Gathering the Global Church

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Malaysia to meet with Bishop Hwa Yung and the Participant Selection Committee for Lausanne III, The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization (Cape Town 2010).  The Congress will be held 16-25 October 2010 – less than 1000 days – in Cape Town, South Africa.
During our days together, I realized that we were experiencing the new realities of global Christianity. The meetings were being chaired by an exceedingly gift leader who represents the dynamism of the church in the Global South.  The members of the committee also reflected this reality by coming from Africa, Latin America, Asia, the South Pacific, Europe and North America.
The committee worked on the premise that the 4000 participants who are selected to be a part of Cape Town 2010 will also represent the demographic, theological and cultural realities of the global church.  As such, two-thirds of the participants will be from the Global South and one third from the Global North.  The Congress participants will also reflect the younger leadership that is so powerfully emerging around the world.  Fully sixty percent of the participants will be under 50 – leaders in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.Though the Congress will take place in 2010, our focus is very much on the decades that follow.  Thus, we want to make sure that we bring enough experienced leaders so that we benefit from their wisdom and life experience, while at the same time ensuring that we have younger leaders who will be in a position to provide leadership for years to come.

During our meetings in Malaysia, a commitment was also made to ensure that one third of the participants will be women.  As this vision is translated into reality, it will set a new standard for the percentage of women participants in a global Congress on world evangelization.

As you can imagine, choosing just 4000 participants from the thousands of gifted Christian leaders around the world will be challenging.  However, the Participant Selection Committee is developing a process that draws on the involvement of national and regional leaders.  Regional committees and national nominating groups are being established under the leadership of the twelve Lausanne International Deputy Directors (IDD’s) who serve in twelve regions around the world.  This process will ensure that participants will be carefully selected by people who know them best.  It is our desire to convene 4000 participants who are deeply committed to world evangelization and who embrace the ideals of the Lausanne Covenant.  These will be people who are making a distinctive contribution to world evangelization as missionaries and mission leaders, as pastors and teachers, as theologians and as leaders in colleges, universities and seminaries.  The participants will also include those who are leaders in business, government, education, medicine and the arts.

It is quite exciting to think of the dynamic composition of these 4000 people who will gather in Cape Town.  Too often, the Christian faith is portrayed as a Western religion.  We hear that concept so often that sometimes our own perception of the global church is distorted.  However, in Cape Town we will have an experience of the church that will register an unforgettable impression of new realities.  The composition of the Congress and news about the Congress will also send an unmistakable impression that the church is the most global entity on the earth.

Leadership and participation in the Lausanne Movement reflects these new realities.  Whereas it once was true that the leadership for Lausanne came largely from the West, that is no longer the case.  The Hosts for Lausanne III are Africans.  The Program Chair is from the Middle East.  The Participant Selection Chair is from Asia.  The Advisory Council Chair is form Latin America, and the Chair of the Intercessory Group is from Australia.

We pray that at Cape Town 2010 the 4000 participants will provide a wonderful model of what it means to be part of the global body of Christ where every member of the body works in a coordinated and respectful manner with every other part of the body.  As we come together to work on the issues that are before us with respect to world evangelization, we pray that there will be a sharing of gifts and experiences that result in greater strength and unity in the body of Christ and which finds expression in an “exchange of joy.”

Our recent days together in Malaysia were productive and memorable.  I believe they began a process that will result in a global gathering in Cape Town that will bring encouragement to the church, hope to the world, and glory to God.

PS:  Let me just add one additional word.  I want to encourage you to continue to visit the Lausanne website and this blog to get information on Cape Town 2010.  Also, if you haven’t done so already, sign up for the monthly Lausanne Connecting Point ENewsletter.  We’ll provide regular updates on the Congress, the participant recommendation process and some exciting ways you can be involved virtually in the Congress.



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.