The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization is under way. Gathering around small tables with the theme of "Whole Gospel, Whole Church, Whole World," and the mandate of the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-20), the Congress opened with the largest, most diverse gathering of global evangelicals ever. Over 4000 delegates representing 197 countries convened at the Cape Town International Convention Center just months after the successful World Cup games. The event is posed to be a week of listening to what God is doing in our world, and what God is doing amongst one another.
The first Lausanne Congress of 1974 (in Lausanne, Switzerland) was convened by a largely Western, white group of evangelicals coming out to engage a world caught up in the Cold War. The second gathering of 1989 (in Manila, Philippines) underscored what was missing at the first -- namely the expansive growth of the church in the global south amidst serious matters of poverty and oppression. I would say that the Lausanne movement has always wrestled with a sense of balance between the gospel of "word" and "deed". We might call it evangelism and justice, or proclamation and social action. Already, this week's gathering in Cape Town is clear: The good news of Jesus Christ is a holistic story of life amidst the world and its powers of death. Our scriptural charge tonight was not only the great commission but also the great commandment and Micah's challenge to "act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God."
What is palpable, though, is who is not here. NPR and The New York Times reported that Chinese delegates were being held at the Beijing airport. With one of the fastest growing church movements, largely underground, the Chinese delegation is sorely missed. And their absence underscores the political realities that still exist in our day. Also not present in person are Lausanne's founders and architects, Billy Graham and John Stott. It is clearly a time of transition in global leadership. It is time for a new generation to emerge.
And how will they lead? Uganda's Archbishop Henry Orombi was a towering presence from the stage tonight as he led us in the Lord's Prayer, in our own tongues -- a beautiful, audible witness to God's richness in diversity. Beyond the prayer, though, it remains to be seen how Orombi and others will lead. We shall see