The gospel of Jesus Christ is wonderful, unique and true. That’s why we’ve met together this week.
Over the last year, Chris Wright and a global team of theologians have worked to shape The Cape Town Commitment – a declaration of our evangelical convictions and a call to action. In the preamble, the authors list the legacy of the first and second Lausanne Congresses. What will our legacy be? We don’t know. But we can speak of our four-fold vision and hope, and these are embodied in The Cape Town Commitment.
First, we want to sound a ringing affirmation to the uniqueness of Christ and the truth of the biblical gospel; and a clear statement on evangelism and the mission of the Church. Secondly, we want to bring a fresh challenge to ‘bear witness to Jesus Christ and all his teaching, in every part of the world – not only geographically, but in every sphere of society, and in the realm of ideas’, identifying and responding to key issues. I love the words of Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch theologian and prime minister: ‘There is not one centimetre of human existence to which Christ, who is Lord of all, does not point and say “that is mine”.’
We maintain too much, and pioneer too little. Maybe we will see fresh emphasis on reaching oral learners, young people, or diasporas. Or fresh energy in bringing biblical truth into the public domain.
Evangelicals rightly put emphasis on reaching every nation and every people group with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have perhaps been a little weaker in applying biblical principles to public policy, the media, business, government. Or bringing a Christian mind to issues like ethnicity, and the environment. We need to engage deeply with human endeavour – and with the ideas which shape it.
Charles Malik, the Lebanese statesman who led the UN General Assembly and fashioned the UN Declaration on Human Rights urged the Church to ask the question: ‘What does Jesus Christ think of the University?’ He challenged Christians to work and pray to ‘try to recapture the university for Christ’. ‘More potently than by any other means’ he said, ‘change the University, and you change the world.’
Thirdly, we hope many fruitful partnerships and friendships will come out of this Congress. We cannot be driven by competition; this must give way to a spirit of partnership where men and women, as well as people of different ethnicities, join hands under Christ to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Fourthly, we trust the Congress will issue in new creative initiatives. Our message is Christocentric. Our calling is to present the deity, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When Sadhu Sundar Singh, the great Indian leader, was asked what was so special about the Christian faith, ‘Only Christ’ was his reply.
We must not over-focus on technique, or clever approaches. We dare not say we will accomplish this task because we have the money and the technology. It will be accomplished only because of the greatness of the gospel, and the power of God. We are to focus on the truth of the gospel, the lordship of Christ, and the glory of God in the face of Christ, with authentic, transformed, joyful lives.
Some of us are word-centred; our challenge is to balance that with empathy and care for the needy and broken. For those in ministries of compassion, our challenge may be to ensure we sensitively, compassionately and wisely but also verbally – communicate the gospel. Our model is Jesus who both spoke to and fed the five thousand.
We are to take a long view, not give up, and fulfill the ministry God has given us. Many of us will return to difficult circumstances, and may even want to give up because the work is so hard. Then we must remember our calling to persevere to the end and not lose heart.
Let me leave you with the words of John Wesley: As you seek to bear witness to Christ, and with God’s help: ‘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.’ God bless you.
Lindsay Brown’s whole closing address will be available on the Lausanne Global Conversation at www.lausanne.org/conversation.