Christ-like Leadership and a Passion for the Gospel in the Lausanne Movement

It has only been a few short weeks since our wonderful Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering (YLG-06) in Malaysia (click here to read more about it). Let me share with you some words of great encouragement we have received concerning the conference.

One week after the gathering, I received a call from my long-time friend Dr. Paul Borthwick. He opened the conversation by saying, “The Younger Leaders Gathering was the most strategic gathering I have ever attended in my life.”

Dr. Peter Kuzmic, one of the YLG-06 plenary speakers, shared his enthusiasm: “I came away from the Younger Leaders Gathering greatly encouraged about the future of Lausanne. It is moving forward with vision, focus, an influx of energetic young leadership and with great promise for the future.”

Grace Samson, an exceptionally gifted young leader from South Africa who served on the Program Planning Team, wrote to say, “I cannot say it enough, I am so grateful that God allowed me to experience the best event ever in my life and ministry experience. Now I can confidently tell you that my life has been changed forever. I can sense that God will do far more through my life as a result of being part of YLG-06.”

What a powerful experience it was to be gathered together with 550 younger leaders between the age of 25 and 35 from 112 countries around the world! This group represented a microcosm of the global Church. Twenty-eight percent of the participants were from Western Europe, North America and Australia. Seven percent were from Eastern Europe. The majority (sixty-five percent) were from Africa, Latin America and Asia. These younger leaders were joined by 150 men and women from around the world who served as mentors, speakers, supporting personnel and Lausanne senior leaders.

What a powerful experience it was to be gathered together with 550 younger leaders from 112 countries around the world. This group represented a microcosm of the global Church.

In the course of the week, the younger leaders were familiarized with the heritage and the vision of the Lausanne Movement. They not only developed meaningful relationships with people from around the world, but caught the “spirit of Lausanne,” embracing the ideals of the Lausanne Covenant. Inspired by the “spirit of Lausanne,” nearly one hundred participants volunteered to help with planning for Lausanne III to be held in 2010.

Plans are in place for follow-up “Younger Leader Global Connections” to be held in all eleven regions of the world in the course of the next two years. These will be coordinated by our International Deputy Directors. We look forward to keeping you informed of these regional gatherings for younger leaders and plans continue to develop and unfold. Lausanne’s monthly enewsletter, the Lausanne Connecting Point, offers a wonderful way to stay connected with Lausanne and receive regular ministry updates from around the world.

We are so grateful for the hundreds of people who served in a variety of capacities over the course of the last two years for the Younger Leaders Gathering. Dr. Ted Yamamori stated, “I am hopeful for the future of world evangelization and for the future of the Lausanne Movement. God is raising up an outstanding new generation of leaders.”

Many other exciting events are also coming within the next year. Let me share them with you.

1. Budapest ’07: International Lausanne Leadership Meeting, June 2007
It is anticipated that the bi-annual meeting of the International Lausanne Leadership Team will bring together nearly 250 people in Budapest in June 2007. These meetings will be tremendously important as the public launching of plans for the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization to be held in 2010.

In addition to those who serve on the established leadership groups within Lausanne, four additional groups integral to the work of the Lausanne Movement will be included: Leighton Ford will convene a group of twenty-five senior leaders who were part of Lausanne’s “First Generation of Leadership”; Brian Stiller is organizing a 20-year reunion of those who were at the Singapore ’87 Younger Leaders Conference; and twenty-five younger leaders from the YLG-06 in Malaysia will be included as we work to intentionally assimilate this new talent into the Lausanne Movement. Finally, the Advisory Council and the Executive Leadership Team for Lausanne III will be with us.

We have invited the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) to participate with us in every dimension of planning and leadership for Lausanne III and we are delighted that Geoff Tunnicliffe, international director for WEA, and Dr. Bertil Ekstrom, recently appointed director of the WEA Mission Commission, will be serving with us.

2. Lausanne III: Leadership Team Building a Strong Foundation
Initial meetings were convened by Blair Carlson with Dr. Hwa Yung and Ramez Atallah to begin the planning process for Lausanne III. Yung, the Methodist Bishop of Malaysia and also the vice chair of the Asia Lausanne Committee, will serve as the chair of the Participant Selection Team for Lausanne III. Atallah, executive director of the Bible Society of Egypt and a long-time leader in Lausanne, will serve as chair of the Program Planning Team. Carlson, who served for twenty-six years as a crusade director for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has accepted the appointment to serve as the Congress director.

3. Oxford Consultation: “Integrity in Funding and Reporting”
A two-day meeting took place on 10-11 November 2006 in Oxford, England, to plan for a Lausanne Consultation to be convened next year on the topic of “Integrity in Funding and Reporting.” This preliminary meeting brought together eighteen leaders of foundations, international mission organizations and major ministries in the non-western world. The larger consultation, to be held in 2007, will seek to bring theological reflection and constructive solutions to some of the problems we are currently facing in the world evangelization enterprise. These issues have to do with inflated reporting, which is often generated in response to perceived pressure for quantifiable results. We are seeking to address the ways in which legitimate concerns can lead to unintended consequences.

4. Theology Working Group Consultation, February 2007
Dr. Chris Wright, chair of the Lausanne Theology Working Group (TWG), reports that good progress is being made in preparations for an agenda-setting consultation of the TWG to be held near Nairobi, Kenya in February 2007. This consultation, entitled “Following Jesus in Our Broken World,” will convene thirty to thirty-five mission theologians from around the world for a working consultation. This is planned as the first in a series of annual consultations for the Theology Working Group in preparation for Lausanne III. Wright says, “Our title, ‘Following Jesus in Our Broken World’ is intended to focus on the demands of radical discipleship, and the inseparable ethical dimensions of conversion. The title also encourages us to recognize that we are part of the brokenness of the world, in our very flawed Christian responses, attitudes and behaviours.”

As we look around at current events, toward future events and continue the development of younger leaders, my thoughts come back to the importance of the theme of the Younger Leaders Gathering: to live and lead like Jesus. This is not just a message for younger leaders; it is a message for all who have been called into Christian leadership and fellowship.

May our lives be reflections and very incarnations of Christ to reach out and transform the world with the power and hope of the gospel.

My prayer as we set our eyes toward 2007 is that in the face of adversity or uncertainty, we resolve to live even more intentionally and passionately as children of the light. May our lives be reflections and very incarnations of Christ to reach out and transform the world with the power and hope of the gospel.

As I close, I would like to ask for your prayers on two matters. First, please pray for wisdom and for God’s blessing as we work to strengthen our Lausanne regional networks in Africa and in Latin America. Second, please pray for Christ-like character, passion and integrity in all our Christian brothers and sisters, particularly those in positions of leadership, for the strengthening of the whole Church to more effectively take the whole gospel to the whole world.

May God continue to wonderfully bless you and your family during this blessed Christmas season as daily you share the redemptive news of our Savior’s birth.

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.