Cape Town 2010 – the future of the Church and world evangelization

Over the past week I have rued my low station in life and that in the scheme of things I was not invited to the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization (I clearly need to press the flesh a lot more and design some nifty business cards.)  Apart from the fact that it was being held in the most attractive city in the world, it was rather the the bringing together 4,000 leaders from more than 200 countries into a rich, diverse cultural melting pot to consider the future of evangelism that got me.  Thanks to the advances in digital communication I have been able to follow proceedings through the aggregated thoughts of many bloggers, tweeters and Facebookers.  There have been some truly memorable moments.

The make up of the congress delegates was as follows:

  • one third of the congress are women in leadership
  • 1100 staff and stewards
  • 1200 are mission leaders
  • 1200 are pastors
  • 1200 are scholars and academic
  • Over 200 000 participated using online media

The conference began with a video presentation charting the growth of the church:

Here are some selected highlights provided by a range of bloggers starting with the highlight for me (as a distant digital participant).  It is an account of the testimony of a North Korean girl written by Matt Hunt, from Hellensvale Baptist Church on the Gold Coast.  I would have given a lot to have been in the auditorium in Cape Town to witness this:

I have never been part of a five minute standing ovation, but I was tonight. By far the highlight of this first full day of Lausanne III was a young 18 year old North Korean girl who shared her testimony of how her parents and her family came to Christ, and her heart to return to North Korea to help the people of North Korea find the Lord Jesus. She shared how her mother died in childbirth in the late 1990’s and her father, having worked in high levels of government in North Korea, after his conversion, returned there to share the gospel, only to be arrested once in 2001, and then, after three years in prison and after being released, again in 2007. She said she has not heard of her father since then, and presumes he has been shot in public as punishment for treason and espionage “because that’s what they do”. With tears in her eyes she shared how she wanted to return to the land of her birth to share of the Lord Jesus.

We all sat with awe, with full hearts and wanting to encourage her great sacrificial obedience. So, when she finished all 4000 stood, with tears in our eyes, and applauded … for some time.

Peter Houston from South Africa writes:

Jon Hirst poignantly starts his previous Lausanne Blog (http://www.lausanne.org/lausanne-blog/) with the comment “How fitting that on the first night of the Congress they would sing the song sung 100 years ago at the Edinburgh Missions Conference – “Crown Him with Many Crowns”!

Rewind 100 years and 1,200 delegates from major Protestant denominations and missionary societies, predominantly from North America and Northern Europe, gathered in June of 1910 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The 1910 Edinburgh Conference was driven by the watchword of the Protestant missionary community at the time: “The Evangelization of the World in this Generation.” Eight main tracks (commissions) were engaged with: Carrying the Gospel to all the non-Christian world; The Church in the mission field; Education in relation to the Christianization of national life; Missionary message in relation to the non-Christian world; The preparation of missionaries; The home base of missions; Missions and governments; and finally, Co-operation and the promotion of unity.

(Editors note: Ed Stetzer has some tasty things to say about the 1910 Edinburgh Conference here.)

Fast forward a hundred years to 2010 and we have skipped over two major world wars, various other international wars, devastating Christian-on-Christian genocide in Rwanda and Burundi, increasing Muslim-Christian conflict, the entrenchment of secularism, spread of PCs, internet, and cell (mobile) phones, global economic booms and busts, and on the church front, yet further divisions, splits and pending schisms within the worldwide Church. Somewhere in the mix, the 1910 call to “Evangelisation of the world in this generation”, and the next, and the next generation, has continued in various degrees of faithfulness, success and glory (to God)…

Jump to October 2010 and we now have delegates at the opening ceremony of the Third Lausanne Congress in Cape Town (not in Lausanne) singing “Crown Him with Many Crowns”, providing a point of continuity with the Missions Conference of 100 years ago… While Edinburgh in 1910 had 1,200 delegates mostly from the West, and the First Lausanne Conference in Lausanne in 1974 on the theme “Let the earth hear His voice” had about 2,700 delegates from 150 nations, this Third Lausanne Congress has some 4,000 delegates from 197 nations! (Source)

Ian Buchanan provides an excellent and easy to read run down of each day with plenty of graphics and videos of the highlights.

Tall Skinny Kiwi as usual provides insightful commentary.

Krish Kandiah from the UK is an excellent writer and his blog is worth a read.

Chris Kidd from the UK wins the prize for the most detailed account of virtually every speaker.

Mary DeMuth is an author who writes beautifully and she was also in Cape Town too.

You can watch and respond to all the official content here: Cape Town 2010 Global Conversation

The following summary from The Brook Network sum up the conference poignantly:

I will never forget the two-hour worship service that closed the congress. I expected strong praise and comparisons to “what it will be like in heaven,” but the reality went much further. 5,000 voices alternating from classics like “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” to the new “In Christ Alone” shook the room. The adapted Kenyan communion liturgy was profound. The message was penetrating. I have been in large rooms with thousands of people in enthusiastic praise before, but this was different–to scan 360 degrees around and to see nearby the faces of dozens of nationalities. To see the worship leaders in the clothing of India, Africa, and Europe, high church and low church, young and old, women and men. All different, all the same. Many probably thinking, as was I: How did all this happen? Where is this thing going?

It is a picture that forces your vision to back up and take in a wider scope. Not just a perspective across the boundaries of nations, but a vision that attempts to take in the seen and unseen, the earthly and the cosmic. And often the vitality is not in the roaring praise of thousands, but in the quiet words of a motherless and fatherless 18-year-old North Korean girl whose real life began with a vision of Jesus. The vitality is in the halting words of a widow holding in her hand the blood-stained sermon notes that was found on her husband’s bullet-ridden body.

Perspective–real, incisive, and global–is what we need. And it will take time, and grace, to get it.

The delegates are busy returning home and the real stories about the networking and unity will seep out.  The real effect of this conference will only be known perhaps in decades to come.  I love the way the faces at the conference showed how the church has grown and diversified.  The spirit of the conference showed that the church in 2010 is not in the mood to retreat and lick its wounds.  The church is more alive than it has ever been before (even if it doesn’t look that way in your church!).

Did you go?  What can you tell us?