David Guiles, executive director of Grace Brethren International Missions, sends the following reports from the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization meeting October 16-25 at Cape Town, South Africa.
Conversations with Christ followers from Pakistan, Finland, Jamaica and Nepal enriched my fifth day at Lausanne III. But my most unforgettable conversation was with a Christian leader from Lesotho. A landlocked former British colony in the heart of South Africa, Lesotho is a tiny, mountainous country with big problems. As I headed to lunch, I repeated the prayer I have offered to God throughout the week, “Lord, lead me to someone today to whom I can be a blessing.”
After settling at an open table, I lifted my eyes and noticed an African taking his seat near me. After introducing ourselves, I slid over a few seats so we could talk. Lehlohonolo is a former university lecturer, one of eight participants from Lesotho, who came to the conference asking God to give him a ministry that would impact those responsible for leading his country. Although 98% claim to be Christians, Lesotho is plagued by corruption and one of the highest incidences of HIV/AIDS in Africa.
I sensed God opening the door for me to share about the ministry of Hibaile Augustin in the Central African Republic. Over the past five years God has opened a tremendous door of opportunity for Hibaile to teach ethics and disciple professional leaders, government workers and chaplains. (GBIM partners with Hibaile and his ministry, called CIDEL). We agreed that the greatest need in Lesotho is the discipling of a new generation of leaders, in the church and in the public arena.
I concluded by sharing how Hibaile currently has access to the Prime Minister, meeting with him for prayer every Monday morning. My new friend looked at me in amazement and said, “Just this morning I asked God to give me a ministry to our Prime Minister.” I committed to connecting Lehlohonolo with Hibaile. Then I looked him in the eyes and said, “This morning I prayed for you.” As I left the table, I glanced back over my shoulder. His head was bowed. As he lifted his head I could see he was overcome by emotion.
This incident illustrates a dynamic aspect of Christian gatherings like Lausanne that can’t be captured in news reports or on video. Through the amazing orchestration that only God can provide, thousands of ‘chance encounters’ provide opportunities for the Spirit of God to use the Body of Christ to do what he designed it to do; namely, “to grow and build itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Eph 4:16).
Today’s theme was Priorities. The major question we wrestled with can be summarized in these terms: Where is the church not and what will we do about it? In spite of five million local churches and twelve million leaders, there are still several thousand least reached people groups.
Some years ago GBIM started the process of reprioritizing our ministries around the least reached, so this concept is familiar to the FGBC. But it was encouraging to see many other leaders wrestling with these realities.
Some memorable quotes and a summary of few comments from morning plenary speaker Vaughan Roberts, who taught on Ephesians 4:11-16 (remember most Lausanne sessions are available for download):
On Christ’s gifts to the body: “When man freezes water, he makes ice cubes. When God freezes water he makes snowflakes.”
On the essential nature of love, unity AND truth:
“Instead of being attracted by our unity the world is repelled by our divisions.”
“Love for those like us is ordinary. Love for those unlike us is extraordinary. Love for those who dislike us is revolutionary.”
The 20th century will be remembered as the age of ecumenism. In reality, ‘ecumania’ led to a marginalizing of truth.
Word gifts lead to service gifts that lead to unity that leads to maturity (referring to the ministry of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers.)
Unfortunately, many churches are like a bus – a single driver in control who at least appoints one other to collect the fares…
For me, the best idea of the day was Scripture Servants – men and women who attach themselves to communities for the purpose of implanting 50 to 60 key Bible stories capable of transforming the worldview of those they are seeking to reach. These aren’t linguists or Bible translators. Instead, they go as language learners. In the process of learning a new language they insist that their tutors teach through Bible stories. As relationships grow, the Spirit of God uses the Word of God to bring about true life transformation. Simultaneously, the language tutor is learning how to share Christ with others. While this method can be used where there is no Bible translation, I see no reason why it can’t be applied successfully were the Bible already exists.
The evening plenary session celebrated God’s work in Africa, and challenged us to thinking creative ways about reaching the world’s children and youth.
The world press presents Africa is a continent in crisis. “But what we lack in money and technology, we make up Jesus – which we think is worth much more!” Over the past 100 years the church in Africa has experienced 3000% church growth.
One half of the world population is under 25. One third is under 15. There are 2 billion children in the world today; 50% live in poverty.
“There are no unreached children. The only question is who will reach them first?”