivity to the world to which we are called.” 

In Africa

Convening the 2010 Congress on the continent of Africa is significant for a number of reasons. Since the First Congress, Christianity has ceased to be a “Western” religion. In 2010 approximately 60 percent of all Christians live in Asia, Africa and Latin America. By 2025, it is anticipated that 70 percent of Christians will live in what is called the global south. Roughly 50 percent of those attending the Cape Town Congress were from Africa and Asia.

In 1900 there were 8 million believers in Africa; today there are 500 million Christ followers. Africa is transitioning from a missionary-receiving continent to a missionary-sending continent.

Built for Interaction

Rather than assembling 4,200 individual chairs in the large convention hall, Congress organizers strategically arranged for participants to sit at tables of six during all of the plenary sessions. Each table consisted of individuals from a different nation and in one sense represented a microcosm of the global Church.

After each plenary session, participants at the tables of six engaged in robust discussion of questions raised by the issues addressed by the speakers. For example, participants at each table considered the contradictions of pluralism and the active evangelism of atheism in light of truth in the Person of Christ. They processed how to communicate Christ in their national context.

Additionally, during the Congress there were 24 multiplex sessions and some 160 dialogue groups that focused on specific issues impacting the Church, like prosperity theology, globalization, creation care and Christian interaction with people of other faiths and traditions.

The Cape Town Commitment

On the final day of The Third Lausanne Congress, “The Cape Town Commitment” was presented to the participants. Work on the statement, chaired by Dr. Christopher Wright, had been ongoing for several months leading up to the Congress. Senior theologians from every continent participated in the development of the statement.

The Cape Town Commitment is a declaration of belief and a call to action. The first part is an articulation of evangelical beliefs rooted in Scripture. This is available now on the Lausanne website, www.lausanne.org. The second part of the Commitment, which will be a call to action,  is being generated through the feedback provided by Congress attendees as well as GlobaLink participants.

The completed two-part declaration will be published by the end of November. It will be available as a free download on the Lausanne website. Additionally, it will be available in a printed format in late January 2011.

Global Communion Service

The Congress closed with a celebration of Holy Communion led by Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi of Uganda. For this service, 100 communion sets had been borrowed from local churches around the world. “These represent the remembering of Christ’s death across many nations,” Birdsall stated. “We are a global movement committed to the local church.”

In closing, Birdsall exhorted, “The gospel is in our hands; we are Christ’s ambassadors in our generation. Let us seek God in a humble spirit. Let us work together, united around the great central truths of the gospel as we proclaim Christ in every sphere of influence and to all peoples of the world.”

 Learn More

Find at more about this global movement at the Lausanne Web site. Read about Alliance participation in the event.


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