Jon Hirst, who runs the Lausanne Blogger Network, asked me to write a reflection on the closing ceremony of the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. As soon as he posts it on the Lausanne blog I will put the URL in here.
In the meantime here's what I wrote:
Missionaries from everywhere to everywhere: Reflecting on the closing of the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization
The atmosphere in the plenary hall of the Cape Town International Convention Centre was wonderful as the 4300 delegates from all over the world entered to close the congress in worship, prayer and Holy Communion. After a busy week of sessions, dialogues and parallel meetings, this service of worship made for a fitting conclusion. Dr Michael Cassidy, one of the South African hosts who was a delegate at the first Lausanne Congress in 1974 began by reminded the participants that they were called to be missionaries who have come "from everywhere being sent to everywhere". it was a fitting reminder of that central tenet of the Lausanne Covenant to take the whole Gospel to the whole world through the whole Church.
Trevor Sampson, a resident of Cape Town, lead the congregation and a sizable choir through a version of the Kenyan liturgy for Holy Communion that had been scored to a mixed of traditional hymnody, contemporary worship and African rhythms. The preacher for the evening, Lindsay Brown, had chosen Ex 12.1-3,6-1, 2 Cor 4.1-7, and Jn 1.29-34 as his texts. Dr Brown's message took the form of a clear charge to the participants at this congress to take the Good News of Jesus Christ into all the world by all the varied means that are necessary for it to transform the lives of individuals and communities. He emphasized that the message of God's saving love in Jesus Christ is the most important message in history - it is only in God's gracious love for the world that we shall find any true and lasting hope for humanity and the cosmos. His theme was taken from the Epistle reading, 2 Cor 4.1-7, drawing a strong link between the proclamation of the truth of Christ, and living out the implications of that truth in tangible and practical ways.
One of the most challenging moments of his address was when he challenged the participants of the congress with a direct question: "What will the lasting legacy of the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization be?" It was clear that the intention for bringing together theologians, pastors, missionaries, business people, young people, old people, people from almost every nation on earth was not for the purpose of having a congress, but rather to re-invigorate the Church for mission. It is every delegate's responsibility to return to their town or city in order to bear witness to God's love in Christ in every sphere of life.
Brown's challenge to the participants was filled with honest encouragement; the faithful and courageous acts of each person, no matter how insignificant they may seem, can have immeasurable results for God's Kingdom. It is an unfortunate certainty that some of those in attendance at the congress would face persecution, and even death, for sake of Christ. Others may labour faithfully at great personal cost for their whole lives and never see any tangible results. However, what is certain is that obedience to God's call, matched by courage and creativity, can be used by God to transform individuals and whole communities with God's powerful love. In concluding his address he quoted the worlds of John Wesley who said:
"Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can."
This message was an articulate and passionate call to action - the details of which are contained in 'The Cape Town Commitment - A declaration of belief and a call to action'.
The high point of the service was the celebration of Holy Communion - Archbishop Orombi presided over the table. The symbolism of this sacramental act was truly powerful - participants from all over the globe united by the shed blood and broken body of Christ. Each one being cleansed, strengthened and fed in order to go out into all the world as God's mission partners.
As I reflect on the Congress and its closing I am left with a sense of overwhelming gratitude for the many sacrifices that were made to bring together the body of Christ for this event. At the same time I am mindful of the many sacrifices that will be required in order to take the whole Gospel to the whole world, through the whole Church. What is certain is that God's Church has a renewed passion for mission - sending people from everywhere to everywhere! The task is not complete, and so we must go from Cape Town into the world!
Whether you were a participant in Cape Town, or participated offsite, the work of the Lausanne Movement continues. Your insights, gifts, and encouragement is necessary to continue to support the development of theology and strategy for mission and evangelism across the earth. Please do join tens of thousands of Christians from all across the globe on the Lausanne Global Conversation site http://www.lausanne.org/conversation
I look forward to interacting with you there!
A partner in mission,
Dion Forster (Cape Town, 25 October 2010)