Cape Town 2010, One Year Following: A Report from Africa

Given that Africa is one-fifth of the landmass of the world, plus the fact that participants came to the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelisation from all over this vast continent, it is impossible to accurately measure the impact the congress made throughout the continent.

However, one can make an educated guess from the number of African participants that the congress made an enormous impact around the continent.

Lausanne III gave African Christians a new sense of pride in not only what our continent has already achieved, but what is still to come. Many believe that in the twenty-first century Africa could become the major fulcrum of world mission, such is the zeal of the Lord’s people across this continent.

Below are key outcomes of Lausanne III from an African perspective.

Global fellowship. “The congress brought people together,” said Archbishop Henry Orombi, chair of the African Host Committee.

According to John Kalenzi of Uganda,

The fact of so many attending nationals from all over the world helped me to develop and appreciate a global perspective on my little corner of the world, and bring me to a new level of awareness of the need to pray for many political and social issues that are pertinent to the work of the Kingdom of God around the world.

John Kalenzi of Rwanda shared that Lausanne III brought him many “connections with new friends, thereby enhancing the sense of global connectedness and belonging.”

Many African participants were encouraged through discussion tables during the congress and have continued to stay in touch with new friends around the world. This is producing a significant cross-pollination of ideas as well as inspirational fellowship.

In South Africa, for example, Peter Tarantal (executive director of Operation Mobilisation), Moss Nthla (general secretary of the Evangelical Association of South Africa), and Miles Giljam, the new team leader of African Enterprise, decided to host workshops in five major cities around South Africa. Cape Town 2010 participants shared their impressions with a cross-section of hundreds of leaders.

The group then worked through what The Cape Town Commitment would mean for the Church in South Africa. These workshops were called “Beyond Cape Town 2010.” To make the workshops more effective, the deputy principal of the South African Theological Seminary condensed the Commitment into a few pages. Participants were then encouraged to read and study the Commitment as a whole.

Organizers had three objectives: (1) to encourage those present to implement what was relevant to them in their particular contexts, (2) to plan for cooperation in their cities, and (3) to come up with pointers for what should be dealt with nationally.

This was followed by a Christian Leaders Consultation held 19-21 July in Johannesburg. Here, the outcomes identified in the workshops received further attention and focus.

Methodology and strategy. Many, such as Enoch Phiri of Malawi, found that the congress impacted how they do evangelism. Phiri’s experience deepened his understanding of evangelism as he was involved in preaching in schools, home cells, colleges, churches, funerals, and marketplaces through Mission Africa. The congress not only had a strong theological and intellectual component, but included vigorous teaching about new methodologies and strategies for effective evangelistic outreach.

The Cape Town Commitment. The Commitment is an historic statement of faith in the tradition of the 1974 Lausanne Covenant and the 1989 Manila Manifesto. Many people are reading the Commitment, studying it, and sharing it with others. In my own monthly email news/prayer letter, I have been sharing extracts from the Commitment. As people get bite-sized sections, they can study them, absorb them, and then apply them.

Partnership. Leonard Kiswangi of Congo shared that “more and more church leaders are realising the paradigm shift from individualism and isolation into partnership in the work of mission.” 

He believes the matchmaking experience under Mission Africa “remains one of the major legacies of the congress….This approach is continuing to create more and more openings for ministry synergy.” For example, the work in Burkina Faso with brothers and sisters from the Francophone network is now opening doors in other French-speaking countries as well.

In African Enterprise, we have found this kind of partnership very encouraging. Our team in Rwanda was recently joined by others from Kenya, England, the USA, and Niue for an evangelistic outreach in the needy area of Gisenyi.

Many Africans are excited about not only receiving and experiencing such partnerships from people overseas, but are looking forward to African evangelists experiencing further cross-pollination by ministering in Europe or North America. This gives both credence and reality to one of the key recommendations of Lausanne that “mission is from everywhere to everywhere by everyone.” This mutual interdependence and developing worldwide synergy for evangelism is has significant potential for long-term impact.

We have also been encouraged by the report from Songe Chibambo, who (with Scott Lenning, Eliot Winks, Blair Carlson, and others) was instrumental in bringing forth the Mission to Africa programme. When the group recently met in Boston for the Lausanne Biennial Leadership Meeting, they spoke with leaders from Russia, the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, USA, China, Australia, and South America who expressed an interest in the Mission Africa model.

These snippets of news from around Africa indicate that Lausanne III was not just an insignificant little blip on the radar screen of African Christianity, but a major historical happening which will impact this continent and its Church for decades to come.

Michael Cassidy is the founder of African Enterprise. Author of a number of books, he has also played a key role as a Christian leader involved in reconciliation in South Africa.