As we enter into the spring and Easter season, we are reminded of transformation, renewal and fresh beginnings. We as the global Church are indeed in the midst of great transformation and renewal. As Dana Robert, Philip Jenkins, Todd Johnson and other scholars have demonstrated, we are in the midst of an incredible shift of the center of gravity in world Christianity from the global North to the global South (see Bradley Coon’s article in this month's issue for more on this).
The average world Christian no longer looks like a middle class, middle-aged, Caucasian, North American male from a mainline denomination. Today, the average world Christian looks more like a subsisting 18-year-old African female from an independent, charismatic denomination. With this seismic shift of the center of gravity from the global North to the South, Lausanne is committed to being a movement that fully reflects the demographic and theological realities of the entire global Church. Although the world we live in is changing, our commitment remains the same—the whole Church bringing the whole gospel to the whole world. The only difference now is in our understanding of the composition of the “whole Church” and the “whole world” in our time.
This issue of Lausanne World Pulse, focusing on contextualizing the gospel, is especially relevant to this topic. As we adjust our view of the whole Church and the whole world, so too must we adjust how we share the whole gospel in ways that are effective, challenging and life-changing.
As the demographic realities of the Church change, Lausanne is committed to joining hands and raising up leaders with particular interest in the global South. This is to ensure that participation and leadership in the movement is reflective of the global Church. It is also to encourage synergistic cooperation and partnership, not domination between leaders from the North and the South.
As we adjust our view of the whole Church and the whole world, so too must we adjust how we share the whole gospel in ways that are effective, challenging and life-changing.
One such example of these efforts is illustrated in the 2006 Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering in Malaysia. Sixty-five percent of participants were from the global South, seven percent from Eastern Europe and twenty-eight percent combined from Western Europe, North America and Australia. Our commitment to being the whole Church bringing the whole gospel to the whole world was not only espoused, but embodied and celebrated.
Lausanne is not only committed to being reflective of the global realities of the Church, but to providing a platform, especially to a new generation of leadership. We as the Church need to hear the prophetic voices from both the North and the South. It is our hope that by providing a platform, we can all hear the voices from the South in particular to help overcome the negative association of the Church with the “West.” In reality, the Church in the West is a minority. Christianity is truly a global religion.
Lausanne is also committed to finding a new equilibrium in which the Church as a whole can interact. The dramatic shift from the North to the South is tremendous in terms of population; however, it remains dramatically uneven in terms of resources. Much of the financial, educational and technological resources continue to reside in the North, although the demographic resources have shifted south. In light of this disequilibrium, Lausanne is committed to finding a new equilibrium where North and South may interact with each other synergistically on the basis of shared calling, vision, need, resources and mutual respect.
It is indeed time for the whole Church to bring the whole gospel to the whole world. How we do this will change as we come to terms with the shift in the global Church’s center of gravity. But that we will do it is unwavering. This is our shared commitment, vision and call. To him be the glory forever. Amen.