Autor: Matt Hunt
Category: Asociación, Desarrollo del Liderazgo, Compromiso con Las Escrituras
It was a privilege to be part of the Australian delegation to the Lausanne III Congress on World Evangelisation. It was a historical event and I pinch myself to think when Bible College students read about Lausanne III in years to come, as I did with Lausanne I and II, I can say I was there!! Some have put Lausanne III the same level not only with the 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference, but even the Church Councils of the early centuries of church history!! Perhaps history will determine whether such a comparison is appropriate. But what happened at Cape Town and how is it relevant to the Australian church, let alone the global church? What did God say at Cape Town to His people? Was there things we can learn from Cape Town? Was anything missed?
This article, based on my blogs written as the Congress proceeded and in the two weeks immediately after, is structured under four key headings: What I appreciated about Lausanne III, what I struggled with, what I thought was missed, and what I learnt.
Now I am not looking to provide any “balance” to these views, although I will keep the reflections to a simple number of three for brevity’s sake. Further, we shouldn’t be surprised that there is both matters appreciated, matters that caused struggle, and things people thought were missed and things we can learn: there were 4500 evangelicals at Cape Town – they couldn’t please them all! Further, others who participated at Lausanne III may disagree with my conclusions as should be expected. The important thing is not the uniformity of our conclusions, but our unity in the Lord Jesus as we live with our conclusions and identities – but more on that later!!
Further, if there is anything for the Australian church from Lausanne III, we will need to listen to more personal reflections than just mine!! So put this alongside other participants’ reports and responses!
The first thing that I appreciated at Lausanne III was the event itself. It was awe inspiring to sit with 4500 other believers (4000 participants and 500 volunteers) from 198 nations and all centred on the need for people to know the Lord Jesus Christ across the world. There was an energy, a heart and a generosity that pervaded conversations, sessions and the atmosphere of the Convention Centre itself. This was not missed by the employees of the Centre, most of them Muslims, who were blown away by the positive way they were treated by the participants. Some we heard asked for Bibles and even others came to Christ!
Of course the greatest example of this, and the second thing I appreciated, was our singing and worship. On the last morning all the back-up singers and band were introduced to us, representing many different countries and areas of the world. We would sing well known songs, and new ones, interspersing different languages and sometimes singing one song for 15 minutes as we went through more than 8 languages as they went up on the screen. Songs such as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”, “I love you Lord” and others. On the first and last nights, a full orchestra and choir joined us which just added to the wealth of worship all the more. If there was any act of corporate worship on this globe that got close to Revelation 7:9, then maybe I was just part of it!
The third thing I appreciated about Lausanne III again reflects the multi-ethnic nature of the church and the Congress. Hearing stories from other nations, in public sessions and private conversations, inspired me to love the Lord Jesus more, to give more, stretch more, and work with all the strength He gives me to present more people mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28-29). Stories of sacrifice, celebration, God’s power and persevering obedience came from every culture, and reminded me to challenge myself and others too not skip out from living in this Christlike way. If we do this, then Gods’ kingdom will grow!! And we will be blessed.
These three things spoke to me as an Aussie Christian leader too. They reminded me of how Australia is on the edge of the world. This was not a statement that we are a backward place rather I sense it was God’s good rebuke to the pride that can come to us Aussies, particularly Aussie leaders, and maybe Aussie Christian leaders!! It was interesting walking around bumping into people and they would say “Oh, you’re another Aussie, how many of you are there?” There was recognition that the Australian church plays a significant part in the global church, however as there were next to no Aussie accents in plenary sessions, it was also a great reminder that God call us to serve from below before we lead from above. This is a great encouragement and rebuke to the Australian church from Lausanne III – we need to lead from Down Under.
As I said, getting 4500 in the room together, and evangelical Christians at that, is a recipe for not pleasing all the people all the time! So, with great grace and respect to the organisers, what did I struggle with at Lausanne III?
First, the lack of daily, explicit expression of the centrality of Christ – our unity was more often expressed as rooted in a common mission, or his work on the Cross. Both important, but as I read the Bible, not the heart of true, humble, godly unity – it rests in the person of Jesus and our common submission to him as our Lord. I said this at a table group leaders meeting one morning, and a US guy came up to me later and affirmed it saying “I think the concept of mutual submission to Jesus would be quite divisive here.” Quite possibly, but my struggle was that the true “deeper unity” that the 1974 Lausanne Covenant calls for will not eventuate until this truth is grasped at the most fundamental level. We got close with John Piper’s presentation of the wonder of Jesus as the ground for sacrificial obedience, and both speakers on partnerships that rooted true partnership in God and not in shared resources. But these were like shines of light breaking through rather than the dawn of fresh thinking.
Secondly the struggle of a gospel too focused exclusively on the Cross of Christ. I love the gospel and the cross in particular. It is our calling card, the mark of our ministry as followers of a suffering servant. I love the old rustic cross that adorns HBC’s front wall and look forward to having one as high as a telegraph pole at the front of the church property (if we can!). But the focus was so much on the cross at Cape Town that the resurrection was nearly forgotten. This meant we didn’t focus sufficiently on the present day power of God in world evangelisation. As David MacNaughten, an old missionary who went to Castle Hill Baptist when I was serving there said to me, “Matt we need to focus on Jesus’ present ministry as much as his past ministry”. The same could be said of Lausanne III. This point is related to the first one, as this cross-centred gospel is a particular theological strand of the evangelical church – of which I was birthed – and by not opening arms a little wider to embrace a more fully Christ centred gospel and church, Christian unity was more explicitly expressed as a rooted in the Lord Jesus’ suffering death on the Cross, rather than Him first.
Thirdly, I struggled with the tendency for our brothers and sisters in the Global South to celebrate God’s work among them so much that at times it felt like it bordered on triumphalism – “it’s our turn in the sun now!” My cry to them is don’t make our mistakes of the west!! There will always be a tension in celebrating and being humble, and I don’t suggest I have it nutted out, but I joined with Patrick Fung’s cry along similar lines on the last day. Perhaps that is why the group that grabbed my heart the most was the quietly spoken, perhaps even overawed South Pacific islanders as they cried out for we Aussies to help them at our last regional meeting.
Clearly God spoke at Cape Town, and we as His people are always growing and learning. These three points are just my reflection on those growing points. Other will have other points.
There were some things I missed at Cape Town besides a visit to Robbern Island and Table Mountain on our day off – they were cancelled because of bad weather! When I read about Lausanne I, and to lesser extent Lausanne II at Manila in 1989, you get the sense that something significant was going on. A trail was blazed, the Lausanne Covenant was drafted, and evangelicals around the world gained a new sense of oneness in world evangelisation.
As a participant I didn’t feel Lausanne III rose to the same level of significance. I suppose it’s a bit like movie sequels – the next instalments never seem to rise to the level of the first (with the classic exception of The Empire Strikes Back which was a better movie than Star Wars!!). It would always have been hard to follow Lausanne I, particularly when the Covenant, and the Lausanne Movement, both evolved from that meeting. But I missed the “historic” nature of Cape Town 2010.
This is not to say getting 4000 Christian believers from 198 countries in one city and one event is not historic. Nor should I downplay the significance of how the church from the global south gave such a clear lead to the Congress. These two things are significant in and of themselves. No, what I missed was a sense of God saying something fresh to the church through Cape Town 2010. Or did the leaders and participants of the Congress miss God saying something new? I don’t know which, however, as we delved through Ephesians, and paved out way through the six key issues of the Congress: truth, reconciliation, world faiths, integrity, priorities and partnership, nothing any speaker brought to us seemed fresh and new. It was, sadly to say, the same old stuff.
This is not to bring down the “same old stuff”, the content we covered was essential for the issue of world evangelisation. It was just that for such a significant and historic event, I missed a matching rise in something fresh to be presented to God’s people. Perhaps the closest we got to a fresh idea was the focus one day on oral learners as a way of getting the Bible into the hearts if minds of the millions (billions?) of illiterate people around the world. That I hadn’t heard of before the Congress!
Indeed, if there was anything that stood out as new and fresh at Cape Town 2010 it was not content driven as much as its methodology of sharing content. The use of table groups and the manuscript discovery method of going through a book of the Bible may well have revolutionised Christian conferencing in the decades ahead – a move away from the expert head speaking to nodding heads could be a great step forward for the church. I hope we see it repeated in smaller conference settings across the world.
But of course, no matter what was missed, struggled with or celebrated, there was much to learn at Cape Town 2010. There are many things I could outline here, but here is the top of the list!
1. The church is much bigger than the church in Australia: as I said earlier, whenever I travel – and perhaps you too – I connect with how much Australia is on the edge of the world!! Sometimes we can be so focused on what is happening on our own backyard, that we can think the world stops there – there is so much more God is doing through his people around this world: people who speak differently to me, look differently to me, have different passions, priorities and hopes than me – but who follow this same Lord Jesus. I have learnt a new humility, patience and gentleness in ministry because I follow BIG God.
May my ministry reflect that humility as God is gracious even to work through me.
2. That the call for suffering, persecution and obedience is stronger than ever. Sitting and listening to story after story of God’s work through suffering and persevering believers in the global south was compelling. To hear a North African pastor say “when Muslims come to Christ we teach them about salvation and persecution first”, made me feel how much we seem to play around the edges of following the Lord Jesus in the west, Australia, and perhaps particularly the Gold Coast. That night I was sitting with a group of Aussies and I turned to them and asked “we know little of persecution in the Aussie church, and yet it is fundamental to the Lord Jesus’ teaching, do we have to choose persecution?” We didn’t have an answer, but the question remains.
I am going to engage with this in my teaching.
3. One matter I concluded from point 2, and it is another thing I learnt, is God calls us, particularly in the west, to a greater call to be counter cultural and different from our world around us. In recent decades there has been a call to be relevant, build bridges and engage with the unbelieving world around us. A good corrective to past church practises, perhaps particularly in evangelism. But I learnt at Lausanne, that we need to be more counter-cultural, not so much in the Christian values that get all the publicity of sexual practises, family and relationships, but on top of those, values of suffering, persecution, patience and not wanting God to meet my needs first. The greatest threat to the church and its mission in following the Lord Jesus in Australia is not gay marriage, abortion or euthanasia. These are worth standing against, but the greatest threat is the godless, consumerist, individualistic, ‘my needs are the most important’, influence of western culture. This is the devil’s work to dull the effectiveness of the church in our setting. Maybe we do have to choose persecution, by seeming “stupid” and strange in the sight of the world around us. The call for a simple lifestyle with love, patience and submission in the face of anger, right-fighting and success- driven may be what God is calling from us.
And as an important aside we men need to do this first. This is true godly male leadership.
4. What will bring this about? The fourth thing I learnt follows some of the frustrations I felt at what was missed at Lausanne. As John Piper said in his interpretation of Ephesians 3, only when we are taken by the wonder, glory and awe of the Lord Jesus Christ, when we treasure him above all else, will we make these choices that God is calling us too. I have learnt that I’ve got to be even more taken by the Lord Jesus and focus all the more on Him above all else to see His people be effectively developing as devoted disciples; above ministry, theology, strategy, and even evangelism. It is the most strategic thing I can do to set my ministry up and ‘do it’ in a way that ensure I let Him build His church.
At the very least it should change the language I use to describe ‘my’ ministry.
5. And perhaps this is a fifth thing I learnt, once again flowing from the other four: the need for discipleship. We need to invest all the more in discipling Christian people so they will stay the course with the lifestyle God uses to extend His kingdom: patient, self-sacrificial, other people centred, Lord Jesus-honouring lifestyle. Only as we live this way will the funds be released, will the gifts of the Spirit be released, will the church be released and the power of God is evident for the world to be transformed by the gospel.
I am renewing my commitment to teaching strongly on these things, and call Christian people of all ages and depths of commitment to a renewed passion and decisions to live simply to honour Jesus with strong grace, mercy and a smile!!
6. And the last point I learnt is what I kept talking about both at the Congress, and in my blog: to a renewed commitment to hold loosely to my identity in submission to the Lord Jesus. To work to lift up the ministry of others. To give my all as I see it at the time, to point others to Him. To use all my gifts to encourage, focus, and develop how He is working in others, even as they sit, think and minister differently to me.
Lord, help me. I can’t change anyone else. But it can start with me.
Lausanne III was an amazing privilege and experience, but it was a first baby step for something far more significant: seeing more people come to know the Lord Jesus through His gospel as Christians, individually and corporately, work together in submission to Him above all else, and so humbly with each other. May He bring it on.