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.
October 20, 2010
My list of significant conversations continues to span the globe, with meaningful dialogues with fellow followers of Christ from Cameroon, the Philippines, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, El Salvador, Suriname, Ukraine, South Korea, Bangladesh and the United Kingdom. Only 164 countries to go J!
John Piper launched the day by providing an outline for understanding Ephesians 3:
- The purpose of God is to make known his wisdom through the church to the cosmic forces of evil (3:8-10)
- God has chosen that some of his servants be imprisoned to accomplish this purpose (3:1, 13)
- Supernatural intervention is needed for us to understand God’s amazing plan for his church, and this power only comes to us through earnest prayer (3:14ff)
Our brief study of Ephesians provided the platform to explore what John identified as dual currents (tensions?) at play during the first days of Cape Town 2010. We live in a world under the wrath of God, and, as a result, a world characterized with extraordinary pain. As evangelicals, are we to focus on alleviating the pain of this life, or upon warning men to flee the wrath to come?
“Some love the one truth; others the other. Might we as the global church say we care about all suffering; especially eternal suffering? Is God calling us to choose? If you feel you have to choose, you either have a defective view of hell or a defective heart.”
Piper’s reflections prepared us for one of the most sobering sessions of the Congress – the cost of ministry among the Muslim world. For security reasons, video recordings were turned off and photographs prohibited. Here are a few memorable quotes from the morning:
While many in this world hate Muslims, God has not changed his feelings toward them as expressed in John 3:16.
How do we reach Muslims? First, understand them; then, love them; finally, share the Gospel.
It is to our shame that we seek models and methods of evangelism that cost us nothing. Then we find the money to export them around the world. Such a Gospel would not have been recognized by the Apostles.
There are no truly closed countries to the Gospel, only countries where we aren’t ready to stand for the Gospel.
In every religion of the world, God dispenses mercy at the expense of justice. Where justice collapses, hope collapses. In Christianity, God dispenses his mercy through his justice.
From a Muslim Background Believer – Let us not fall into the liberal trap that explains away the cross, nor the marketing trap that softens the edges of the cross, but find fresh ways to raise the cross.
The evening plenary focused on the themes of cities and the diaspora, and concluded with a celebration of God on the move in Latin America:
Cities: With over 50 percent of the world’s population in our cities, and with city growth at 8 million every two months (the size of Bangladesh), our world is being radically redefined in terms of the city as the center of greatest influence and power. Some predict that this will be the century when the world reorganizes itself around major cities. Is the church engaging the city effectively? Will we be positioned to influence or simply react? Effective ministry in the city is radically different than in the country (summary of comments by Tim Keller.)
The world began in a garden and will end in a city.
The diaspora (migration): presents the church with one of its greatest opportunities for ministry today, with many of the ‘hardest to reach’ entering our major metropolitan areas. The effects of relocation often create an unprecedented ‘openness’ to the Gospel. If the diaspora affects 200 million people currently, that number will double within the next 20 years.
In an overview of the evangelical movement in Latin America, we learned that 17% of the population is considered evangelical, of which 3/4’s are Pentecostal. Latin American Theologians Juan Carlos Bongarrá and Rene Padilla, influential in the early days of Lausanne, recounted how the real life struggles to apply theology to life in the context of Latin America influenced the direction of Lausanne. Padilla concluded with a plea for the Congress to:
1. Focus on making disciples, not converts
2. Address the impact of globalization on the world’s poor
3. Recognize the devastating effects we are having on our ecosystem
As the light of global Christianity shines into the darker corners of the North American church, a very unpleasant reality emerges – an idol even greater than our lust for more things. That idol is our calculated passion for security. It shapes our national agenda and governs many of the decisions we make on a personal level. “Safety first” may be a great motto for a factory, but it’s a lousy life verse for a believer. It completely undermines the call to radical discipleship.
“I had a friend who once told me,” a speaker observed today, “that if he only had six months to live, he would fly to Saudi Arabia and preach the Gospel. Why would we only take such a risk when we knew we had so little to lose?”
The world will never be won by those who tread cautiously.