Lausanne: From Pattaya to Port Dickson to the Future

Time flies when you are enjoying doing the Lord’s work. It seems like only yesterday when I assumed the responsibility of International Director of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE) at Pattaya, Thailand. It is hard to believe that was two years ago. Now it is my delight to hand over the baton to Lindsay Brown. It is also time to reflect over the past two years of my Lausanne ministry.

Two years ago, I had a feeling of ambivalence about the future of Lausanne, but this is no longer the case. I wanted to believe that all would be well for the movement that had such a remarkable beginning in 1974. At the International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland, Billy Graham articulated the urgency of the evangelistic task. The Lausanne Covenant, a product of the Congress, has served as a unifying document for evangelicals around the world; it is focused on the singular task of evangelization.

Lausanne has a holistic understanding of evangelization. The Covenant emphatically declares, “Although reconciliation with man 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” (Section 5). The Lausanne mandate is to call the whole Church to take the holistic gospel to the peoples of the world.

Lausanne 2004 Forum for World Evangelization in Pattaya
The Lausanne Movement went through some quiet years following Lausanne II in 1989. But at Pattaya, Thailand, the 2004 Forum for World Evangelization assembled over 1,500 evangelical leaders from 130 countries to define the obstacles to effective evangelism in the twenty-first century. The Forum indeed contributed to the revitalization of Lausanne.

The Lausanne mandate is to call the whole Church to take the holistic gospel to the peoples of the world. 

Each of the thirty-one Issue Groups organized for the Forum produced a 25,000-word paper on its assigned topic. Reports of the thirty-one Issue Groups were placed online as the Lausanne Occasional Papers. David Claydon, former International Director, edited the Forum papers as the compendium in three volumes entitled A New Vision, A New Heart, A Renewed Call.

Lausanne is a team effort. Under the visionary and efficient leadership of its executive chair, Doug Birdsall, all of us work diligently, collaborating with one another. The administrative committee is the decision-making center that oversees the overall workings of Lausanne. It consists of people who have their own Lausanne responsibilities. The ministry of Lausanne is carried out by its various functional groups and Senior Associates. Furthermore, International Deputy Directors in eleven regions of the world work closely with ministries, churches and organizations in their respective areas to encourage them and network with them for the common cause. When highly motivated people of God work together, things tend to happen for the common good.

Lausanne Today and Into the Future
All Lausanne-related people are volunteers. As such, various tasks and events are accomplished by people with an entrepreneurial spirit. Among the programs planned during the past two years, I personally enjoyed attending the North American Consultation on “The Role of the Church in the HIV/AIDS Pandemic” held in Louisville, Kentucky, USA, in November 2005. The Church cannot be silent on this crucial issue. In May of this year the Asia Lausanne Committee hosted a conference in Manila on evangelizing Asia. It was another example of Lausanne people delving into issues of evangelization for effective implementation.

A bright future for Lausanne is assured because of the quality of younger leaders and their unfettered dedication to the Lord who commands them to make disciples. 

Recently, a friend asked me what I thought to be the most important challenge facing evangelicals in missions over the next fifty years. I told him it would be religious pluralism. In fact, it has been, is and will be in the future. It is the ideology that affirms the independent validity of all religions. Carried to its logical conclusion, it means that Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam are all equally true. People who think this way say, “All roads lead to God. A person’s religion is his or her own private business. Any attempt to persuade another person to a particular religious point of view constitutes an invasion of his or her privacy and an abrogation of his or her liberty.” In such a pluralistic climate, the evangelical Church must vigorously defend the uniqueness of Christ. Without it, our evangelistic efforts will become nullified. Lausanne can help the Church address this challenge.

Lausanne is a global network made up of people who firmly believe that their mandate is to repeatedly trumpet a fresh call to world evangelization until the Lord returns. The movement therefore must perpetuate itself by investing in the next generation of leaders. Investing in the Younger Generation Lausanne undertook the first Conference of Young Leaders in Singapore in 1987. Some of today’s mission and church leaders were present, including Doug Birdsall, Ajith Fernando, Peter Kuzmic, John Piper and Ramez Atallah.

Why did we recently have another Younger Leaders Gathering (YLG-06) in 2006? The answer is obvious. Lausanne needs to train its future leaders. A bright future for Lausanne is assured because of the quality of younger leaders and their unfettered dedication to the Lord who commands them to make disciples. The road from Pattaya to Port Dickson, Malaysia (where the YLG-06 was held) has been a clear pathway of hope. Now, the Spirit-guided participants of the YLG=06 will venture out with holy ambition to claim the world for Christ.

Tetsunao Yamamori is former international director of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE) and remains its senior advisor. He is currently senior fellow at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California.