The Cape Town International Convention Center was lit up with colourful banners and rousing worship as thousands of Christians gathered on Sunday for the closing ceremony of Cape Town 2010, the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelisation.
It marked the end of a week of presentations and discussions among some 4,500 Christians on the most urgent issues confronting the church and mission today.
In the final speech of the Congress, International Director of Lausanne Lindsay Brown dismissed the pressure from secularists to confine faith to the private sphere as he challenged Christians to penetrate every area of society with the Gospel and extend the lordship of Christ.
“We’re called to bear witness to Jesus Christ with all that we are, in every area of the world geographically, to the ends of the globe, as well as to every sphere of society.
“We must recommit ourselves therefore to the lordship of Christ in every area of human activity.”
He spoke of his hope for many fruitful partnerships to issue from the Congress and encouraged Christians to avoid duplication and wastage by working across denominational and organisational lines.
“In a needy and broken world we cannot afford to be driven by a spirit of competition. Such a spirit must give way to a spirit of partnership,” he said.
“We need a new generation of evangelical statesmen and women who are driven by their commitment to the cause of Christ.”
Rather than a reliance on money or the right kind of technology, he stressed the need to rely on the greatness of the Gospel to accomplish the task of reaching the world.
Echoing theologian Chris Wright’s call for integrity earlier in the Congress, Brown urged Christians to match their speech with their actions.
“The word of truth has to be backed up by authentic, transformed, joyful lives,” he said. “We [must] demonstrate holy lives before a watching world.”
He ended his address with a call to Christians to persevere in their service towards the Great Commission, even where there was a chance that the fruits of their labour would not be borne in their lifetime.
“The word of God takes root slowly. We have to take the long view and not give up, and fulfil the ministry God has given us,” he said.
The closing ceremony was presided over by the Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Rev Henry Orombi, and assisted by the Chair of Lausanne Doug Birdsall.
Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, Birdsall said evangelicals had “regained a sense of confidence and nerve” through the Congress.
He said there had been a “great sense of joy” among delegates in being able to see the magnitude of the church in the world and the number of younger leaders emerging in the evangelical community.
“[Cape Town 2010] was not a moment. This is part of an ongoing movement,” he said.
Delegates from the UK were upbeat about the impact of the Congress on global evangelicalism.
Steve Clifford, General Director of the UK Evangelical Alliance said he had been encouraged to see the church in all its diversity.
He said the delegates needed time to reflect on everything that had taken place during the Congress.
“The great thing about this Congress is that I have experienced exposure to the world church. I see that the church is alive and kicking. The rumours that the church is dead are misguided.”
Graham Archer, vicar of Highfield Church in Southampton, said he had been exposed to the ‘big picture’ in a way that he had never been before.
He said: “I feel challenged by the general mood and morale in England. I want to take back a desire to encourage others to celebrate the good things that we have. We have got a lot to be thankful for and we’re not always good at that.”
During the week, Christians heard about the most pressing challenges facing the world church, including atheism, Bible poverty, persecution, and the prosperity gospel.
Clifford welcomed the appeal from theologian Chris Wright for integrity among Christians.
“We’ve all got to look at ourselves and how we conduct ourselves in our work and our ministries – not just talk about integrity but model integrity. Chris Wright’s call for integrity could be the prophetic challenge of the conference,” he said.
The final day of the Congress saw the release of part one of the Cape Town Commitment, a statement on the nature and mission of the church in the 21st century.
It declares that “world evangelisation is the outflow of God’s love to us and through us” and affirms that Jesus alone is Saviour.
Part two of the statement, the call to action, will be formulated in the coming weeks based on the responses from delegates at the Congress and the thousands more who participated online through the ‘GlobaLink’ sites.
The Cape Town Commitment has been welcomed by delegates at the Congress. Dr Geoff Tunnicliffe, Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance, said it offered Christians an opportunity for reflection and engagement with the key issues facing the church and world evangelisation.
“We believe that the Cape Town statement is a great resource that provides a historical context and identifies prevailing issues whilst reflecting on the current reality across our globe,” he said.
“This thoughtful document can provide a strong theological reflection for the church as we engage in our commitment to see God’s kingdom extended in every nation.”
Delegates at the Cape Town Congress and those who joined through the GlobaLink sites are expected to take part in regional meetings in the coming months to discuss the outcomes of the Congress and how evangelicals can continue to work closely with one another in world evangelisation.
Lausanne is planning to hold larger Davos-style meetings of evangelicals every two years.