The recent Cape Town 2010 Congress may just provide the spark for fresh commitment among evangelicals to world evangelisation, says Dr Geoff Tunnicliffe.
Last week, 4,500 evangelicals came together from around the world for Cape Town 2010, the third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. It was the first Lausanne Congress to be held in collaboration with World Evangelical Alliance and could be considered something of a ‘breakthrough’ moment in the unity of the Body of Christ.
It was certainly a strong affirmation of the collaboration between the WEA and The Lausanne Movement and many expressed the view that we should continue to deepen this kind of engagement.
With such a large Congress and with so many evangelicals from a multitude of countries, ministries, denominations and walks of life, it’s always going to be difficult to get an immediate sense of what was achieved.Lausanne I in 1974 was significant because it produced the Lausanne Covenant and Ralph Winter introduced the term ‘unreached people groups’. Now the natural question for those who were at Cape Town 2010 is: what will its impact be on the advancement of the Kingdom of God in the years to come?
The thousands of delegates in Cape Town were varied but what we clearly had in common was a passion for the Gospel and a commitment to be a witness for Christ in every area of life and every part of the world. Such shared commitment can’t fail to have an impact on the bigger picture of God’s work in the world.
Dr. Chris Wright, in his call for greater integrity was right on target. He seemed to hit a chord in the lives of many of the delegates. This call to integrity, if taken seriously by the delegates and spread to others in the Church around the world, may be one of the most substantive elements of the Congress producing the greatest impact.
In addition, the Cape Town Commitment, developed by a diverse group of theologians and representing both theological and ethnic diversity, will be a great contribution to the global church. The WEA will be recommending it to our membership for serious in-depth reflection and action.
What will also stay with me are the personal encounters. One 18-year-old girl from North Korea powerfully shared the story of the conversion of her father to Christianity after their escape from the communist country, and his subsequent desire to return to the country as a witness that led to his disappearance and possible death. There was not a dry eye in the Congress as she told of her own conversion to Christianity and desire to return to North Korea.
I had the privilege of meeting her in person later in the Congress and telling her that it had been worth coming to Cape Town just to hear her testimony. We were both in tears as we ended our conversation.
In another moving encounter, I met Christian leaders from a country where 20% of Christians are in prison. One man described how he had spent over two years in prison where he almost died several times. A woman spoke of her concern about returning to her home as 13 of her friends had just been arrested.
The group told us of the almost unimaginable conditions of the over 8, 000 refugees who had fled the oppression of their country - the abuse of girls and women, the totally inadequate food and the lack of healthcare. In hearing their stories of pain, courage and faith we were prompted to take action and find new ways of advocating for and assisting our brothers and sisters.
One of the express aims of the Lausanne Congress was to foster more partnerships among evangelicals. When I think of the thousands of conversations and chance encounters, the potential impact of this Congress is truly remarkable.
Over the coming months we will work with our colleagues in the Lausanne Movement (LCWE) in doing some serious evaluation and reflection but it’s likely that the real impact will become much clearer only years, not months, from now.
It is my sincere hope and prayer the Congress will provide a spark that will turn into a flame of fresh commitment within the global church to take the whole gospel to the whole world.
What will be the long-term impact and legacy of Cape Town 2010? Only the Lord really knows. However, in the short–term we are already feeling the wave of God’s Spirit as he works to empower His people to witness in every domain and be ministers of His reconciliation and love in a needy world.
Dr Geoff Tunnicliffe is Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance.
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