“The Whole Church, Taking the whole Gospel, to the Whole World” - This is the aim of the global Lausanne Movement, which takes it’s name from a unique gathering of over 2,700 Christian leaders from over 150 nations in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974. Over the last decade the Lausanne Movement has enjoyed something of a resurgence, not least through with the second global Younger Leaders Gathering in 2006 in Malaysia, and with the Cape Town 2010 congress - described as the youngest, most ethnically diverse, and geographically varied gathering of evangelical Christian leaders ever.
I recently had the opportunity to travel to Bangalore, India, with over 300 leaders from around the world, to attend the 2013 Lausanne Global Leaders Forum. This trip made a great impression on me, and has encouraged me greatly, especially as I reflect on the change, renewed health and momentum of the Lausanne Movement over the last ten years. Here a few thoughts and reflections following this latest engagement with Lausanne.
I ‘get it’ now...
Firstly, after being part of Lausanne for ten years, I feel like I finally ‘get it’! For many younger leaders around the world, including some of us who have been quite involved in recent years, it has been difficult to understand, let alone to explain to others, what the Lausanne Movement is actually there for. A recent Lausanne document communicates this more clearly than any I have read before, and I find myself strongly resonating with the Lausanne movement:
Because it recognises the primacy of evangelism while also embracing Christ’s call for justice and service.
Because it exists for the sake of others. This idea is best captured by [the] saying, “The fruit of The Lausanne Movement grows best on someone else’s tree.” There are no member dues or even a membership process. The Movement enjoys an unparalleled convening ability because it desires nothing but the fruitfulness of any who join the conversation.
Because it encourages reflective practitioners. Biblical reflection is the root out of which strategic action springs. Both are necessary.
Because it embodies what Billy Graham termed “the spirit of Lausanne,” characterised by humility, friendship, prayer, study, partnership and hope. It is this “spirit” that propels Lausanne’s passion to identify, encourage, and equip younger leaders to become the kind of leaders that the world so desperately needs.
Because it is a movement OF the global church FOR the global church, expressing the rich diversity of God’s family around the world while uniting around our devotion to Jesus Christ, the Word of God, and the mandate to “make disciples of all the nations.”
The week in India helped me ‘get’ Lausanne more then before, both because I read this clearly defined set of values for the first time, but also because I experienced some of these values firsthand - especially some of those embodied in the term ‘the spirit of Lausanne’.
I was really struck during the week in India by the humility of a number of significant, influential and therefore ‘important’ leaders from the Christian world, who I had the opportunity to sit with, chat with and pray with, and who did not at all project any kind of air of self-importance. World-famous apologists, presidents of universities and seminaries, bishops (and potential archbishops!)) all consistently introduced themselves by their first names only. It was as if they were just ordinary people being used by an extraordinary God to do extraordinary things... This was a great and refreshing example, and one which made a deep impression on me.
Tied in very closely with humility is the high value placed on developing partnership for the sake of the Gospel. The idea that ‘the fruit of Lausanne grows best on someone else's tree’ was really in evidence through the stories we heard, the people I met and the conversations and discussions I was a part of. It is so easy for us in the Christian world at all levels, to care about the reputation and success of our own ministry / organisation / denomination more than we care about giving glory to God or being used by him to see his Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.
A Global View
Chatting, praying, eating and listening with brothers and sisters from all over the world is a major reason why humility and partnership flourish in a movement like Lausanne. Being able to look at issues from a truly global perspective is invaluable for all of us because, again, it is easy to have a narrow view of the world when we are exposed only to those who are like us, who think what we think and do what we do. I think this especially true from an Australian perspective, where we are often sheltered or even isolated from much of the rest of the world. I have been hugely blessed and enriched by this immersion in part of the ‘global’ church, and come back encouraged at what God is doing around the world, and challenged to continue to represent him in my own context here in Tasmania.
A Younger, More Diverse Movement
And finally, having been involved in Lausanne since 2004, one of the aspects of Lausanne I found particularly difficult at first, was how few younger, non-male, non-Western people were involved in shaping and leading the movement - and that despite the young, diverse, non-Western nature of the global church. I spoke up about this on a number of occasions - gracefully I hope!
This has changed significantly over the last nine years. I was hugely encouraged at the number of dynamic, passionate, mission-minded younger leaders I met while in India - many of whom were engaging with Lausanne for the very first time. I was encouraged by the increasing number of women leaders involved in leading and shaping various parts of the gathering, and the movement.
And I am hugely encouraged that the Lausanne leadership has chosen a great, gifted, humble and young leader to be the new Executive Director of the Lausanne Movement - Dr. Michael Oh.
I am blessed. I am encouraged. I am inspired. And I am more convinced than ever before that there is a great opportunity for a younger, bolder, growing and diversifying Lausanne Movement into the future - motivating the whole church, to take the whole gospel, into the whole world.