Capetown 2010

If I said ‘Capetown 2010’, would you know what I’m talking about? [no connection to the World Cup]

It is the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization running from 18-25 October.The first was in Lausanne in 1974 and the second in Manilla in 1989.

The official blurb states:

Cape Town 2010, held in collaboration with the World Evangelical Alliance, will bring together 4,000 leaders from more than 200 countries to confront the critical issues of our time – other world faiths, poverty, HIV/AIDS, persecution, among others – as they relate to the future of the Church and world evangelization.

I’ve more than a passing interest in evangelicalism (I teach a MA course on it, have written a book about it, and teach at an evangelical institution), it’s safe to say that Capetown 2010 is a big deal in the evangelical world.

Lausanne 1974 was of huge significance. While I was much too young to know anything about it at the time 🙂 it played a major role in reconnecting evangelism and social action in a re-shaped, less fundamentalist, and more culturally engaged evangelicalism – a trend that is still being worked out today in emerging, missional and incarnational conversations about church and mission.

As a young Christian I found myself identifying with the Lausanne Covenant and for the first time getting a sense of the global nature of the church. John Stott, played a key role and I grew up as a Christian reading his books.

As stated above the big issues this time are different. Most participants are rightly from where most Christians are – the Global South. There will be more laity; more women. The topics will revolve around issues of globalisation, other world faiths, HIV/AIDS / training leaders and so on.

I confess to an innate scepticism about many Christian conferences & events. I wonder how much actual impact many of them have after the buzz of a day or two.

But Capetown 2010 is a unique event with a unique capacity to bring together men and women leaders from all over the world; to think through together both beforehand, during and after, the challenges of reaching the world with the gospel and about issues that increasingly affect us all. It’s worth checking out resources already available and ones that will become available.

It’s also an event worth praying for. Chris Wright is the chairman of the Lausanne Theology Working Group. Back in February I asked him about Capetown in our interview. His words can be a good guide as to what to pray for:

You are chair of the Lausanne Theology Working Group and are involved in the upcoming global congress in Capetown in October 2010. What are some of your hopes for that congress?

Lausanne, of course, is committed to world evangelisation, that is in its bloodstream. I would hope that Capetown will result in many positive partnerships among people who are committed to the gospel and living the gospel in the world. I hope that Capetown will continue to affirm the holistic and integral understanding of mission that is there in the Lausanne Covenant – that evangelisation is not just preaching, it is also living and demonstrating; it is words and works. I also hope that Capetown will have an energising effect on Christian community, that it will give people a fresh sense of the importance of sharing the gospel with the world and that there are huge needs in the world that we need to be exposed to. There are millions of people who have never even heard of Jesus; that there are millions of people who have no part of God’s Word in their own language. There are enormous realities of the needs of the lost world of those who do not yet know Jesus that I hope that Capetown will inspire the church take up.

My other hope for Capetown is that evangelicals will be willing to take a self-critical look at themselves and hear the prophetic word of Jesus to ‘Repent and come back to me’. For unless God’s people are living in God’s ways and look a little more Christ-like, then what is the world supposed to want become Christian for? We can’t be bad news and preach good news. We actually have to be the good news that we are preaching. If we are going to share Jesus with the world we have to be like Jesus and that includes loving our neighbours as ourselves, loving our enemies, non-retaliation, humility, seeking justice, compassion for the poor – all the things the Bible tells us we ought to be doing.

The Church has got to be the church?

Yes, that’s right. One of the phrases of Lausanne is ‘The Whole Church Taking the Whole Gospel, to the Whole World’ which is a wonderful slogan (which is not unique to Lausanne). The difficulty is that it can make the church just like the postman. If the postman who delivers the letter to your door was committing adultery the night before, to you that does not matter as long as you get the letter.  However, the church is not just a delivery boy for the gospel, the church is supposed to be the embodiment of the gospel. We are to be a reconciled community of fallen sinners who have come to love one another through the Lord Jesus Christ. The quality of life of the church is to be a demonstration of the gospel alongside the delivery of the gospel.

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