Face to Face – the Lausanne Blog Begins

One of the most exciting trends in communications is immediacy.  Twenty-eight years ago when we began our missionary career in Tokyo, in order to communicate with you I would have dictated a letter to my assistant who would type it, print it, slip it in an envelope and send it in the post.  Depending on postal service in your country, it might take one week, two weeks or perhaps a month or more for you to receive my letter.  For you to respond to my letter, the reverse would happen, leading to sometimes months between conversations.
Today, in mere seconds, I can communicate with you through email, VoIP, SMS – all through an ever-expanding interaction of wireless hotspots, satellites and other means.  Conversations and discussions that used to take months now can take just minutes.  In fact, if we happen to be online at the same time, we can easily carry on an instant messaging conversation that can flow as easily as if we were sitting together over coffee.Yet, I think you’ll agree that nothing can surpass face-to-face conversations.  You seeing me, me seeing you – allows us to get to know one another through facial expressions, body language and cultural nuances.  Being together.

Since I was appointed to this Lausanne position in 2004, it’s been a privilege to be together with literally thousands of Christians throughout the world hearing their stories, learning more about their culture and challenges and sharing with them about Lausanne.  I’ve been humbled by the reception I’ve received personally as well as to the call to global evangelization and mission.

Nothing can replace the early breakfast meetings and late night teas with my brothers and sisters across the globe.

Yet, my desire is to communicate with you on a more regular basis – not just through an occasional email, telephone call or personal visit.

That’s why I’m beginning this blog.  I want to share with you who I’m meeting with, what they’re saying and how God is at work in their area.  And, I want to hear from you as you respond to this blog – what are you hearing, where are you going, how is God leading you?

As you post your comments and reactions to this blog, I pray that together we’ll be encouraged, challenged and motivated to a greater love for the Lord, a greater compassion for the world around us and a closer companionship as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

So, let me begin . . .

Earlier this month, I participated in the annual gathering of the Fellowship of Evangelical Seminary Presidents (FESP).   The seminary presidents who are part of this fellowship represent some seventy-five seminaries in the United States and Canada.  Dr. Bryan Chappell, who serves as the president of Covenant Seminary and as the chair of the executive committee of FESP, had invited me to speak to the group on the future of the Lausanne movement and on the vision for The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization to be held in Cape Town in 2010.

It was deeply gratifying to see the level of interest that these seminary presidents have in the Lausanne movement and to interact with them as they expressed their eagerness to be involved with the thinking and planning for the congress.  I should note the fact that they have chosen the Lausanne Covenant as their basis for partnership in the fellowship.

Many of these seminary presidents have previously served as pastors and as missionaries.  As such, they resonate with one of our core convictions in the Lausanne movement – that all theological reflection must lead to mission action, and that all mission action must be built upon solid theological underpinnings.

In a world where too much mission activity is driven by marketing, money and management skills so as to achieve maximum quantifiable results, it is imperative that we engage in profound theological reflection.  We must make sure that our methods and our motives are biblically and theologically informed.

Fortunately, we have the guidance of the Theology Working Group (TWG), lead by Chris Wright, that is serving the Lausanne movement precisely in this area.  The TWG will be meeting in Chiang Mai, Thailand in February for their annual consultation.  As they meet, they will be working on issues in preparation for the congress in Cape Town.

Lausanne’s TWG, Strategy Working Group and other Working Groups are ensuring that we move forward as a community of “reflective practitioners” who value solid theological reflection as much as we prize mission action that is authentic and fruitful for the glory of God.

Most recently, I was part of the Cape Town 2010 Participant Selection Committee meeting in Malaysia.  More on that later.


S Douglas (Doug) Birdsall, Honorary Chairman of The Lausanne Movement, served as Executive Chairman from 2004 to 2013. He led the Movement through a process of global revitalization, culminating in the convening of Cape Town 2010: The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. He is a graduate of Wheaton College, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Harvard University, and the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, UK.