Church History & World Evangelism

As we wrap up 2008, I am exceedingly grateful for all the developments in Lausanne over this past year. We recently had a wonderfully productive Lausanne leadership meeting in Argentina, which was generously hosted by Norberto Saracco, International Deputy Director for Latin America. The leadership team for Cape Town 2010: The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization has a full complement of leaders, and implementation is well underway for our program teams, participant selection teams, participant hosting teams, and communication teams. We also recently celebrated the third anniversary of Lausanne World Pulse.

These accomplishments could not have been made without the cooperative efforts of Christian leaders around the world who hold to the vision of Lausanne. This cohesiveness of vision and spirit could not be accomplished without consistent and conscientious reiteration of the original vision and purposes of Lausanne first articulated by convener Billy Graham in 1974: to bring leaders of the Church together to strategically and cooperatively evangelize the world. It is this vision that is in line with Christ’s own command to the first Christians to “go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and to be his witnesses “in Jerusalem, and all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Only by looking back at our history can we be
properly rooted and guided in our trajectory
for the future.

Only by looking back at our history can we be properly rooted and guided in our trajectory for the future as we: cull the wisdom and experiences of our forerunners, learn to avoid repeating mistakes, and appropriately translate their wisdom to be applied into our own times. By looking at history, we can be inspired by the saints who treaded before us, and as the writer of Hebrews said, be spurred on by “so great a cloud of witnesses…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (12:1).

In this issue of Lausanne World Pulse, I am delighted to present several perspectives on the influence of church history on today’s evangelism. Our International Director Lindsay Brown shares what evangelism lessons we can learn from the early Church. Jerry Kulah helps us understand the contexual realities of the Church in Liberia, and Steve Hawthorne sets our gaze on the history of the united, focused prayer movement and its role in evangelism. It is my prayer that as we engage further in thought, reflection, and action, that we will learn from our past and press on confidently and innovatively today and toward the future of bringing the gospel to our world.

God’s best to you as you witness for Jesus this Christmas season.

Doug Birdsall is executive chair of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. He served as president of Asian Access from 1991 to 2007 and continues to serve on their board of directors. Birdsall is a graduate of Wheaton College, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Harvard University. He is co-publisher of Lausanne World Pulse.