Lausanne 3 ended with an amazing, Christ-honoring two-and-a-half hour liturgical praise session last night. You could tell we were on Africa time and not on Western “got to get home to watch the NFL game” time. I have many been to many multi-national gatherings of Christ-followers and have enjoyed them all. But this felt different. The emotions flowed freely as we recited the Nicene Creed, confessed our sins as a global body of Christ, prayed for ourselves and for the nations, worshipped Jesus and took communion together. When we closed with “Crown Him With Many Crowns” I think I heard angels singing.
This was a very full and long week. We gathered to engage the whole church in taking the whole gospel to the whole world. I came in a spirit of prayer, not knowing who I would meet or how I would contact anyone. God connected with many humble, extraordinary people, far beyond what I asked or imagined. There will be a lot to sort out over the next few weeks and months, but here are my top five takeaways right now:
1. Christ alone: The gospel of Jesus Christ is the most wonderful message in the world. Jesus stands apart from any other religious leader of any culture at any time. He is the One True God. He created all and is Lord over all. He humbly came to live among us. He suffered a sacrificial death to satisfy our needs for justice and mercy before a holy God. He was buried for three days, then rose again in power. The gospel – the good news – is that Jesus lovingly offers relationship to God and freedom from sin and shame now and for all eternity. The resistance by popular postmodern culture of Jesus’ exclusive claims is nothing new: proclamation of truth has never been easy throughout the history of the church. Our first three mornings in Ephesians 1, 2 and 3 undergirded this conviction.
2. Integrity: As disciples of Jesus, we must walk worthy of this gospel. The next three mornings in Ephesians 4, 5 and 6 hammered this point home. As evangelicals (the word literally means “people of the gospel” and has been used since the 2nd century) we must walk in love, humility, integrity and simplicity. A skeptical world wants to see authentic faith in which our private and public lives align. One notable implication is that denominations, mission agencies and donors are shifting their emphasis from decisions to disciples. We must incarnate passion for Christ and compassion for people.
3. Suffering: Christ’s church is invincibly strong amid unspeakable suffering. “God appoints suffering and prayer as a means of revealing the unsearchable riches of Christ for the nations. The infinite wisdom of the cross is revealed not in our prosperity but in our pain.” (John Piper) There are two types of suffering that the church must work to alleviate. One is suffering on earth, which includes those afflicted by HIV/AIDS, extreme poverty, sex trafficking, abuse and persecution. The other is suffering for eternity, or dying without an opportunity to know Christ. There still remain 692 UUPGs (Unengaged Unreached People Groups) of more than 50,000 totaling 350 million people without one single book of Scripture translated into their language. After 2,000 years, how is this possible?
4. Globalization: “Globalization is the process through which our human interconnectedness has now reached truly global proportions.” (Os Guiness) The deepest driver in globalization is information technology which accentuates three “S forces”:
- Speed: communication is nearly instantaneous
- Scope: we can communicate with the entire world
- Simultaneity: we expect to communicate everywhere at the same time
This global communication revolution is as significant as the rise of the wheel, the invention of the alphabet, human writing and the printing press. It is transforming human experience at all sorts of levels from identity, to families, to work, to communities, to nations, to notions such as evil and religious meaning. One local Kenyan pastor who faithfully prepares a sermon for his church of 150 each week finds himself being compared with T.D. Jakes podcasts downloaded on iTunes. Globalization is the single strongest face of the world in our time. We will wrestle with it throughout our lifetimes as the context for our living and witnessing. Don’t fear it, but engage, assess, discern and act.
5. Partnership: The global church is far stronger than I imagined.
“The day of the single superstar leader has passed. The day of full partnership is here.” (Patrick Fung – Director of OMF Intl from Singapore)
“Hard-headed evangelical entrepreneurs can cooperate and partner in a common mission.” (Ramez Atallah – General Secretary of the Bible Society of Egypt)
The global church has spoken clearly this week: It is not looking for large western churches, denominations, megapastors or institutions to roll out their ten-year strategic plans to reach the world. However, the church of the global south and east is searching for mutuality with the church of the north and west.
Reconciliation is the foundation of all Christian partnership. This will involve sharing leadership – mutuality – between generations, genders and geographies. Reconciliation in Christ always results in more fruitful service for Christ. This message is foolishness to the world, yet this is what the world most wants (expects?) to see within the church: bold, humble unity.
The cross is at the center of reconciliation: death to self. True biblical partnership requires an aspect of death to self. This may mean death to my own ambition thus allowing others to succeed, death to my position thus allowing another to hold it, or death to my own opinion which, in turn, allows others to speak powerfully.
Enough for now. Selah.
Apply: View, listen or download presentations from the Third Lausanne Congress here.