Radical Incarnational Ecclesiology as Focus of Lausanne Theology Working Group Consultation

Members of the Lausanne Theology Working Group met to
discuss “following Jesus in a broken world.”

The Lausanne Theology Working Group convened its conference, “Following Jesus in Our Broken World,” 12-17 February 2007 in Limuru, Africa, in partnership with the World Evangelical Alliance Theological Commission. This was an agenda setting consultation led by Lausanne Theology Working Group chair Christopher Wright. The gathering was hosted by Esther Mombo and St. Paul’s United Theological College and supported by Areopagos, Langham Partnership International and the Overseas Ministries Study Center. Nearly thirty participants representing over fifteen countries (sixty percent of the countries were from the global South) were in attendance for the strategic five-day meeting. This was the first of a series of consultations on key theological and missiological challenges facing the Church to be held in the years before the projected Third Lausanne Congress in 2010.

“Following Jesus in Our Broken World” focused on the demands of radical discipleship and the inherently inseparable ethical dimensions of Christian conversion. Participants grappled with the Church’s role and complicity in the brokenness of the world, through our limited and oftentimes very flawed Christian attitudes, behaviors and responses (or non-responses). The group met to discuss theological issues, missiological implications and case studies along six main themes:

  1. Following Jesus as unique Lord and Savior in the context of pluralism
  2. Following Jesus as his community in the context of ecclesiology and ethnicity
  3. Following Jesus in the context of power and violence
  4. Following Jesus in a world of suffering and disaster
  5. Following Jesus in the globalized marketplace
  6. Following Jesus as the truth in the context of postmodernity and relativism.

Each of the six main themes was considered for more attention in full consultations in the coming years. Additionally, there are plans for the resulting plenary papers and case studies for each of these six themes to be published later this year.

As the group wrestled with theological issues and strategic missiological implications from theme to theme, the questions that the group repeatedly found itself asking were: “What would happen if there was a withdrawal of the Christian presence in areas of great need and suffering?” and “What does it mean to have a Christian presence?” What was found lacking and in need of desperate development in the face of our suffering and broken world was a robust theology of incarnational ecclesiology.

As truth is experienced and communicated through proposition, presence and praxis, our ecclesiology must be further developed to more effectively and persuasively be both bearers and communicators of the truth to our suffering world. This is both our challenge and our greatest hope to be the witnesses God has called us to be and thereby further the cause of Christ in world evangelization.

Sandra S. K. Lee currently serves as a research associate with the Center for the Study of Global Christianity on the campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. She is also research assistant to Doug Birdsall, executive chair of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization.