The Lausanne Movement originated at the initiative of Billy Graham and Bishop Jack Dain. The first Congress took place in 1974 in Lausanne, Switzerland. This conference was notable for the declaration (by Evangelicals) that mission efforts include both evangelism and ministries of compassion. A second Congress convened in Manila in 1989. The Manila gathering was significant for the many partnerships birthed by the networking that occurred.
One hundred years ago the first modern missions conference convened in Edinburgh, Scotland. This year’s Cape Town Congress is one of several anniversary events that celebrate Edinburgh 1910. Edinburgh 1910 heralded the fruits of Protestant mission efforts throughout the 19th century, namely, the birth of the modern ecumenical movement and the flowering of global Christianity. In 2010 nearly 60% of the world’s Christians come from non-western nations. Cape Town 2010 reflected that new demographic face of the worldwide church. Two-thirds of the scheduled Congress speakers came from the global South.
The Congress included 4,200 delegates and 1,000 guests, speakers, workers, and stewards. The delegates hailed from 198 countries — the Congress may have been the most diverse gathering of Christians across the globe to date. Organizers extended its reach into 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.
“Our vision and hope was firstly for a ringing affirmation of the uniqueness of Christ and the truth of the Biblical gospel; and a clear statement on evangelism and the mission of the church — all rooted in Scripture,” said Lausanne Movement International Director Lindsay Brown, in his closing address. “The evangelical church has rightly put an emphasis on bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to every people group, but we have perhaps been a little weaker in our attempts to apply Biblical principles to every area of society, and to public policy: to the media, to business, to government. We need to engage deeply with all human endeavor — and with the ideas which shape it.”
Speakers at the Congress included American preachers John Piper and Tim Keller; African evangelist Michael Cassidy; Alpha founder Nicky Gumbel; plus ecclesiastical leaders like Hwa Young (Methodist bishop of Malaysia) and Henry Orombi (Anglican Archbishop of Uganda). Platform presenters also included: Libby Little, wife of slain Afghan medical worker, Tom Little.
Pranitha Timothy, (International Justice Mission in India) recounted the rescue story of Raman plus his wife and child. Raman was a third generation slave in bondage to an Indian slave master. Video footage shot secretly illustrated his tragic story. Did you know that there are 27 million people in slavery around the world — including 10-15 million children in India alone?
Only time will reveal the long-term significance of Cape Town 2010. Historians of mission will recall that William Carey, one of the forerunners of the Protestant modern missionary movement, proposed a world mission conference to meet in Cape Town in 1810. One can only imagine that the British shoemaker turned missionary and Bible translator would have been amazed at the 2010 Cape Town gathering of global Christianity. His famous words, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God” capture succinctly the spirit of the Lausanne Movement.
RICHARD HANEY is interim pastor of Fairfield Church in Mechanicsville, Va.