Question: What has Cape Town to do with Orlando?
Last October a historic global gathering of 4,200 evangelical Christian leaders took place in Cape Town, South Africa. Many of you followed that event via the Internet and some of you may have even listened to keynote addresses and know people who were present at this meeting. I posted one Lausanne address, by Christopher J. Wright, on this blog site. Since the first Lausanne Congress (1974) this initiative for worldwide evangelism has grown into a much more mature movement of Christian leaders working for unity and mission. The story is one every Christian who loves mission and unity should know.
The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE) is itself an evangelical movement that grew out of the 1974 International Congress on World Evangelization (ICOWE) and promotes active worldwide evangelism LCWE is simply known, among those who follow it, as The Lausanne Movement. The Lausanne Covenant, which was a theological and missiological document that grew out of the first meeting clearly defines the movement’s goals and expresses Lausanne’s deep commitment to spreading Christianity to every tribe, nation and tongue on earth. The movement’s tagline is: “The Whole Church taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World.” The ICOWE was organized in part by Billy Graham and met in Switzerland, thus the name that has stuck ever since. Some 2,700 participants and guests from over 150 nations met at the first global gathering to discuss and promote evangelism. This group was largely, Western, white and male. One of the more important results of this conference was the Lausanne Continuation Committee, which planned to sustain the movement started at Lausanne. This committee formed the backbone for the official inception of the LCWE in 1976, which continue to this day. It is this committee which staged the second Lausanne meeting in Manila in 1989 and the third one last October in Cape Town.
The American expression of Lausanne is the Mission America Coalition. Like Lausanne internationally, Mission America seeks to avoid the bureaucratization that typically occurs within similar Christian movements. It maintains what can be called a federated system which includes dense networks that connect local activists with global leaders.
I recently attended the Mission America Coalition (MAC) national gathering in Orlando, Florida, April 4-6. I have been involved with several key leaders of MAC for some time. Dr. Paul Cedar, the chairman and CEO of MAC, is a friend and a fellow missional-ecumenical traveler. (I referred to Paul in a blog on October 10 last year.) Paul has encouraged me in several ways and has always shown himself to be a leader of grace and character. Previously Paul pastored the well-known Lake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena (CA) and then served as the president of the Evangelical Free Church in America. He models a style of leadership that is not about himself or his persona but about building human coalitions through friends and allies in Christ’s mission.
Another key leader in the MAC is Pastor Phil Miglioratti. Phil lives nearby and spends a fair share of time hanging out with me as his brother. I support his ministry personally and believe he is the finest facilitator of prayer I have ever met. I heartily endorse his mission and work. Because of my love for men like Paul and Phil , for the work of MAC and a number of other leaders in this movement, I wanted to share in the recent Orlando meeting.
The Orlando meeting was structured something like the Cape Town meeting. Plenary sessions involved worship, prayer and a lot of table conversation with four or five others seated with you. In this context I met some lay and full-time Christian leaders from churches, missions and servant organizations.
The finest part of the experience, at least for me, was the afternoon “affinity group” meeting. I attended one on marketplace mission and theology. I chose this group for two reasons. First, I am formally working with Acton Institute to reach out to evangelical leaders in every possible context to inform them about the value of Acton’s mission and resources. Acton represents a vision of whole-life discipleship that I think is truly needed. Business leaders often see this more readily than pastors. Second, I have found that business leaders understand and embrace missional-ecumenism more readily than most pastors. I think there are reasons for this too but I will save that for another day and place.
There were 15 of us in this Orlando affinity group. I think there were only two or three ordained ministers in the room and only one of them is presently serving in a local church pastorate. This itself made the group unique. It was a room of strong leaders, both men and women, who were in a small circle asking, “What does it mean to be called by God to mission in the marketplace?” We discussed business, ownership, being a CEO, entrepreneurship, money, church and biblical theology. It was one of the most enjoyable dialogs with serious Christians that I’ve enjoyed in years. We have continued the dialog online and talked about how this group could even meet again on its own. Something rather amazing happened for us, at least from what I saw and sensed during this time. I believe a major part of this was encouragement. Let me explain.
The vast majority of pastors are not sure how to minister to entrepreneurs in their congregation. There are many reasons for this but visionary leaders are often not utilized well inside the church. Pastors have a hard time relating to such leaders since their own training was almost entirely in an academic setting that is unrelated to the world of business. The result is that most business leaders turn to other contexts to serve and do Christ’s mission. Because of this the energy for Christ’s kingdom that I experienced in this group was palpable and fresh!
I have a dream. Visionary business leaders and holy unity in Christ’s mission are clearly meant for one another. Such leaders dream, think outside the box and use their resources for what they envision. Churches, by nature, play it too safe and are too often run by committees. Business leaders, generally speaking, do not like to serve on church boards for this very reason. They dream too big and think too deeply about how mission can be accomplished. Somehow the energy of these dreams and the vision of the church for the growing mission we see in North America must be brought together in practical ways. This was happening in Orlando and I had the joy of sitting in on it.