Pressing on towards 2020 in Humility, Reflection, and Hope

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:1-5)

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed…For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:18-19, 24-25)

As we come to the end of 2010 and look ahead to 2011, as with every New Year celebrated around the world, we look back and remember the times behind us and look ahead with hope to start anew. And so it is for each milestone we celebrate throughout our lives. From the birth of new family members, birthdays, rites of passage, weddings, retirements, even funerals mark the beginning of new life in paradise with Christ.

It is the freshness of a new time of our lives, of things unmarked and unmarred, that beckons our hearts to draw closer in hope. It is only right and biblical that our hearts yearn for this. Genesis to Revelation illustrates how things started out in the purity and holiness of God, but was marred by sin. Yet the story ends triumphantly with the glorious new re-creation of how things ought to and will be.

And yet, right now we occupy the time and space in between Genesis and Revelation. As our brother Isaiah Dau (Sudan) writes, “We live in the tension of faith and suffering, even as we walk in the ‘already and the not yet’…. This faith offers us the option of continuing to trust God, even while we accept the limits of our humanity…”

This faith calls us to keep our eyes fixed on the hope of new creation that is promised in Christ and that will be fulfilled by his strength and his spirit, not our own (Zechariah 4:6).

This is what Billy Graham spoke of as the “Spirit of Lausanne” in his opening address of the first International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1974. It is a spirit of humility, reflection, and hope. It is in this spirit that we just concluded the Third Lausanne Congress: Cape Town 2010. It is in this spirit of humility, reflection, and hope that we continue to press on towards 2020 with the goals, energy, and momentum gained from Cape Town 2010.

It is my hope in 2020 that…

…as spoken by Chris Wright, we work towards nothing less than a twenty-first-century reformation of the Church. We must courageously engage in honest, prophetic self-critique and work towards making the Church his Church once again. We must call upon his grace and mercy, and the power of the Holy Spirit to make his Church marked by humility, integrity, and simplicity.

the evangelical Church will make progress in its relationships with the historic churches of the Christian faith. It is in this same spirit of humility and integrity that we must extend the hand of fellowship to the Catholic, Orthodox, and Ecumenical Church. We must embrace those in renewal movements, such as the Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Emergent. It is only in community with the churches of the past and of the present and future that the Church as a whole can move forward as a powerful witness in the world.

there will be greater authenticity in the Body of Christ and that the Church will move away from the individualism, hedonism, and fragmentation of our day, and towards humility, integrity, and especially simplicity. My hope is that the prosperity gospel so prevalent around the world today—as well as other problematic movements that often lead to self-aggrandizement and megalomania (e.g., mega-churches and the apostolic movement)—would be on the wane.

…a new generation of leaders (especially from the global South) first identified at the 2006 Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering will be further utilized. It is my hope that they will further develop and share one Spirit, one mind, one heart—and that in this unity they will lead our Church towards greater fellowship and authenticity.

the Church will be established in places where it has not yet been established. My hope is not to evangelize the world in specific terms on a specific timeline, but rather with a sense of unity, joy, hopefulness, and authenticity. My hope is to establish churches in unreached areas not by a specific method or timeline, but rather with the right spirit and heart, moving towards longer-term goals.

the Church will reclaim the university halls and classrooms for the Church to lead the way in caring for the needs of children and the powerless. It is my hope that the spirit of the first-century Church will be renewed in our day where the widows, children, and the powerless were cared for first and foremost by Christians. It was Christians who made it a priority to care for the powerless and the voiceless as they themselves often were the very same in the first century. It is Christians today who must return to identifying with the poor, powerless, and voiceless, and return to setting the standard in their care.

It is with this Spirit of humility, integrity, simplicity, and most importantly hope, that we face the great and many challenges of the new decade ahead. Just as the men of Issachar were noted for understanding their times and knowing what Israel should do (1 Chronicles 12:32), so too must we continue to seek the Lord to become men and women with keen perception of our times who develop vision to grapple with the issues.

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.