Brent Burdick has been the director of Lausanne Global Classroom since 2015, overseeing the publishing of 17 comprehensive video episodes featuring the most pressing missional topics of our times.
Each Global Classroom episode is unique in its presentation of perspectives and insights from leading voices on the issue from around the world. Burdick’s recently published book, Gospel Issues for the Global Church, distills the key ideas from eight Global Classroom episodes into a single volume. Learn more about his book and his work with Global Classroom in our interview conversation below.
How did the idea for Lausanne Global Classroom (LGC) originally come about?
The formation of Lausanne Global Classroom has its roots from what happened in Cape Town 2010 when the issue networks were formed and catalyzed. There was a need to equip and educate the global church on the pressing issues of our times, but there was no concise or planned way to do it.
Then, when Michael Oh became CEO of Lausanne, he had an idea for engaging younger leaders with the issues in ways that were relevant to them, which was through media platforms they could access for free on the internet. He called his idea Lausanne Global Classroom and asked Justin Schell, Lausanne’s director of executive projects, to begin working with the Lausanne communications team to see what was possible. Several ideas were discussed, and the first episode on diaspora was filmed in Manila in early 2015. Eventually, Global Classroom developed into what we have today.
I became involved in Global Classroom at Justin’s invitation through my connection with Leighton Ford, one of the founders of Lausanne. I met Leighton through Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina, where I am adjunct professor of missions. Justin invited me to attend the Lausanne Consultation on Research and Strategic Information in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in May of 2015 to participate in the filming of that episode. After that, I became the director of Global Classroom.
Today we have a team consisting of myself, a full-time video editor, Yaksan Azam, who is from Pakistan, and two other part-time video editors from the Philippines and India who are helping us with producing the episodes in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Korean. And of course there’s the wonderful speakers in each of the episodes. For all the episodes filmed, I interviewed hundreds of Christian leaders from around the world who were eager to help.
That seems to be part of the beauty of LGC—just how truly global it is, from the speakers in each episode to the production team. But I’m sure that also comes with its unique challenges. Over the years, what have been some of those challenges for you and your team as you’ve nurtured LGC?
I really believe that God has put together our team and has guided the vision for Global Classroom. It has been a great joy to produce Global Classroom and work with Yaksan and other people from around the world—a wonderfully global team, as you say.
We have indeed had some challenges, though. For example, in the early days, we weren’t exactly sure about what we wanted in the look and feel of Global Classroom, but we were blessed with a video expert from Switzerland, Daniel Kunz of Krunch Video, who volunteered his time and expertise to give us some great direction in conceptualizing what would be best visually and educationally. He really helped us finalize the format we have today so that each episode looks and feels the same, except for the different content.
The other challenge has been not being able to work as a team in person. I guess this is the main downside to being a global team. Though technology and the Internet allows the team to work with each other from different locations around the world, we are not able to be together very often due to visa issues and travel restrictions. And sometimes when filming an episode is scheduled, not all the team can be there to help.
Another challenge is the length of time it takes to produce an episode. After filming, it can take several months to put it all together. Production is a tedious and time consuming process, and I feel bad that it takes so long to get a new episode out. Still, during COVID, we were able to do a lot of catching up on our backlog and now we have completed 17 episodes, with three more new episodes in process for filming and production this year.
Earlier you mentioned that you’ve interviewed hundreds of global leaders for these episodes. What have been some inspiring moments meeting with, working with, and befriending so many leaders from around the world?
I am always so amazed and blessed by the passion, vision, love for God and the global church, commitment, and humility of the people I interview. From CEO’s of global corporations, to students and young leaders who are just entering their field or ministry, from seminary professors and theologians to lay people in the workplace—all have bent over backwards to accommodate our request to be interviewed and have been great to work with.
I’ve heard some incredible stories and gained biblical insights that I wish I could include in every Global Classroom episode, but can’t due to space and time limitations. I’ve been brought to tears as I heard stories of God’s working through disabled people, or how refugees from war-torn countries have heard the Gospel.
I’ve celebrated with joy as I was told of churches that have been planted among unreached people groups, or how the gospel has been spreading in secular workplaces. I’ve been humbled and encouraged as I hear of God’s command to care for creation, or learned of the need to address mental health and trauma in our churches.
All of this combines to make being part of Global Classroom my dream job. I just hope and pray that more people will become aware of it and get involved in these gospel issues so that more people can come to Christ.
This seems to be part of what compelled you to write your book, Gospel Issues for the Global Church. Can you tell me more about your book and what prompted you to write it?
When I became the director of Lausanne Global Classroom back in 2015, a new world of connections and awareness opened to me on a lot of issues that were impacting the global church.
As I did episode after episode, I began to realize there was a need to compile what I was learning into a single volume, that could help readers in more effective global evangelization. Sure, there are books on each issue, but nothing was out there that collected all the great information in one place. Thus, the idea for this book was born.
I realized I was in a unique position to write such a book, so I prayed about it and began putting my thoughts on paper. I chose eight of the issues with completed episodes and wrote a chapter on each one.
In each chapter, I introduce an issue through a story or personal illustration, then look at the biblical and theological perspectives of the issue, examine the challenges and difficulties the issue presents for the global church, and then talk about how churches can get involved in the issue and contribute to global evangelization. I also include small group discussion questions at the end of each chapter so groups can explore together how they might respond to what they read.
Eventually, I hope to write more books so that every issue around which Lausanne forms networks will be covered. I also hope to have the book translated into other languages so more people around the world can engage with these gospel issues.
My prayer is that churches all over the globe will begin to think about, strategize, and implement plans to engage more effectively in global evangelization through the tangible actions the book suggests.
Not every church can get involved in every issue, but if they can decide to get involved in just one, it will be worth it—to the glory of God.
As many of us know, the Lausanne Movement is currently preparing for the Fourth Congress on World Evangelization happening in Seoul, South Korea next year. Going into Seoul 2024 and heading toward the year 2050, what are your hopes and plans for LGC?
As I said earlier, our immediate goal for Seoul 2024 is to have the current 17 episodes translated and produced into Spanish, French, Portuguese and Korean so many more people around the world will have access to this great resource in their context. I’d love to produce Global Classroom episodes in other languages too, but that is beyond the resources of our team at present.
Beyond 2024, we would love to produce a Global Classroom episode for all the rest of the issue networks in all five languages. That will keep us busy for a while, but at some point, we will need to update the older episodes by filming new ones. The world is always changing, and we need to keep things fresh and relevant.
I would love to see our team grow too. We need more people who have a vision for gospel issues for the global church, and who can contribute to this global evangelization resource. Eventually, I will be stepping down and new leadership will need to come on board. I would like to begin mentoring someone today who could someday take over the reigns of leadership. I am so grateful to the Lausanne Movement leadership who value Global Classroom and make this resource possible for us to do.