Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Tension Between the Pilgrim and Indigenous Principles

513-a0pPs8L__SL160_(HT: JP)  Talking about the book The Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in Transmission of Faith by Andrew Walls, Justin Taylor says “Many mistakes in Christian witness and cultural engagement can be traced to ignoring this biblical tension and giving excessive weight to one end of the pole to the exclusion of the other.

Walls explains that “Church history has always been a battleground for two opposing tendencies; and the reason is that each of the tendencies has its origin in the Gospel itself.”

He first looks at the “indigenzing principle”:

On the one hand it is of the essence of the Gospel that God accepts us as we are, on the ground of Christ’s work alone, not on the ground of what we have become or are trying to become. But, if He accepts us “as we are” that implies He does not take us as isolated, self-governing units, because we are not. We are conditioned by a particular time and place, by our family and group and society, by “culture” in fact. In Christ God accepts us together with our group relations; with that cultural conditioning that makes us feel at home in one part of human society and less at home in another. . . .

The fact, then, that “if any man is in Christ he is a new creation” does not mean that he starts or continues his life in a vacuum, or that his mind is a blank table. It has been formed by his own culture and history, and since God has accepted him as he is, his Christian mind will continue to be influenced by what was in it before. And this is as true for groups as for persons. All churches are culture churches—including our own. (pp. 7-8)

Then Walls looks at the “pilgrim principle” of Christianity:

But throughout Church history there has been another force in tension with this indigenizing principle, and this also is equally of the Gospel. Not only does God in Christ take people as they are: He takes them in order to transform them into what He wants them to be. Along with the indigenizing principle which makes his faith a place to feel at home, the Christian inherits the pilgrim principle, which whispers to him that he has no abiding city and warns him that to be faithful to Christ will put him out of step with his society; for that society never existed, in East or West, ancient time or modern, which would absorb the word of Christ painlessly into its system . . .

Just as the indigenizing principle, itself rooted in the Gospel, associates Christians with the particulars of their culture and group, the pilgrim principle, in tension with the indigenizing and equally of the Gospel, by associating them with things and people outside the culture and group, is in some respects a universalizing factor.

The Christian has all the relationships in which he was brought up, and has them sanctified by Christ who is living in them. But he has entirely a new set of relationships, with other members of the family of faith into which he has come, and whom he must accept, with all their group relations (and “disrelations”) on them, just as God has accepted him with his. Every Christian has dual nationality, and has a loyalty to the faith family which links him to those in interest groups opposed to that to which he belongs by nature. (pp. 8-9)

Here we can see these principles on a chart:

  Pilgrim Principle Indigenous Principle
But Not of the World—and Be In It “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:16). “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15)
Separate—and Participate “Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing” (2 Cor. 6:17). “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world . . . since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 5:9),
Confront—and Adapt “The wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not associate with them. . . . Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Eph. 5:6-11). “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). “Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands . . . so that you may live properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” (1 Thess. 4:11-12). “[I pray] that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:2).
Refuse Conformity—and Contextualize “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom. 12:2) “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). “Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved” (1 Cor. 10:32-33).

“May God give all of us grace to find and maintain the gospel balance.”- JT

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How long until we see ekklesia?

What is ekklesia?  Ekklesia is the NT word for ‘church.’  Louw and Nida describe the meaning of ekklesia as “a congregation of Christians, implying interacting membership.”  The definition continues:

Though some persons have tried to see in the term ἐκκλησία a more or less literal meaning of ‘called-out ones,’ this type of etymologizing is not warranted either by the meaning of ἐκκλησία in NT times or even by its earlier usage. The term ἐκκλησία was in common usage for several hundred years before the Christian era and was used to refer to an assembly of persons constituted by well-defined membership. In general Greek usage it was normally a socio-political entity based upon citizenship in a city-state (see ἐκκλησίαc, 11.78) and in this sense is parallel to δῆμος (11.78). For the NT, however, it is important to understand the meaning of ἐκκλησίαa as ‘an assembly of God’s people.’

Lesslie Newbigin further describes the meaning of ekklesia in chapter 2 of “The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission”:

The community that confesses that Jesus is Lord has been, from the very beginning, a movement launched into the public life of mankind.  The Greco-Roman world in which the New Testament was written was full of societies offering to those who wished to join a way of personal salvation through religious teaching and practice.  There were several commonly used Greek words for such societies.  At no time did the church use any of these names for itself.  It was not, and could not be, a society offering personal salvation for those who cared to avail themselves of its teaching a practice.  It was from the beginning a movement claiming the allegiance of all peoples, and it used for itself with almost total consistency the name ecclesia – the assembly of all citizens called to deal with the public affairs of the city.  The distinctive thing about this assembly was that it was called by a more august authority than the town clerk: it was the ecclesia theou, the assembly called by God, and therefore requiring the attendance of all.  The church could have escaped persecution by the Roman Empire if it had been content to be treated as a cultus privatus – of the many forms of personal religion.  But it was not.  Its affirmation that “Jesus is Lord” implied a public, universal claim that was bound eventually to clash with the cultus publicus of the empire.  The confession “Jesus is Lord” implies a commitment to make good that confession in relation to the whole life of the world – its philosophy, its culture, and its politics no less than the personal lives of its people.

The Christian mission is thus to act out in the whole life of the whole world the confession that Jesus is Lord of all.

We should hope our ministries among Muslims will eventually lead to robust, indigenous expression of ekklesia in their lands.  But are we naive in thinking that may happen in only a couple years?  Might it take a generation or more?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cape Town Day Six Recap - Abdul

It's hard to believe the conference is over.  What a whirlwind / mountaintop experience.  Had great times the past few days with Joseph Cumming, Ligon Duncan, Michael Oh, Chuck Van Engen, Jason Mandryk, and so many others.  But here are just a few things that will really stick out in my mind as I travel home:

1. The absolute passion with which the Believers from a Muslim Background serve Jesus in their contexts.  These brothers from all over the Muslim world are on fire for Jesus, and unafraid to share it.
2. The picture of Palestinian and Jewish Believers in Jesus praying together for peace, and for the Prince of Peace to reign on the earth in and through their lives.
3. Lindsay Brown's closing address, in which he said some of us may not be at the next Congress because of martyrdom.  He told the story of the Somali leader who was there in 1989 and after turning down a job at the UN in New York to stay in Mogadishu and serve his people, was martyred the next year.  He should have been here at Cape Town, but he is with the Lord now.  It was a call for endurance in suffering.
4. Taking communion tonight alongside a brother from Russia in a wheelchair.  I prayed for him as I cried with him.  Then a Jewish Believer came alongside us and hugged him and cried with him too.
5. Listening to my sisters from Uganda praise the Lord in every circumstance this week, even (especially) when something wasn't perfect, they chose to praise!  One of them, Sarah, was healed from AIDS and has an amazing testimony.
6. Listening to the Gospel being read in Chinese with an aching heart for the 250 Chinese delegates who were detained at the Beijing airport and unable to come.  Just wait until Lausanne IV, there will be so many believers in China by then that the whole Congress will be in Chinese instead of English!

I am sure I will have more reflections as I travel home - some of them might be worth posting.  But if not, just know that I will come away from this conference with an absolute and rock solid confidence in the beauty of what God is building in his global church, along with a sober reminder of the suffering that is yet to come before our Lord returns in glory on that great day!  It was truly a little piece of heaven tonight as believers from almost 200 nations worshiped together in loud celebration of the grace of God displayed in the Crucified and Risen Lord!  Indeed, for this will will worship him forever!  And that is why I do what I do - because I want multitudes of Muslim people who have so little chance to hear the TRUTH about Jesus to be there with us.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cape Town – Day 6 – Warrick

This is the last day of the congress.  It has been fun and edifying and long and intense, but now we need to get back to the real world!

I have loved soaking in Ephesians the last few months, and especially opening each morning of this congress by listening together to God speak to His Church through Ephesians.  Such an amazing, deep, rich book.

This morning was appropriately focused on partnerships.  Partnership is hard, and it requires a death to self- that we would die to power in order to see others advance the Kingdom together.  Edinburg in 1910 showed an imbalance of Westerners, but the 21st Century does not “belong to Asia.”  Asians can make the same mistake that Westerners made in the past.

We need to push for a true global equilibrium.  We have to work together.  There is no one single center of Christianity.  It does not help to speak of the “center of gravity” existing in the South.  Jesus is the center.  We all have a wonderful story to tell.  The day of the single superstar is over.

This congress has been very multicultural and very diverse, yet I feel we can have true, long-lasting friendships that inspire us to work together to “reconcile the world to God in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:19).

Lausanne III has been a profound experience, and I am grateful for the networking that I feel will benefit the partnerships I belong to.  Getting everyone involved in engaging unreached people groups is what it is all about.

Personally, I have see God answer two prayers for myself; that he would enlarge my vision of himself in Christ, and that he would enlarge my heart for sharing the gospel with the people among whom I serve.  Amen. Thank you Jesus.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cape Town – Day 5 – Warrick

A. Each morning has featured a short video in a series called Scripture in Mission.  These videos raise awareness aimed at eradicating Bible poverty in our world today:

Scripture translation is the number one needed priority throughout the world because it’s impossible to do ministry without a biblical foundation. Look at the present reality in the 6,909 spoken languages of the world.

    1. Only 451 languages have a complete Bible.
    2. Another 1,185 groups have a New Testament.
    3. 843 language groups have only a portion of Scripture. It is estimated that there are 2 billion people in these 2,028 language groups without any Old Testament. It is extremely difficult to make disciples without the Old Testament Scripture explaining the character of God.
    4. Nearly 2,000 language translations have begun work, but as yet do not have one complete book. BUT HERE IS THE TRAGEDY:
    5. 2,252 language groups do not have one verse of Scripture and no one
      is working on them. What can we do to change this? Increasing our
      efforts to launch the Oral Story Bible would be an important first step.

B. Chris Wright presented on… but I missed it because Abdul Asad and I were talking to Common Ground people!  My four concerns of Common Ground (and C5 in general):

  1. Shallow ecclesiology (we want to see the full expression of the church- fellowship is not ekklesia).
  2. Reduced understanding of the Gospel (it’s about more than just salvation- we want to see transformation). 
  3. Unrealistically positive view of Islam (the key issue is not “What does it mean to be a Christian?” but “What does it mean to be a Muslim?”).
  4. Interpretation of “remain” 1 Cor. 7 (I don’t think that text is germane to the conversation).  Related to this a narrow view of spiritual regeneration- it actually means something as it relates to our socio-religious identity in Christ.

The leader from Common Ground is a good guy and he heard these criticisms and actually wrote them down.  That’s a good example for me, to genuinely listen to criticism. 

C. I attended a breakout on Leadership Development: Issues and Solutions.  A leadership covenant is here. Random notes from the session (here is a picture I took of their model): 

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  • Good training provides a benchmark.  But even the best of training can’t close the gap between knowledge and change.  Most of “Leadership Development” is really just “Leadership Training.”  Only 3-5% of leaders who get training (without coaching) demonstrate any change in their leadership behavior.
  • Coaching/Mentoring is a developmental relationship.  It provides ongoing assessment, challenge, and support in the leader’s real life (Job Assignment).  It has to happen on the job. 
  • Training in combination with coaching is what actually works.  Training happens concurrently with coaching.  Knowledge and experience should go together. 
  • What Jesus did with his disciples was mentoring.  Coaching is a little bit different technically.  But the point is that there must be a developmental relationship between the mentor and the leader for change to happen.
  • Leaders cannot be mass produced.  More time with less people is the key idea.

Cape Town – Day 4 – Warrick

Vaughn Roberts on Ephesians 4:1-16 this morning.  Notes:

  • Unity is a fact, not an achievement.
  • Theological pride is a barrier to unity.
  • Christian unity requires a proclamation of God’s Word.
  • Tension of unity in diversity: when man freezes water, they all look this same- like ice cubes.  But when God freezes water, they all look different- like snowflakes.
  • We have a famine of the Word of God in our churches.

Eshleman on priorities in world evangelization.

  • 100,000 missionaries in the world.
  • 3,000 missionaries work in places where there is no church.
  • Key questions in determining priorities: Where is the church not present? What are we going to do about it?
  • Watch this awesome video that played in the session:

Lunch with Woodberry.  He gave out a couple copies of the new edition of Seed to Fruit that is coming out. This is an important book.From Seed to Fruit (Book)

Breakout session on orality. I need to learn to tell more stories, especially because almost everyone learns this way!!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stop Spiritual Oppression

From a Cape Town Advance Paper Missing Peoples: The Unserved "One-Fourth" World: Especially Buddhists, Hindus & Muslims:

Over one quarter of the peoples of the world still have no opportunity to hear the message of God’s love or see it demonstrated in action. Dare we call this lack of response on our part, which leads to needless suffering and hopelessness on their part, anything less than “spiritual injustice?” Today these Missing Peoples have virtually no choice with respect to the gospel. They have yet to follow the One who said, “Follow Me,” not because they have rejected His call, but because they have never heard it.

Whenever someone goes missing, especially children and youth, the whole community quickly mobilizes to search for them. Why hasn’t that happened with all these Missing Peoples? What does it say about our priorities as a global Church when 3% of workers and less than 1% of the finances given to mission go toward seeking out these Missing Peoples?

Most people come to faith through a relationship with someone they know and trust. Yet over 8 out of 10 Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists do not personally know a single Christ-follower. What are the implications for the Kingdom? Every day which passes without reaching out in friendship to these Missing Peoples means they miss out on the opportunities we all take for granted—to know Jesus personally, to be filled with his joy and peace, to have his Spirit in us, to experience abundant life and have his power to help change society.

Imagine the impact if, rather than simply continuing to justify our own arenas of ministry, we invested our collective energy in addressing this spiritual injustice, and said, “Yes, we as a worldwide church are not going to allow this to continue.”

Quote Correction

The quote was wrong on the post Cape Town – Day 3 – Warrick.  It should read:

For Christ’s sake we Christians care about all suffering, especially ETERNAL suffering.

The ironic thing is that Piper said if we get this right, it could solve a lot of tension.  And then I can’t even get the quote right!

Piper, Livingstone and Keller - What a Day 3 - Abdul

Piper hit a homer this morning by making sure we keep the atonement at the center of our prophetic mission as the Church - I won't give more details except to say you should watch the video!

Piper also hit on the reality of suffering's role in advancing the gospel.  When he finished (to a rousing applause), Libby Little, the widow of Dr. Tom Little (who was killed along with 9 other team members on a medical mission in Afghanistan this August) came out to speak.  She shared some of his final journal entries (which were eerily prophetic), including the blood-stained Scripture notes from his last message to his colleagues before they were killed.  Not a dry eye in the place.  She got the second standing-O of the conference (the first being the N. Korean teenager on night one).

Her exit was followed by a fervent time of prayer to our sovereign God who, as Piper loves us to remember, works all things together for good for those of us who love God and are called according to his purposes.  I can't wait to hear about those who will believe in Jesus from Nuristan because of Tom and his team's witness to them, sealed in blood.

I had lunch with Greg Livingstone.  What an amazing man of God.  We had such a good time that we had to schedule another meal this week.

Finished off the night with a nice chat with Tim Keller at the Gordon-Conwell alumni reception.  Keller then told what I thought was a joke about a young, starstruck, but rather short conference attendee who tried to shake his hand several times but could only reach up to his belt.  Everyone laughed pretty hard.  Like I said, I thought it was a joke until I read Warrick's post.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cape Town – Day 3 – Warrick

Today was the best day so far.  Great emphasis this morning on preaching the gospel in the midst of suffering and persecution.  There were some short videos shown on contextualization that I thought were really helpful and appropriate as well. 

Piper did an awesome job with Ephesians 3.  He brought up the tension we were all feeling between evangelism and social justice (yesterday was a focus on our broken world and the many problems humanity faces-- to some here it felt like evangelism was being sidelined) and offered this reconciling sentence:

For Christ’s sake we Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering.

Basically, Piper says if the suffering in this world doesn’t move you to action, then you have a defective heart.  But if you don’t care about eternal suffering, you have a defective view of hell. 

I ran into Chuck Van Engen and had a 20 minute talk about it (totally a really cool guy!).  He says this issue is a tension that can’t be solve in theory.  He believes a covenant relationship with God in Christ is foundational, but he wouldn’t put a “priority” on evangelism over social action.  Since he was game to spend a little time with a dork like me, I offered this illustration for his appraisal:

Evangelism and social action are distinct but inseparable activities, while evangelism is central.  Which is more foundational for human existence, air or water?  Both are necessary and you’ll die without either, but breathing is more principal than drinking.  This is how evangelism relates to social action; one should not exist without the other, but evangelism is focal.

I’m trying not to “bifurcate” (HT: JR) the issue.  Anyways, Van Engen said he liked my illustration, but that we don’t really have any good models right now.

Next up were several hours of identity issues for MBBs with Joseph Cumming.  I will only offer a couple notes here.  Basically he says (we all agree) that the issue is extremely complicated.  But because it is extremely complicated, therefore we should recognize that there is not just one answer for everywhere in the world. Cumming was very adamant that MBBs themselves should sort out the issue, and any advice we offer should be done as equals and not superiors.

One thing Cumming mentioned also is that he doesn’t want to use the world “insider” or “insider movement” anymore.  It is an unfortunate and unhelpful term because we all agree (even C3 and C4) that new believers should remain inside their communities.  Interesting.

We discussed points of controversy in respect to C5:

  1. The comparison of Islam to Judaism, i.e. Messianic Muslims
  2. The fact that syncretism is clearly condemned in the Bible
  3. The meaning of the Prophethood of Mohammed
  4. The charge of deceit
  5. The charge of avoiding persecution
  6. The legalistic nature of Islam
  7. The attitude some “Muslim followers of Jesus” have toward the the worldwide body of Christ
  8. The charge of a low Christology

Cumming gave both C3/4 answers to those questions as well as defended it from the C5 perspective.  I still think the hermeneutical hinge is one’s view of Islam.  And I don’t think we could define Islam for every context and for every believer.  Thus the complication.

Anyways, Keller rounded out the day with his case for urban mission.  (I saw him earlier in the day and I wanted to shake his hand, but he was too tall.)  Keller’s church seems like the best model we have that joins together evangelism and social action?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cape Town – Day 2 – Warrick

This morning we talked about the importance of both the vertical and horizontal aspects of reconciliation from Ephesians 2.

I had a chance to meet Joseph Cumming and talk with him (his Arabic is awesome).  I invited him to become a blogger here on Circumpolar.  We’ll see what he says!

Good conversation with Dudley Woodberry too.  I wanted to join him for a lunch conversation he was having on the Insider Movement, but he told me it was a private lunch.  At least I tried.

Spent time also talking with with Evelyne Reisacher.  She has seen hundreds of Muslims in France come to faith.  Evelyne and Dudley will be presenting something on fruitful practices among Muslims in a few days.

I’ve only seen Abdul Asad a couple times.  He’s really busy running around trying to get autographs.  Instead, I’ve been in strategic meetings trying to advance the gospel among all the nations.

Cape Town – Day 1 – Warrick

This morning was a great exposition of Ephesians 1 by Ajith FernandoOs Guinness gave a strong challenge to stand firm on truth. 

I had lunch with Rick Love (and my mentor who I’m rooming with).  He’s a colorful guy and he helped me think through some issues.

Meeting lots of cool people.  Highlight of the evening session on Asia and the suffering church was a testimony of a 18 year old girl from North Korea.  Not a dry eye in the place.  We also watched a video on Billy Graham.  He is definitely one of my heroes.

God is on the move and my heart is growing for evangelism.

Day One Recap

What a great first day of the Congress!  The morning expository session on Ephesians 1 was led by Ajith Fernando, whose insights were piercing.  We then heard from Carver Yu and Os Guinness (yes, he is the grandson of the Guinnesses) about standing up for truth in a pluralistic world.  Os didn't pull any punches in his condemnation of evangelical weakness on this issue, and the delegates loved it. 

During break time I got to talking with John Piper.  I asked him if we could get two of his books translated into Arabic to help strengthen the believers in Muslim countries.  The first is "Filling up the Afflictions of Christ" and the second is "Suffering and the Sovereignty of God".  Only after we said good-bye did I realize that I hadn't provided him with the names of any Arabs who could do that.  The entire day went by before I saw him again at the reception for the unveiling of the new version of Operation World.  Anyways, he had this big smile on his face and he said, "Guess what? Ten minutes after you left this morning my Arab friends from Country X came up and asked if I needed anything translated!  They said they can have both books done soon."  He had that big old smile going - the smile that he flashes when God does something sovereign, which is like one of his favorite things seeing that he is a seven-point Calvinist!

I attended the afternoon multiplex session on pluralism in a globalized world, which was very informative and sobering, particularly the part about the challenge that faces the church in Europe. 

Before dinner there was a reception for all the US delegates, hosted by Lon Allison and his team.  We got to hear from the likes of Robert Coleman and Vonnette Bright about how the Lausanne movement got started back in the 60's before the first Congress happened in '74. 

The evening plenary focused on Asia and the worldwide persecuted church.  Even though our brothers from China were detained at the airport and unable to be with us, they sent along a recording of a Chinese worship song to share with us, which was moving.  But the highlight of the night had to be the testimony of a young North Korean girl whose entire family has either died or been killed for the Gospel.  After having a dream of Jesus (seems it doesn't just happen to Muslims!), she yielded her heart to him and now wants to return to North Korea and work for human rights.  She received a standing ovation and was brought out for a curtain call.  I think all 4,000 of us were weeping with her as we clapped and then prayed. 

At the end of the plenary, I went with Bill Taylor (President of the World Evangelical Alliance) to the ceremony for the unveiling of the latest (7th edition) of Operation World.  It has been completely updated and revised for the first time since before 2001.  Jason Mandryk took a small group of us through the process of writing and publishing it.  We then prayed over the book that it might unite and mobilize the global church for mission even more than the previous editions.  Jason gave me a copy and told me to take it back to the country where I live.  What a great brother, and what a strategic ministry.

"Uncle Bill" prays for Jason and the book

Monday, October 18, 2010

Short Video Clip from Opening Ceremony

video

Here is a brief video clip of the Djembe jam session that Warrick referred to from the opening ceremony on night one.  I wish I could have taped the whole thing for you.

My table group consists of a Bible college president from Jamaica, an Art history professor from Canada, a Turkish Believer from a Muslim background who is now an associate pastor of a tiny Turkish church, and a Christian book publisher from Europe.  It's already a blast getting to know them.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cape Town – Opening Ceremonies - Warrick

Yesterday I arrived in Cape Town.  Beautiful city.  David Garrison was on the flight with me, and we got to hang out for about 30 minutes on the way to the convention center.  He gave me a nice lesson on the difference between contextualization and indigenization.
This morning I attended a church where Ligon Duncan spoke.
Opening ceremonies are right now.  This is quite an event. Awesome djembe session!  The conference is huge. 4500 participants.  Each participant sits at a table with 5 others.  (The congress is discussion based- no speaker goes longer than 15 minutes, except the Bible exposition which goes 25 minutes.)
As a white male I definitely feel like a minority here.  Fun. Lots of translation going on around me for those who don’t speak English.
Main theme here- the fame of Jesus spreading throughout the whole earth.  Prayer is that this event is a catalyst for the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom.
A letter from Billy Graham is being read.  He says, “The deepest needs of the heart have not changed since the first Lausanne Congress in 1974: the need to be reconciled to God.”
Another letter read from John Stott: he prays for us as we make known the uniqueness of Christ throughout the world.
A video was shown, produced by Cape Town 2010, “the history of Christian mission from Pentecost to Edinburgh.”  Fascinating and well done.
Now some presentations on the 20th century which show how Christianity has spread in Latin America, Asia, and Africa.

Morning One at Cape Town

Well, the Congress hasn't even officially started yet, and I'm already enjoying it!  With the conference commencing Sunday evening, participants were encouraged to attend local churches Sunday morning.  This was an easy call for me, as my friend Stephen van Rhyn pastors a local church here that I have been wanting to visit for a long time.  And after this morning's service, I can honestly say that Jubilee Community Church in Cape Town might possibly be one of the finest churches I have ever been to!  As I looked out at the congregation during a vibrant time of worship, I was almost moved to tears by the scene of whites and blacks worshiping freely together in a land where the scars of Apartheid still remain for many.  This, in my opinion, is a model local church in it's context.  We were also treated to the guest preaching of Oxford Professor Michael Ramsden, whose message ended with twelve people receiving Christ.  Another treat was that seven of my new friends from the Congress came with me this morning, one of them being a Ugandan leader who is passionate about training the African church to reach Muslims.  Yes, there's a lot already stirring at Cape Town 2010, and the opening ceremony is yet to come.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Stay tuned for updates from Cape Town...

Friends - Just a quick note to say that since Warrick and I will be at the Third Lausanne Congress together in Cape Town this week, we plan to post some updates.  I am en route right now, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ajith Fernando on Issues at Cape Town 2010: the Urgency of Evangelism, the Prosperity Gospel, and the Islamic Challenge

Cape town 2010bFrom Koinonia (Part I and II):
As Cape Town 2010 draws near, we are excited to share with you the thoughts of Ajith Fernando as he looks forward to taking part in this historic event.

The first Lausanne congress in 1974 was used by God in a most amazing way to bring renewal on many fronts to the church worldwide.
The Lausanne Covenant, whose chief drafter was John Stott, became a new standard for unity and mission thinking among a huge segment of the Christian Church worldwide. This had an excellent articulation of what Christians were struggling to arrive at as a biblically faithful understanding of the relationship between social concern and evangelism.
It was through Lausanne 74 that the concept of unreached people became part of evangelical parlance worldwide. It was a good time for God to breakthrough given that it was possibly the most representative gathering of Christians ever in history.

This conference too is going to be such a gathering in terms of representation by evangelical leadership worldwide. It could be a wonderful time for God to break through and give some key messages to the global church. A lot of homework has been done, under the gracious and wise leadership of Lausanne Chairman Doug Birdsall.
So this is a conference that will benefit from immense preparation and also from an incredibly vibrant use of the global communications via the Internet. Thousands will gather in sites across the globe to participate in the conference through the use of satellite technology. Yet the long term impact of a conference ultimately is in the hands of God and his decision on whether or not to use the conference in a unique way.
The evangelical church faces some big challenges at this time.
1. Though Lausanne '74 helped clarify the relationship between Social concern and evangelism, evangelism often gets sidelined or loses its place of supreme importance as the church responds to the plethora of social challenges it encounters today.
We need a return to the urgency of evangelism that comes out of a realistic understanding of the lostness of humanity apart from Christ and of the glory of the gospel. There are complaints that some recent high profile evangelical mission conferences, which previously had a high emphasis on the need to preach the good news to the lost, are now focusing so much on other issues that evangelism has become just an "also ran." Some fear that this will happen also in Lausanne III.
I am however hoping that out of Lausanne III will come a strong cry for commitment to and passion for evangelism, while at the same time challenging the church to engage in meeting some of the other challenges the human race faces. The horror of lostness of people apart from Christ is as serious now as it was before, and it is the greatest human need.
2. Prosperity theology is growing at a remarkable rate in the emerging churches.
This is a worrying sign as often with it comes a deficient gospel, and a somewhat selfish and triumphalistic form of Christianity. While attracting large numbers of people it could leave the core thinkers in our nations unimpressed by the gospel of Christ because of selfish and triumphalistic that will do little to commend Christ to a nation.
I believe there will be a good emphasis at Cape Town on a more biblically balanced approach to the blessings of God upon the faithful. My hope is that this will have an impact upon churches all over the world.
3. The Islamic challenge will also be addressed in a major way at Cape Town.

I think there is a major divergence in the approaches to Islam among evangelicals across the globe. In our part of the world, many evangelicals, though aware of the dangers associated with the expansion of Islam, basically view the Muslims through evangelistic eyes. Our basic approach to them comes out of a yearning to see them acknowledge the Savior of the World.
Sadly, many Christians elsewhere seem to see them first and foremost as a threat or as enemies. I think that we should leave governments to deal with such threats and concentrate on opening doors to what God has clearly asked us to do--to share the gospel with them. This is a prime example of how other agendas have dampened our evangelistic passion and sidelined our evangelistic program.
I am hoping that Lausanne III will give a biblically faithful and wise approach to Islam that will influence the church worldwide.
·What is your role in the Lausanne conference?
The Bible expositions at Lausanne III are on Ephesians, and I will do the first one. I have written a whole book on Ephesians 1, and now I have to cover that rich chapter in 25 minutes! I must say that I had a lot of fun preparing this exposition. I will be highlighting some key gospel truths that emerge in this chapter.
I never thought that I could glow over a 25 minute talk on a passage that earlier took me five 1-hour talks to cover. But that is the beauty of Bible exposition. There are so many different ways to tackle a text. And if we stay close to the text, it can be a thrilling exercise.
There are some statements coming out of this conference. And I have been part of the drafting team for the basic statement of beliefs that need stressing as we look at the task of world evangelization today. This was a stretching and enriching experience for me as we grappled with what we should include and what the wording should be.
The committee is chaired by the esteemed theologian-pastor Sinclair Ferguson. It was a real joy for this Methodist to work for the first time with this gracious Calvinist. He is a wonderful chairman and his graciousness really kept us sane as we faced some tough challenges along the way. Chris Wright serves as the main writer for this group.
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Ajith FernandoAjith Fernando, ThM, DD, is national director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka and a Bible expositor with a worldwide ministry. He studied at Asbury Theological Seminary and Fuller Seminary, and spends much time mentoring young workers and counseling Christian workers. He is active in Colombo Theological Seminary as chairman of the academic affairs committee. Among many other works, he is the author of the Acts Volume of the NIV Application Commentary.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Church Does What It Is

From The Essence of the Church: A Community Created by the Spirit (pg. 128, pg 156):

  • The nature of the church is defined by the mission of God in the world.
  • The nature of the church is the result of the redemptive work of Christ.
  • The nature of the church is holistic in relating this redemption to all of life.
  • The church exists as a social community that is both spiritual and human.
  • The church exists as a full demonstration of a new humanity.
  • The attributes of the church’s nature determine the church’s ministry.
  • The ministry of the church is a power encounter between God and the evil one.
  • The ministry of the church is based on God’s disarming the powers through Christ.
  • The ministry of the church is about unmasking the powers that have been disarmed.
  • The church’s ministry is to bring God’s redemptive reign to all of life.
  • The church’s ministry is to be governed by the Word as it is led and taught by the Spirit.
  • The church’s ministry is to be grace-based and gift shaped.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Gospel According to Lausanne

Here is a paper by the Theology Working Group called The Whole Church taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World.  It is about 30 pages long, and dense, but rich.  I commend it your list of “must reads.”  It took me a while to get through.  I’m not sure I agree with everything in it (although it is maybe naive of me to differ from these guys!), but I’m glad I invested in it.  I suppose this paper is what Lausanne is all about.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Goal is ‘Insider Churches’ not ‘Insider Movements’

From Effective Insider Discipling: Helping Arab World Believers From Muslim Backgrounds Persevere And Thrive In Community (pgs. 32-34):

For these three primary reasons, then, I cannot go along with the C5 approach to ministry among Muslims: (1) an unsatisfactory theology of conversion (2) the false, oppressive and ideological nature of Islam, and (3) an understanding of discipleship and the church that I believe is inconsistent with the Biblical witness. Therefore, I am firmly in agreement with Schlorff, when he states that:

The emergence of ‘a people movement to Christ that remains within Islam’ is not a legitimate objective from the biblical standpoint… I believe that the future of evangelical missions to Muslims lies with that approach that views the objective in terms of bringing Muslims into the kingdom of God as Jesus preached it; including leading them to faith in Christ, training and mentoring them in Christian discipleship and leadership, and gathering them into distinctly Christian flocks that retain social and cultural ties with Muslim society as much as possible, but without outwardly remaining Muslim.*70

It is this perspective on appropriate goals and approaches to contextualization in our missional task that shapes the reflection and research carried out in this thesis. This perspective on how to go about our ministry in the Islamic contexts of the Arab world, as well as elsewhere in the Muslim world, is well expressed by Tennent:

In short, one’s religious identity with Jesus Christ should create a necessary rupture with one’s Islamic identity, or else our identity in Jesus Christ would mean nothing… A more open witness in a straightforward, but contextually sensitive way seems to hold the greatest promise for effective and ethical Christian penetration into the Muslim world…. I think the best approach is to see C5 as a temporary, transitional bridge by which some Muslims are crossing over into explicit Christian faith, hopefully to one of a C3 or C4 character.*71

The goal of the kind of discipleship in the Islamic contexts of the Arab world that undergirds this research is one that sees our ministry task as evangelizing and then discipling BMBs into thriving multiplying churches that stand boldly in authentic culturally appropriate witness for Christ inside Muslim communities.

The goal is not to start insider movements, when the term ‘insider’ means Muslims staying in their original religious identity. However, I agree with Rebecca Lewis’s suggestion that the term ‘insider movement’ should also apply to movements that are staying within their family networks, in short, everything that this thesis envisions as effective discipling of BMBs within their families and communities.*72 The explicit discipleship goal throughout this thesis is to disciple in such a way that, as far as humanly possible, BMB disciples of Christ are able to stay within their networks of families and the Muslim communities in which they live. As Lewis’ suggestion implies, this can justly be called ‘insider discipleship’ and ‘insider church planting’. The ‘insider’ vision in this thesis is to disciple new believers and plant churches that express uncompromisingly bold and culturally appropriate witness for Christ inside Muslim families and communities.

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*70 Schlorff, Missiological Models, 146-7.

*71 Tennent, Theology in the Context of World Christianity, 217. [Entire chapter of that book reprinted here.]

*72 Lewis makes the following intriguing statement: “I believe that the term ‘insider movement’ should apply to all movements to Christ where the believers are staying within where the culture is itself going, sociologically and religiously, and not be limited only to people groups that are staying in their original religious context. As long as the movement to Christ is staying within networks of families, and is not pulling people out of their networks into new networks… it should be considered an ‘insider movement.’ See Gary Corwin, with responses from Brother Yusuf, Rick Brown, Kevin Higgins, Rebecca Lewis and John Travis, "A Humble Appeal to C5/Insider Movement Muslim Ministry Advocates to Consider Ten Questions," IJFM 24, no. 1 (January-March 2007): 18.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Cape Town 2010 Podcasts

Podcasts are being offered to make the video and audio content from Cape Town 2010 easily available to Christians around the world. Subscribe using the links below.
  

Cape Town 2010 Video Podcast

This podcast will include video of all plenary and multiplex sessions at Cape Town 2010, as well as daily video reports.
Note: Videos may not be compatible with older iPods.
Podcasts Subscribe

Cape Town 2010 Audio Podcast

This podcast will include audio of all plenary and multiplex sessions at Cape Town 2010.
Podcasts Subscribe
Subscribing to Podcasts

Clicking the links above will take you to an RSS page that is used by your Podcast program. You will need to "Copy" the URL address of this page. You will later "Paste" this URL address into the Podcasting program you choose to subscribe to your Podcasts.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Effective Insider Discipling: Helping Arab World Believers From Muslim Backgrounds Persevere And Thrive In Community

Someone recently emailed me a DMin Thesis titled, “Effective Insider Discipling: Helping Arab World Believers From Muslim Backgrounds Persevere And Thrive In Community.”  I have found it to be intriguing, edifying, and highly relevant to the purpose of Circumpolar. 

It is a lengthy read (279 pages), but the conclusion is only about 20 pages and very helpful.  The paper gives a robust model of discipleship for MBBs and much practical advice concerning many of the thorny issues we face in our context.

If you would like a copy emailed to you, post a comment below with your email (you can delete it later).  I might ask you a couple questions before I actually email it to you.  The author (not me) does not want it posted on-line.

Here is the Abstract:

Around the world many Muslims are being introduced to Jesus Christ and choosing to follow him. Of the many challenges in this ministry to Muslims, one that is being increasingly seen as crucial, is the discipling of these men and women who are trying to live as disciples of Christ in their Muslim communities.

This research into the discipleship of Arab world believers from Muslim backgrounds (BMBs) is first placed in the missiological context of the ongoing debate on contextualization in ministry to Muslims. The author then provides exegetical and theological grounding for his research through an examination of discipleship in the New Testament, and missiological and methodological grounding through a review of the literature that addresses ministry in Muslim contexts.

Then, in the fourth chapter, the author analyzes the findings from seventy-five interviews that he conducted with disciplers ministering to BMBs in twelve countries. The analysis covers the nature and processes of discipling, the obstacles and challenges of the Arab world context, community and identity issues in discipleship, and ways of handling common discipleship challenges.

In the final chapter, the author draws his conclusions together into his Living Pyramid Model of Relational Communal Discipleship and highlights some of the great practical advice obtained for overcoming key discipling challenges. He then offers suggestions for further research and suggests some possible benefits from the study to those ministering to the Muslims of the Arab world and beyond.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

D.A. Carson on C5

Here is a talk on 1 Cor. 9:19-23 by D.A. Carson titled, “That By All Means I Might Win Some: Faithfulness and Flexibility in Gospel Proclamation.

This is an often quoted text in Muslim ministry, used differently by various camps.  So I naturally gravitated towards this talk when first I heard about it, but I was surprised to hear Carson open up the talk by referring to the C1-C6 spectrum!  C5 is not his only topic, but he refers to it several times.

I think he has some new insights for me, but I think he could have said them differently when referring to C5.  And I know some readers of Circumpolar will probably keel over when they hear Carson use the dreaded “C” words (i.e. Christian and convert)… it makes me feel uncomfortable!

Here are some notes on the passage, “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews…”  According to Carson, Paul has to flex because…

  1. he doesn’t belong to any of these categories anymore. [Key insight for me.]
  2. he wants to win people in all of these categories.
  3. he longs to participate in the gospel category.

Here are some relevant quotes (although you should listen to them in context):

“There are idols everywhere… That is where the mistake of C5 is so desperately profound; it doesn’t recognize that there are idols in every culture… and all of us, to become Christians, must leave those idols behind and come under the New Covenant… but the aim is not to leave [Muslims] as C5- Christ Centered Community #5?  How is it a Christ Centered Community anymore?  It isn’t a Christ-Cent… it’s basically a Muslim community with a little bit of Christian gloss.  The whole point is to get them into the “third position” [i.e. neither Jew nor Pagan]- the Christian position, do you see?  From which they then may speak intelligently of flexing in order to do whatever things are not escaping the mandate of what it means to be under the law to Christ in order to win their particular communities.”

“The flexibility and accommodation envisaged in this paragraph are the flexibility and accommodation of the messenger, not the message, and not the convert!  He does not want the Jews to remain as they are, he does not want those who don’t have the law to remain where they are.  Muslim converts would show that they’ve got this not by remaining indistinguishable from other Muslims except that they’ve tacked on a bit of follower of Jesus language.  But now by so identifying with the “third position” [i.e. neither Jew nor Pagan]- with the gospel, with Jesus, with the cross, they are Christians, and now they will have to flex to win their own fellow Muslims.  Or to win Hindus.  Or to win Westerners.”

I assume Carson here is speaking in religious as opposed to cultural categories when he speaks of “Jew” and “Christian” and “Gentile/Pagan.”

What is Diaspora Missiology?

From the Lausanne Conversation titled Diaspora Missiology:

"Diaspora Missiology" has emerged as a biblical and strategic field of missiology and is defined by the Lausanne Diaspora Educators Consultation (Read about this consultation at http://www.lausanne.org/diaspora-2009/consultation-on-diaspora-missions.html) as: a missiological framework for understanding and participating in God’s redemptive mission among people living outside their place of origin. 

Diaspora Missiology necessitates interdisciplinary study of academic fields related to who, what, when, where, and how populations are moving (e.g. anthropology, demography, economics, geography, history, law, political science, and sociology) and classic missiological study (e.g. theology, missiology, biblical studies, evangelism).

Monday, October 4, 2010

Subscribe to Seedbed

Seedbed is a publication of Arab World Ministries and has been around for a long time.  Now that AWM is merging with Pioneers, Pioneers will continue to publish Seedbed, but will expand its focus to ministry of Muslims globally, rather than mainly  focused on Arabs.

Seedbed is available free of charge electronically.
Donations to help with expenses are welcome!
Send your subscription request to: subscription.seedbed [at] wornet.org

Below is a screen shot of the table of contents from the most recent issue, which you can get in pdf after writing to the address above.

image

Sunday, October 3, 2010

4 Days of Incredible Prayer – Hajj 2010

 

Praying Through the Arabian Peninsula has put together this video to mobilize prayer for the world of Islam and Muslims going on Hajj during Nov 14-17, 2010.  Download the 4 day prayer guide here.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Hermeneutical Hinge to the Insider Debate

Ok so the title of this post is (more than) a little presumptuous.  But humor me for a bit, and please let me know if you think I’m off target here...

Those wishing to promote Insider movements in Muslim contexts maintain a key assumption in their arguments, that just as Jews who came to Christ in the 1st Century remained Jews, then Muslims who come to Christ today can remain Muslims.

Opponents of this assumption respond that Islam’s 1st Century parallel is not Judaism, but Paganism.  Pagans were not allowed to remain Pagans, but took on a new religious identity when they came to Christ.

The debate largely revolves around how you view Islam.  Is it simply a false/evil/dark religion to be delivered from?  Or is it just another part of the world system that one can remain salt and light within?

Of course, Insider proponents will usually say that you must differentiate between Mohammed/Qur’an and Islam.  Thus you will notice Insiders trying to redefine Islam and look at it through the Jesus/Bible lens.

Nevertheless, the way we approach the “Messianic Muslim” issue depends largely upon  how we see Islam.  When looking at the New Testament, is Islam more like Judaism or Paganism?  Or, is it even theologically justifiable to compare Islam to 1st Century Judaism, given the nature of the New Covenant and its continuity with the Old Testament?

Hermeneutics, man.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Lausanne III – The Most Diverse Gathering Ever

Both Abdul Asad and I will be attending Lausanne III in Cape Town this month.  Please pray for us. 
If you’re interested in the required reading for the Congress, check out www.lausanne.org/prepare.
Below is a recent article from CT about Lausanne- The Most Diverse Gathering Ever: Lausanne III is pulling a cross-section of 4,000 world leaders to keep the gospel front and center:
The Lausanne movement's third global gathering will feature a younger, more ethnically diverse, and more geographically varied consortium of evangelical leaders than ever before.
The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, known as Cape Town 2010, will take place next month, October 16β5, with 4,000 leaders from 200 countries. Planners have made sure that 55 percent of participants are under age 50.
Billy Graham convened the first International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland, in July 1974, drawing 2,700 evangelicals from 150 nations. The parley comprised mostly white Western leaders at a time when the massive growth of Christianity in the developing world had just begun. British pastor-theologian John Stott served as chief architect of the Lausanne Covenant, which resulted in multiple alliances and spawned many other conferences. The second gathering, held in Manila in 1989, drew an influx of attendees from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and also incorporated Pentecostals and charismatics.
This time around, Americans aren't dominating the behind-the-scenes preparation or the on-stage program. Only 5 of the 25 members of the congress's Advisory Council, which has developed a theological foundation and strategic vision for the event, are from the U.S.
Two-Thirds World Showcased
Program Committee Chair Ramez Atallah, general secretary of the Bible Society of Egypt, pushed for a discussion format of seating six attendees per table, discussing speeches that will be shorter than those from years past.
"We don't want people to come because of big names," Atallah says. "We're not choosing the stars of the evangelical world to speak. People coming to be entertained by great speakers and great music will be disappointed. They could get that sitting at home, watching television."
Executive Chair Doug Birdsall, an Asian Access missionary based at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, doesn't have the name recognition of his Lausanne predecessors. But he has painstakingly guided the event planning to include a cross-section of pastors, scholars, academics, missionaries, educators, and business leaders. Two-thirds of the speakers and presenters are from Africa, Latin America, and Asia, where two-thirds of today's evangelicals live.
"If it's the whole church, it needs to be people from north, south, east, and west," Birdsall says. "These leaders, carefully chosen from thousands of applicants, will represent the demographic, theological, and cultural realities of the global church."
Leighton Ford, program chairman for Lausanne 1974 and chair of ongoing committees 15 years later, says Americans will leave Cape Town understanding the importance of listening to and being helped by leaders from other parts of the world.
"Back then we thought we had quite a bit to give—and we did," says Ford, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, and adviser for this year's Lausanne. "Now we have a great deal to receive. It's an attitude change that will result."
Atallah says Western evangelical leaders tend to be goal- and result-oriented, adopting a view of Christian work and life that mimics a business model. He hopes Americans focus on ministry relationships rather than donor responses.
"When Americans evaluate things, they do so from a grid that is counterintuitive to the New Testament," Atallah says. The grid "goes counter to the relational model that Africans and many other cultures espouse."
Birdsall says evangelism and social justice must go hand in hand. In light of pluralistic societies and the New Atheism, he says, Christians are more likely to embrace justice and mercy matters at the expense of the foundational truths that Jesus is the only way to God and that Scripture is the ultimate authority. It's never hard to find enough American churchgoers to build a house, but drawing interest in a Bible study is another matter, says Birdsall.
"There is a concern that our message is offensive, so there is a tendency to downplay it because respectability and likeability are important to us," Birdsall says. "If we do everything but proclaim the message, that's just a partial gospel."
Korean American Michael Oh, president of Christ Bible Seminary in Nagoya, Japan, embodies the way the global church has changed since Lausanne I. The 39-year-old is responsible for shepherding the younger leaders at Lausanne III.
"We hope to witness in Cape Town a strengthening of healthy generational cooperation and, Lord willing, the beginning of a more deliberate generational transition globally in terms of leadership," Oh says. "It will be an incredible opportunity for younger leaders to pray, worship, repent, and strategize alongside more experienced leaders."
Birdsall is optimistic that Cape Town 2010 will feature a proper blend of wisdom from veteran leaders who make well-informed decisions, and energy from younger Christians to carry them out.
This is the first time such a global gathering will be truly global via technology. Not only can individuals watch proceedings on the Internet, there will also be 400 anchor sites providing global links in 60 nations. Participants at theological institutions, mission sites, and churches worldwide will be able to interact with those at the congress.
Islam and other Strategic Challenges
Questions facing the church from within and without are enormous. Cape Town 2010 will tackle key issues that confront the church's effectiveness in world evangelization, ranging from consumerism to child sex trafficking. Birdsall says the congress will deal with three themes: the impact of secularism; the challenge of other faiths; and the nature of the church, specifically the problems of fragmentation and superficiality among evangelicals.
Islam is at the fore of challenges from other faiths. "Islam is a globally coordinated and unbelievably well-funded aggressive movement," Oh says. "The church needs to ask whether it will be reactionary or proactive in engagement."
"It's a great temptation to look upon Muslims as enemies rather than as people God loves," Ford says.
Rick Warren, whose Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, has trained 400,000 pastors from 64 countries, advocated for Cape Town as the host site. He is on the Lausanne III Advisory Council.
"The church is truly the only global organization on the planet," Warren said in June at one of twelve pre-congress gatherings at U.S. churches. "My prayer for Lausanne is that we show why we do what we do."
Cape Town 2010 is designed to be a catalyst for church leaders to form partnerships to spread the Good News and to make disciples. Still, unity within a less homogeneous contingent than the first Lausanne might be easier to declare than to implement.
"The issue of cooperation and partnership is just as vital as it was back then—and sometimes just as hard to achieve," Ford says. "The church is growing rapidly among the poor, and we have a great deal to learn from them."
At this point, Birdsall believes he and other planners have done everything humanly possible to make sure Cape Town 2010 goes as planned.
"We want to make sure we don't plan so carefully that we leave God out of it," Birdsall says. Now he's focusing on asking for prayer from the faithful.
John W. Kennedy is a contributing editor for Christianity Today. To join the conversations at this year's congress, visit Lausanne.org/globalinkreg.