- Written by: Gordon Preece
Gordon Preece teases out some of the tensions inherent in the Lausanne Movement.
Lausanne III in Cape Town was a fabulous smorgasbord of global Evangelicalism. But like any smorgasbord there were some dishes or flavours in tension with each other—you can have a bit too much of too many good things. These tensions go back to the origins of the Lausanne movement and Covenant in 1974, especially Articles Five and Six and their wrestling with the relationship between evangelism and social concern which I’ll quickly trace into the contemporary context.
Different flavours of the Lausanne Covenant and global and local evangelicalism
Article Five robustly affirms God as creator of all, in his image. It is concerned not to confuse political liberation with salvation but also not to lose sight of the totally transformative, reconciling effects of the Gospel on individuals and society against all forms of oppression. This synthesised much evangelical thinking on mission since the 1960s and represented ‘a big step forward’.(1)
However, ‘the tension already present in the Lausanne Covenant between the above balanced statement from Article Five and the prioritized statement of Article Six that ‘in the church’s mission of sacrificial service evangelism is primary’ remained unresolved. This was despite several consultations of the Lausanne Theology Group and the eirenic efforts of its chair John Stott to encourage biblical balance and global understanding.
The conflict over various relative prioritisations of proclamation and social concern was evident in the Australian context in the infamously divisive Melbourne EFAC meeting in 1982. My then Sydney Anglican Rector returned from exile to tell his disbelieving humble curate (me) that John Stott was ‘a dangerous man’. Stott had spoken from Luke 4 about Jesus’ message of holistic, integral salvation for individuals and societies, arousing much reaction. This was reinforced by Melbourne Evangelicals affirming women’s ordination, over against the oppression of women in society and church. Stott did not return to these shores for 20 years.
Soon after, Lausanne’s Grand Rapids Consultation on the Relationship between Evangelism and Social Concern saw Stott seek to judiciously reconcile Articles Five and Six of the Lausanne Covenant. It describes three views of social action in relation to evangelism.
1. Christian social action is a consequence of evangelism since those involved in it are Christians … saved ‘for good works’ … one of the purposes of evangelism.
2. Social action is a bridge to evangelism since it expresses God’s love and … eliminates prejudices and opens the way for the proclamation of the gospel.
3. Social action is a partner of evangelism and is related to it in Christian mission like a husband and a wife in a marriage, two blades of a pair of scissors or the two wings of a bird.
However, the document still saw evangelism as having ‘limited’, ‘conceptual’ primacy: logically (or is it chronologically?) because it is by Christians who have been evangelised and discipled; and theologically since ‘evangelism relates to people’s eternal destiny and in bringing them good news of salvation Christians are doing what nobody else can do’.(2) Although allegedly theoretical, this still implied a subordinationist marriage between ‘male’ evangelism and ‘female’ social concern.
There was dissatisfaction with Grand Rapids’ albeit limited prioritisation of evangelism from missiologists from the Global South like Andrew Kirk and David Bosch (South America and Africa respectively) and the World Evangelical Fellowship’s Wheaton 1983 statement ‘Transformation: The Church in Response to Human Need’. The latter recognises that evangelism is essential: ‘only by spreading the gospel can the most basic need of human beings be met: to have fellowship with God’.(3) Seeing God’s Kingdom as ‘the goal of transformation’, this document provides in Rene Padilla’s view, ‘the strongest affirmation of commitment to integral mission in the last quarter of the twentieth century. It clearly affirms that ‘evil is not only in the human heart but also in social structures. The mission of the church includes proclamation of the gospel and its demonstration [or to use Sydney Anglican, John Dickson’s helpful phrase, Promoting the Gospel]. We must therefore evangelize, respond to immediate human needs, and press for social transformation’.(4)
Sadly, the latter emphasis was not sufficiently incorporated into Lausanne II in Manila which stressed the isolation of evangelism from social responsibility, but gave social justice a belated guernsey for a ten minute plenary at the end, although the Manila Manifesto still ratified the Lausanne Covenant commitment to socio-political involvement as an essential aspect of mission.
Application to workplace mission
Let’s see how this tension played out in practice in my own speciality, workplace mission. Lausanne II affirmed the role of the laity in the workplace, as part of the Great Commandment and its overflow into social concern, but only as a means to evangelism. There was no articulation of the intrinsic worthwhileness of what most Christians do with most of their lives as an expression of the creation commission to rule over the earth in Genesis 1:26–28 or as an act of holistic sacrificial worship with body and mind (Romans 12:1–2). This gospel utilitarianism leads to a sacred, clericalised view of Christian mission and ministry as a privatised, residential and recreational activity. It devalues the secular and public arenas of work and life and restricts the reach of the Gospel. The latter has empirical verification in Mark Russell’s The Missional Entrepreneur, a study of businesses set up by Christians in Thailand. Those set up as an excuse to evangelise, not only failed as businesses, in one case going bankrupt, but also evangelistically. The businesses that had an integrated approach with integrity, seeking to reflect the rule of God’s kingdom in their practices, were five times more effective in making disciples.
This Sacred-Secular Divide is addressed by Mark Greene in his latest booklet. Greene’s London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, set up by Stott, is a leading advocate for workplace ministry as crucial to churches expressing integral mission. It has had profound effects on the church in England through its re-imagining of church life in terms of whole-life discipleship.
In our workplace multiplex for about 800 delegates in Capetown I reaffirmed the creedal trinitarian framework of three Commissions or mandates I’d stressed as theologian for the Marketplace Ministry stream in Pattaya in 2004. I asked: ‘If Lausanne I gave us the Great Commission (of the Son) and Lausanne II gave us the Great Commandment (of the Spirit), would Lausanne III give us the Creation Commission (Genesis 1:26–28) of the Father and Creator?’ (though all three cooperate in each other’s leading work). Another way of putting this is to ask if the 10/40 window(5) of Lausanne II will be complemented by equal emphasis on the 9 to 5 window of workplaces of all types.
Evangelicalism’s constant quibbling over evangelism versus social concern can only be solved by going back to the trinitarian creeds beyond the modern Enlightenment and its Evangelical child’s internalisation of the Kingdom to the soul, not the body,(6) and privatisation of religion to bedroom but not also boardroom and ballot-box ethics. We need to have a balanced view of Christian and human life and work in the light of the divine Trinity’s life and work. The upside down pyramid that sees the laity serving the clergy or professional priestly and missional class needs to be turned right side up, for the clergy’s sake as much as the laity’s. Clergy, or better, paid church workers (representing Sunday or church gathered) serve or equip the laity (Ephesians 4:12 ff) (the people of God scattered on Monday) in the world—of work(s) (paid or unpaid) that we have been predestined and saved for (Ephesians 2:10). These ideas were incorporated in the Lausanne Draft Commitments taken down by Chris Wright, Stott’s successor as chair of the Lausanne Theology group. They will be released in December. Lindsay Brown, the director of Lausanne summed it up well: “Lausanne III seeks to reach all people groups and all spheres of society, for as Abraham Kuyper said—‘there is not one square inch of the universe over which Jesus does not say ‘This is mine’.”
Gordon Preece is Director of Ethos: Evangelical Alliance Centre for Christianity and Society and Senior Minister at Yarraville Anglican Church. A complete version of this article appears in EA’s Faith and Life.
1. Rene Padilla, ‘From Lausanne I to Lausanne III’, Journal of Latin American Theology, vol. 5, no. 2, 2010, pages 19–20.
2. John Stott, Making Christ Known (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1996), 182–3.
3. Vinay Samuel and Chris Sugden, The Church in Response to Human Need (Oxford: Regnum, 1987), page 260.
4. Ibid, page 254.
5. The 10/40 window is a term coined by missionary strategist Luis Bush for those regions of the eastern hemisphere located between 10 and 40 longitudes, particularly Islamic, Hindu and Chinese groups.
6. Padilla (pages 40, 30) critiques the NIV Study Bible’s commentary on its poor translation of Luke 17:12 ‘the kingdom of God is within you’ [as opposed to ‘amongst you’ i.e. in Jesus] probably indicating that the kingdom is spiritual and internal (Matthew 23:26) rather than physical and external (cf John 18:36)’. But how could Jesus say the kingdom of God was within the Pharisees? N. T. Wright elsewhere describes such translations and comments as ‘retrojections into the first century of a 19th century Romantic ideal of religion in which outward things are bad and inward things good’ (Jesus and the Victory of God [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996], page 290).
- Written by: David Williams
Have Evangelicals made any progress since Manila? David Williams investigates.
The first Lausanne congress in 1974 has been described as the place where evangelicals re-discovered their social conscience. The relationship between evangelism and social action was hotly debated, particularly as a result of the input of majority world theologians like Rene Padilla and Samuel Escobar. Article Five of the covenant stated:
We affirm that God is both the Creator and the Judge of all men. We therefore should share his concern for justice and reconciliation throughout human society and for the liberation of men and women from every kind of oppression. Because men and women are made in the image of God, every person, regardless of race, religion, colour, culture, class, sex or age, has an intrinsic dignity because of which he or she should be respected and served, not exploited. Here too we express penitence both for our neglect and for having sometimes regarded evangelism and social concern as mutually exclusive. Although reconciliation with other people is not reconciliation with God, nor is social action evangelism, nor is political liberation salvation, nevertheless we affirm that evangelism and socio-political involvement are both part of our Christian duty.(1)
Alongside this commitment to social responsibility, the Lausanne covenant also affirmed in Article Six that ‘in the Church’s mission of sacrificial service evangelism is primary.’(2) Article Five and Article Six beautifully encapsulate the tension behind the conversation at Lausanne 1974.
In the years following the first Lausanne conference, holistic or integral mission has become accepted orthodoxy for many evangelicals. Chris Wright, convenor of the Theology Working Group for Lausanne 2010, endorses the following quote in his book The Mission of God:
There is no longer a need to qualify mission as ‘holistic’, nor to distinguish between ‘mission’ and ‘holistic mission.’ Mission is, by definition, ‘holistic’ and therefore ‘holistic mission’ is, de facto, mission.(3)
Despite this assertion, it was clear at Cape Town that the debate over holistic mission is still alive and kicking. This was most evident in John Piper’s bible study on Ephesians 3.(4) Piper expounded the cosmic purpose of God, who makes known his wisdom to the demonic powers of the universe through the mystery of the gospel. Jews and Gentiles together are objects of God’s wrath. God’s abundant, overflowing love puts the Lord Jesus Christ between us and God’s wrath. This reality confronts us with two truths: first, when the gospel takes root in our souls, it compels us to share Christ’s love. Second, when the gospel takes root in our souls, it awakens us to the horror of eternal perishing and impels us to proclaim ‘flee the wrath to come.’ Piper sought to recapture the language of the primacy of evangelism from Article Six of the Lausanne covenant with the following proposition: ‘For Christ’s sake, Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering.’
This emphasis was also apparent in Ajith Fernando’s exposition of Ephesians 1 and Vaughan Roberts’ exposition of Ephesians 4. Fernando stressed the vital importance of proclamation of God’s word, stating that ‘evangelism has never been popular, but people without Christ are lost for eternity.’ Roberts pointed to a famine of the Word of God today, arguing that there is no greater mission need than those who will minister God’s Word in the church and the world. Strikingly, the same theme was heard in a series of testimonies from majority world missionaries operating from contexts of poverty who have prioritised proclamation and disciple-making.
The Cape Town Commitment
The main output of the third Lausanne Congress is called the Cape Town Commitment.(5) Part One of the document was released on the last day of the conference. Part Two will be completed in December and will be a call to action arising out of the listening process of the conference. However, since Part One of the Cape Town Commitment was written before the conference started, the debate about the nature of mission that took place at the conference is not captured in this document.
This is especially significant because of the kind of document that the Cape Town Commitment purports to be. At?the conference the document was introduced to us as expressing the ‘core elements of our Biblical faith.’ This is a huge statement. If the document had been written as ‘a conversation about evangelical missiology’ it could provide a reference point for discussion and debate. But to present it in such creedal terms as a ‘declaration of belief’ means that it must bear very close scrutiny.
The Cape Town Commitment is framed in the language of love, structured around ten statements each beginning ‘We love …’. There is much that is good within these ten statements and a number of contemporary missiological issues are given attention. These include the fraudulent nature of prosperity teaching, the significance of Bible translation and the need to critique secular worldviews, to give just three examples. Creation care and environmental advocacy also feature at several points. However, the focus on God’s wrath and the reality of hell so powerfully articulated by Fernando and Piper is largely absent from the document.
However, it is not only conservatives who are unhappy. Blogging after the conference, Rene Padilla has written of his frustration that the pre-written conference statement was not debated and that there was no opportunity to change or develop the document. His particular concern, as in 1974, is that the language of primacy remains evident, when in his opinion it should be completely removed. So he argues that the distinction between ‘strengthening, inspiring and equipping the Church for the evangelisation of the world in our generation’, but only ‘exhorting Christians about their responsibility to participate in matters of public and social interest’ reflects an unhelpful and non-holistic balance.(6) He would prefer the language about social action to be as strong as the language about evangelism.
1974, 2010. What has changed?
David Williams is Director of Training and Equipping, CMS Australia, and leads the team at the CMS Australia Federal Training College, St Andrew’s Hall, Melbourne.
3. Wright, C. J. H. The Mission of God, IVP, 2007:323, quoting Jean-Paul Heldt, “Revisiting the Whole Gospel: Towards a Biblical Model of Holistic Mission in the 21st Century” Missiology?32 (2004): page 157.
6. http://www.kairos.org.ar/blog/?p=469. Thanks to Peter Blowes, CMS Australia, for explaining this Spanish-language blog.
God is on the move
- Written by: Stephen Hale
Stephen Hale presents his package of Cape Town highlights.
The Lausanne Movement had a stunning beginning in 1974, followed by a difficult mid-life around the time of the Manila Congress in 1989. The Movement seems to have re-invigorated itself to play a key role in being a catalyst for world evangelisation. Cape Town 2010 was a remarkable gathering with 4000 delegates from 198 countries.
Cape Town didn’t just talk about the big shifts in global Christianity, it captured and represented them. There was a strong and continuing presence upfront of speakers and presenters from the majority church. The big shift from North to South, West to East was visible and obvious. When people talked of mission being ‘from everywhere to everywhere’ you could really sense that God is at work in all sorts of remarkable and surprising ways.
The genius of Cape Town 2010 was the decision to share the study of the Word and major themes in Table Groups. Over four thousand people met each morning in more than 800 table groups of five or six people. I had the privilege of leading one of these groups. In my English-speaking group were two from Europe, two from North America and one charming young Indian evangelist. It meant that a significant chunk of time was set aside for interaction and consequently there was a pervasive sense of community.
One of the surprising sub-presentations was on the Anglican Communion. I went along mainly to meet people, but I was deeply moved to hear Archbishop Robert Duncan—Anglican Church in North America—talk of how God was greatly blessing an amazing new church planting movement coming out of the wreckage of the dispute within the Episcopal church. His four themes were:
1. Standing in God’s truth raises God’s allies.
2. Humility builds God’s partnerships.
3. God does lift up the lowly.
4. Personal conversion deepens Gospel suffering and sacrifice.
His overall thrust is that God is scattering the proud and lifting up the lowly.
There were too many strands and ideas at the Congress to capture here, but some highlights for me were:
We live in an ABC culture, ‘Anything But Christianity’ (Oz Guiness).
To hear God speak we need to share the Word of God together. It needs to be read, taught and shared together.
Mission energy and initiative now lies in the global South and East.
God seems to be raising up a new generation of evangelists in Australia. They are mainly young and mainly Asian.
Discipleship should be our number one priority. This is just as big a challenge in Australia as it is in Africa, South America and Asia.
The evangelism and social concern debate is no longer the major issue. We need to be involved in both, with evangelism as our major priority.
Worship is more pervasively charismatic seemingly everywhere. At the same time there is a re-discovery of liturgy, the arts and drama.
If we are going to reach Australia for Christ we will need to partner with people of other nations to help us to connect cross-culturally.
Leadership development is still critical and has re-invigorated my commitment to Arrow Leadership Australia and the Arrow Alliance.
Overall it was a great blessing to be at Cape Town. God is at work in our world and we have much to be thankful for and to be challenged by.
Stephen Hale is Senior Minister of St Hilary’s and St Silas’ Anglican Church, Kew. He was previously the Bishop of the Eastern Region of the Diocese of Melbourne. Stephen is also Chair of the Australian Board of Arrow Leadership.
- Written by: Wei-Han Kuan
Wei-Han Kuan introduces this Special Edition of Essentials.
You can’t go to Lausanne and not have your ministry changed. Or so I was told by one of its leaders. This edition of Essentials carries several reflections from EFAC members who attended the Third Congress on World Evangelisation, or Lausanne III, in Cape Town, South Africa. It is my hope that you will be encouraged to engage with the Lausanne Movement and appreciate the major role it plays in world evangelicalism.
Stephen Hale gives us his highlights package and pithy overview of what it might mean for evangelism in Australia.
David Williams brings his interest in holistic mission and missionary training to bear on his two reflections: one deals with the persistently vexed relationship between evangelism and social action, and the other with the notion of the shifting centre of global Christianity.
I asked two evangelists, Julie-Anne Laird and Eric Cheung, to respond to their Cape Town experience for us. So we have two perspectives: from a woman and a man, a lay person and a cleric, a university student worker and a parish minister.
Gordon Preece focuses on the ‘evangelism–social action’ chestnut, bringing his passion for workplace ministry to the fore.
Our national chairman, Glenn Davies, blogged during the congress. We carry an edited version of his final day’s reflection. You might be interested to read the entire blog at: www.sydneyanglicans.net
Congress sessions, testimonies, documents, plenary sessions, Bible studies, dramas—the whole lot!—are all available at the Lausanne Movement’s web site: www.lausanne.org
Wei-Han Kuan pastors young adults at St Alfred’s, North Blackburn, and is the editor of Essentials.
The One-Minute Gospel Explanation
- Written by: Karen Morris
As an evangelist I am always on the lookout for useful tools to helpfully explain the gospel. But there are some that just make me cringe! In a recent catalogue there was the "Eternity is Forever Pen”:
'The ultimate carry anywhere evangelism tool! Pull out the spring-loaded hidden sheet printed with the Evangecube images to 'Simply Share Jesus' with anyone, anywhere. This incredible pen, starts with a 'wow' and ends with a gospel presentation.'
I can't even begin to describe my horror that people would think this was a good idea. BUT I can understand WHY they produced it. The designers recognise that telling the gospel should be a joyful priority for Christians, and that most people can't do it in any coherent way. So they have a meeting and someone says, "I know!!! We'll make a pen with a scroll out gospel presentation and then Christians will just be able to explain it."