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Introduction

The leadership team of the Lausanne Movement took the initiative to hold listening calls, inviting evangelical leaders (hereinafter referred to as the leaders) of the world by region and issue network, in preparation for the Fourth Lausanne Congress to be held in Seoul, South Korea, in 2024. A total of 12 regional meetings were held with the leaders from each region, and another 24 meetings comprising 23 issue networks and the Younger Leaders Generation (YLGen) network were also held. The meetings took place between September 2020 and July 2021 and the leaders of each group provided the notes from the meetings.

The qualitative data of the notes was analyzed by the Global Listening Team in accordance with the procedures of grounded theory. The inductive analytical process was carried out in the three steps following Kathy Charmaz’s coding strategy: initial coding (line-by-line coding), focused coding, and theoretical coding.[1] The coding and analysis were conducted using a QDA (qualitative data analysis) software called NVivo for Windows, a product of QSR International.

The notes were based on five questions that guided the course of the listening call:

1) What are the most significant gaps or remaining opportunities towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission?

2) What promising breakthroughs and innovations do you see that can accelerate the fulfillment of the Great Commission?

3) In what areas is greater collaboration most critical in order to see the fulfilment of the Great Commission?

4) Where is further research needed?

5) To whom else should we be listening as part of this process?

Overview of Regional Reports

The dominant themes that emerged within the category of the first question on the remaining gap were ‘need for discipleship’, ‘reaching younger generations’, ‘love and unity’, ‘diversity in leadership’, ‘churches not engaging with the outside world’, ‘the remaining Unreached People Groups (UPGs)’, ‘advance of Islam and need for Muslim evangelism’, ‘environmental crisis and creation care’, ‘lack of cross-cultural missions’, ‘lack of contextualization’, and ‘need for marketplace and workplace ministries’.

The dominant themes analyzed within the category of the second question on the breakthroughs and innovations were ‘using new technologies and media for ministries’, ‘indigenous mission movements’, and ‘breakthroughs and innovations in ministry’.

The dominant themes belonging to the category of the third question on collaboration were ‘need for collaboration’ and ‘Lausanne Movement as a platform’.

The important themes that emerged in relation to the category of the fourth question on research were ‘diaspora and immigrants’, ‘socio-cultural context of ministry’, ‘the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on ministry’, ‘Unreached People Groups (UPGs)’ , ‘contextualization of theology’, ‘church growth’, ‘collaboration of churches’, ‘Gen Z and younger generations’, and ‘leadership’.

The important themes belonging to the category of the fifth question on whom else to listen to were ‘Gen Zers and younger people’, ‘the Holy Spirit’, ‘people on the ground’, ‘pastors and church leaders’, ‘unbelievers and people of other religions’, ‘each other’, ‘women’, ‘academic voices’, ‘indigenous people’, and ‘political leaders’.

Overview of Issue Network Reports

The analysis through a line-by-line coding of the 24 reports came up with a total of 247 thematic codes. A focused coding and analysis were directed to the 59 codes commonly addressed in four or more issue network listening calls.

The dominant themes that emerged relating to the category of the first question were ‘need for discipleship’, ‘involving young people’, ‘love, unity, and partnership’, ‘acceptance of ministry in the church’, ‘lack of holistic perspective’, ‘lack of contextualization’, ‘churches not engaging with the outside world’, ‘training of workers and leaders’, ‘gap in resources’, ‘churches not using contemporary technologies and media’, ‘gap in vision and trust’, ‘Unreached People Groups (UPGs)’, ‘language barriers and Bible translation’, and ‘anti-Christian legislation and politics’.

The important themes in the category of the second question were ‘new technologies for ministries’, ‘breakthroughs in ministry’, ‘churches awakening more’, ‘churches and leaders more united’, ‘indigenous mission movements’, and ‘new leaders are emerging’.

The dominant themes that emerged in the category of the third question on collaboration were ‘need for collaboration’, ‘Lausanne as platform’, and ‘need to share information’.

The important themes belonging to the category of the fourth question were ‘research on best practices’, ‘more empirical research’, ‘research on evangelistic ministries’, ‘research on Unreached People Groups (UPGs)’, ‘research on fundraising and funding sources’, ‘research on Gen Z and younger generations’, ‘research on the socio-cultural context of ministry’, ‘research on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic’, ‘research on biblical understanding of current issues’, and ‘research on contextualization of theology’.

The important themes that emerged in the category of the fifth question were ‘Gen Zers and younger people’, ‘Majority World leaders’, ‘people on the ground’, ‘indigenous people’, ‘pastors and church leaders’, ‘women’, ‘the Holy Spirit’, ‘unbelievers and people of other religions’, ‘each other’, ‘business leaders’, and ‘diasporas and immigrants’.

Global Synthesis and Theoretical Argumentation

A total of 391 thematic codes emerged in the notes of the whole group. From among the thematic codes, 115 came up repeatedly in four or more meeting notes.

A total of 38 codes emerged in ten or more meetings, and six codes in 20 or more meetings. The six codes were as follows: ‘need for collaboration’ (36 meetings); ‘using new technologies for ministries’ (29 meetings); ‘listening to Gen Z and younger generations’ (27 meetings); ‘need for discipleship’ (25 meetings); ‘love, unity, and partnership’ (20 meetings); and ‘breakthroughs in ministries’ (20 meetings). It can be noted that the need for collaboration was emphasized in all 36 listening calls. A total of 102 focused codes (four or more groups addressing the issue) emerged in both regional and issue network meetings.

Gaps and Remaining Opportunities

In approaching the theme of how to address the challenges facing the evangelical church, the importance of discipleship and training for workers and leaders in ministry was emphasized. The foundational approaches of discipleship and ministry training were considered critical in facilitating ministry innovation.

Another emphasis basic to the Christian teaching was on love, unity, and partnership. The leaders were calling for orchestrated efforts based on Christian love and unity that transcends denominational backgrounds and organizational boundaries in addressing the diverse challenges facing evangelical churches.

The answers to the question on the gaps or remaining opportunities on the current task of the evangelical church emphasized the accumulative aspect of a paradigm shift.[2] The leaders wanted to see accumulated ministry knowledge bring about changes in the way ministry programs and activities are carried out, instead of pursuing a rapid paradigmatic change in ministerial approaches.

Breakthroughs and Innovations

There was a consensus on the usefulness of advanced technologies and media in ministry, backed by ample evidence of the new possibilities of ministry innovation that could be attributed to the use of new technologies and media. One observation shared among many of the leaders was that there are noticeable positive internal changes within the evangelical church. For example, churches and their leaders are more united, which could be attributed to the emergence of new innovative leaders.

The ministry of evangelical churches and Christian organizations is witnessing breakthroughs, as shared by the leaders in diverse ministries. To continuously move the innovative process forward, it is critical to involve young people.

The issue of innovating ministry approaches is an effort to increase relevancy in ministry, which is none other than part of the task of contextualization. Innovation as a creative process could facilitate contextualization in this everchanging world. The overall conversations of the leaders, however, seem to remain adaptive to the changes in the ministry environment rather than proactively promoting groundbreaking innovations in a radical way.[3]

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Collaboration

The need for collaboration was talked about at length in many groups. The view on the use of the Lausanne Movement as a platform for global collaboration is convincing enough. The leaders expressed a high level of confidence in the Lausanne Movement and made suggestions to further its role at different levels.

The emphasis on information sharing is noteworthy because it is the basis for mutual efforts for collaboration. Such expectations seem to be highly constructive in positioning the Lausanne Movement both as a facilitator and a platform for ministry collaborations.

Research

The leaders made suggestions for future research that vastly reflected their interests and concerns related to their ministries. The theme of lack of research reveals an area of weakness in the evangelical missions circle. There have been efforts in this area of ministry, but the evangelical churches and organizations were not unified and systematic in addressing the research needs.

Overall, the discussions on and suggestions for future research bring to light the importance of empirical research. The specific suggestions for future research as well as the request for more research remind us of the need for a down-to-earth approach in doing missional theology that would involve empirical research on human contexts.[4] Sharing research results effectively with the global church would be an expression of servanthood.

Whom else?

It takes an out-of-the-box thinking to listen well to people. The idea of listening to the Holy Spirit is normative in the evangelical faith, but many leaders are too busy to listen to other people, especially those not in the same denomination or organization. At the same time, listening to the Holy Spirit could happen as a communal exercise.[5]

Many of the suggestions require an interdisciplinary approach to listening. Different fields of knowledge need to be considered. In many cases, listening could take the form of research because research is a systematic way of listening. A holistic understanding of knowledge would pursue an interdisciplinary study in a systematic way rather than a compartmentalized or stratified approach.

Conclusion

The gaps and challenges before the evangelical church are diverse and complex. The leaders, however, are well aware of the current issues and challenges to be addressed in their ministries. They are not overly pessimistic in their outlook of their ministries. They are witnessing breakthroughs with innovative approaches in ministry in many contexts.

Overall, glocalization is taking place both widely and deeply in the Christian ministry. Much has been discussed on this over the years, but glocalization is rapidly becoming a reality with practical implications in many ministerial contexts.

There was a grave call for unity in the evangelical community, as often shared in the listening calls. A high sense of unity was felt amidst diversity in regional, denominational, and generational backgrounds. At the same time, there was also a strong desire to see a higher level of love and unity across different ministerial boundaries.

The Fourth Lausanne Congress planned to be held in Seoul in 2024 must be used as a global platform both for the ongoing strategic alliance of ministries and for the special orchestration of innovation in ministries. A multi-year polycentric approach is reasonable considering the complexity of the issues facing the evangelical church. The effort to listen was a good step forward, and the corporate wisdom shared in the listening calls remind us of the promise in the Holy Spirit that works for creative approaches in ministry.[6]

Endnotes

  1. Kathy Charmaz, Constructing Grounded Theory, 2nd Edition (London: SAGE, 2014). The focus of the grounded theory approach is to generate a theory as the result of the inductive analytical process of qualitative data. Charmaz’s notions of initial coding, focused coding, and theoretical coding are helpful suggestions in the constructivist paradigm of the grounded theory.
  2. Larry Laudan, Progress and Its Problems: Towards a Theory of Scientific Growth (California: University of California Press, 1977), 139. Please also refer to Larry Laudan, Science and Relativism: Some Key Controversies in the Philosophy of Science (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press: 1990), 1-32; Larry Laudan, Beyond Positivism and Relativism: Theory, Method, and Evidence (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996), 21-25.
  3. However, market-creating innovation is as much in need as sustaining innovation or efficiency innovation. See Bryan Mezue, Clayton Christensen, & Derek van Bever, ‘The Power of Market Creation: How Innovation Can Spur Development,’ Foreign Affairs, January/February 2015,https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/africa/2014-12-15/power-market-creation.
  4. Paul Hiebert, The Gospel in Human Contexts: Anthropological Explorations for Contemporary Missions (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), 44-53, 127.
  5. P. G. Hiebert understands the Jerusalem Council described in ACTS 15 as the biblical model of a hermeneutical community in the sense that the early church established a theological process rather than forging dogmatic statements. Hiebert, P. G. (1994). Anthropological Reflections on Missiological Issues. Grand Rapids: Baker. p. 95.
  6. This article is a summary of the analytical report on the listening calls. The full version of the analytical report can be accessed on the Lausanne website: https://lausanne.org/l4/global-listening/the-evangelical-church-interacting-between-the-global-and-the-local 

Steve Sang-Cheol Moon is a Korean missiologist serving as president and CEO of the Charis Institute for Intercultural Studies. He also teaches intercultural studies at Grace Mission University and other universities in different parts of the world. He is on the editorial advisory board of Lausanne Global Analysis and also co-leads the Global Listening Team for the Lausanne Movement.