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Ajith Fernando on Cape Town 2010 (Part 1 of 2)
The first Lausanne congress in 1974 was used by God in a most amazing way to bring renewal on many fronts to the church worldwide.
The Lausanne Covenant, whose chief drafter was John Stott, became a new standard for unity and mission thinking among a huge segment of the Christian Church worldwide. This had an excellent articulation of what Christians were struggling to arrive at as a biblically faithful understanding of the relationship between social concern and evangelism.
It was through Lausanne 74 that the concept of unreached people became part of evangelical parlance worldwide. It was a good time for God to breakthrough given that it was possibly the most representative gathering of Christians ever in history.
This conference too is going to be such a gathering in terms of representation by evangelical leadership worldwide. It could be a wonderful time for God to break through and give some key messages to the global church. A lot of homework has been done, under the gracious and wise leadership of Lausanne Chairman Doug Birdsall.
So this is a conference that has will benefit from immense preparation and also from an incredibly vibrant use of the global communications via the Internet. Thousands will gather in sites across the globe to participate in the conference through the use of satellite technology. Yet the long term impact of a conference ultimately is in the hands of God and his decision on whether or not to use the conference in a unique way.
The evangelical church faces some big challenges at this time.
1. Though Lausanne '74 helped clarify the relationship between Social concern and evangelism, evangelism often gets sidelined or loses its place of supreme importance as the church responds to the plethora of social challenges it encounters today.
We need a return to the urgency of evangelism that comes out of a realistic understanding of the lostness of humanity apart from Christ and of the glory of the gospel. There are complaints that some recent high profile evangelical mission conferences, which previously had a high emphasis on the need to preach the good news to the lost, are now focusing so much on other issues that evangelism has become just an "also ran." Some fear that this will happen also in Lausanne III.
I am however hoping that out of Lausanne III will come a strong cry for commitment to and passion for evangelism, while at the same time challenging the church to engage in meeting some of the other challenges the human race faces. The horror of lostness of people apart from Christ is as serious now as it was before, and it is the greatest human need.
...check back tomorrow for part two which discusses Islam and the Prosperity Gospel!
Ajith Fernando, ThM, DD, is national director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka and a Bible expositor with a worldwide ministry. He studied at Asbury Theological Seminary and Fuller Seminary, and spends much time mentoring young workers and counseling Christian workers. He is active in Colombo Theological Seminary as chairman of the academic affairs committee.
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