Langham and Lausanne: Shared Origin, Shared Vision
John Stott Ministries/Langham Partnership International (JSM-Langham) has a historic connection with the Lausanne movement – John Stott himself. Not only is he the Founder and Honorary President of Langham Partnership, he was also the major figure alongside Billy Graham at the first Lausanne Congress in 1974 that gave birth to the epochal Lausanne Covenant, and the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization.
THE LAUSANNE INTERNATIONAL LEADERSHIP MEETING has just taken place in Budapest, Hungary, from June 18-22. More than 300 people from all over the world met, representing several generations of leaders – from some of the generation of elderly leaders who were there at the original Lausanne, to a group from the Younger Leaders Gathering last year. The main purpose of the gathering was to launch the process that will lead to a third major Lausanne Congress in October 2010 in Cape Town South Africa. It is expected that around 4,000 people representing the worldwide church will gather there, while many thousands more participate through ‘open-source’ electronic means. Cape Town 2010, ‘Lausanne III’ is likely to draw together Christian leaders from more countries in the world than have ever assembled before, and, coming a hundred years after the famous Edinburgh mission conference of 1910, it will demonstrate the amazing global growth of the church in one century.
Chris Wright, International Director of LPI, was in Budapest, as Chair of the Lausanne Theology Working Group, a small but very international group, which seeks to address issues that confront the church in mission in the 21st century. Lausanne is committed to both action and reflection. As Chris Wright put it, we are people who seek to practise what we believe, and to think about what we practise. ‘All our mission should be grounded in theological reflection; and all theology must result in missional outworking’, he said.
Langham Scholars were well represented in the gathering. Danut Manastireanu and Cristian Romocea from Romania, along with Ng Kam Weng (Malaysia), both serve on the Theology Working Group and were there in Budapest. Andrea Stephanous (Egypt) was there as the Lausanne regional leader for the Middle East as was Las Newman (Jamaica) in the same position from the Caribbean (Las was there even though he had his Ph.D. viva examination in Oxford on the following Monday!). Meanwhile, one of the four Bible Expositions was given by Charlie Hadjiev (Bulgaria), a current Langham Scholar in the UK and one of the most promising younger leaders.
Other people who are strongly connected with Langham Partnership around the world were also playing a part. Philemon Choi, Chairman of the Board of Langham Foundation East Asia (Hong Kong) was there. Some members of our Regional Councils were also playing a significant part, such as John Azumah (secretary of our LPRC for West Africa), David Ruiz (from LPRC for Latin America), and Hwa Yung (from the LPRC in East Asia). Gideon Para-Mallam, who has pioneered the new Langham Preaching programme in Nigeria, has just been appointed as one of the Lausanne International Deputy Directors (for Anglophone Africa). All these personal connections strengthen the link between Langham and Lausanne and contribute to the networks of leadership which Langham has helped to build over the years.
Lausanne’s unofficial slogan, taken from the Covenant, is ‘The whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world’. In his address in Budapest, Chris Wright added that such a task requires the whole Bible too. Holistic mission demands holistic use of the Bible. For it is in the whole Bible that we hear the heartbeat of God himself – for the last and the least (socially and economically) as well as the lost (spiritually); for those who are dying of hunger, HIV-AIDS and war, as well as those who are dying in their sins; for the landless, homeless, stateless and family-less, as well as for those who are without Christ, without hope and without God in the world. The God who commands us to make disciples of all nations also commands us to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. We must not put asunder what God has joined together. Lausanne, like Langham, believes in the integration of all these things because anything less is untrue to the Bible.
21ST CENTURY REFORMATION
‘My concern,’ said Chris Wright, ‘is not just that the world church should become more evangelical, but that world evangelicals should become more biblical. We need repentance and renewal in the church, as well as renewed passion for world mission. Otherwise, we may become, as the Lausanne Covenant put it, “a stumbling block to evangelism… a betrayal of the Gospel”. Indeed,’ he concluded, ‘my hope for Cape Town 2010 is that it would launch and foster nothing less than a 21st Century Reformation – among evangelicals, who need it as much as any other Christian bloc.’
For there are scandals and abuses in the evangelical world that are reminiscent of the worst features of the pre-reformation medieval church in Europe.
• There are some mega leaders, like ancient prelates, wielding vast wealth, power and control – unaccountable, unattractive and unChristlike.
• There are multitudes of ordinary Christians going to so-called evangelical churches, where they never hear the Bible preached or taught.
• Instead they are offered, in the ‘prosperity gospel’ a form of 21st century indulgences, except that you pay your money not for release from pains after death, but for material ‘blessings’ here and now.
• And there are evangelicals parading ungodly alliances with secular power – political, economic and military – identifying themselves (and the gospel they claim to preach) with agendas and ideologies that reflect human empire not the kingdom of God in Christ.
Will we have the courage to identify and renounce such scandals and to seek a reformation of heart, mind and practice?
The 16th Century Reformation was criticized because it lacked missionary awareness and energy until much later. They were so obsessed with tackling abuses in the church that they neglected world mission. How ironic and tragic will it be if 21st Century evangelicals are so obsessed with world mission that we neglect abuses in the church, blind to our own idolatries and syncretism?
• If reformation without mission was defective,
• then mission without reformation will be deluded, self-defeating and even dangerous.
The Lausanne Covenant, like the Bible itself, commits us to the integration of both.