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Cape Town is a-comin’ soon. (By Chris Wright)

Categories Theology Ministry


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We are thrilled to share with you an update from Chris Wright who, though facing one of the busiest periods of his life, took the time to share with the Koinonia community his hopes and prayers for Cape Town 2010.

Enjoy!


“This time three weeks and it will be all over,” I found myself thinking this evening as I contemplated the fast-approaching Third Lausanne Congress in Cape Town. Of course I was quite wrong and immediately rebuked myself. The Congress will be over, but the work and the impact will only be beginning, by God’s grace. For we have no idea exactly what the Sovereign God has in mind for this event – except to say that it will probably surprise us all  (as the First Lausanne Congress did in 1974).  

The breadth of the Lausanne Movement reflects something of the breadth of the world church, since the majority of the 5,000 or so participants will be from the ‘majority world’ – i.e. the lands of the global south and east, where the majority of the world’s Christians are now to be found. And the breadth of the Lausanne agenda in Cape Town reflects something of the breadth of world mission, in all its forms and activities. Since 1974, “Lausanne” has stood for a holistic understanding of mission, including all that the Bible shows of the heart of God for his alienated world and all that the Bible mandates us to be, say, and do, in the world in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. A glance at the Lausanne website (www.lausanne.org ), and especially at the section given to all the documents and forums and special interests that have camped under its broad tent, shows the amazing range of the missional involvement of people for whom “The Lausanne Covenant” provides an expression of their faith and commitment. 

It was partly at the encouragement of Lindsay Brown, International Director of the Lausanne Movement, that I wrote the book The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission. So it is pleasing that the book has been published in time for Cape Town, and will be made available there at a special reduced price, thanks to the efforts of Zondervan, Lausanne, the local distributor, and a generous donor. The book is an attempt to show just how broad and comprehensive is the reply that the Bible as a whole gives to the question, “Who are we, and what are we here on earth for, as God’s people?” As any who know my other writings might expect, it is a theology of mission that does not start on the Mount of Ascension, but in Genesis. 

My own involvement with Lausanne has largely been as Chair of the Theology Working Group for the past five years.  We have met as a core group of about twelve men and women from around the world, with other invited participants making up an average annual consultation of about thirty. Over the past three years we took the Lausanne slogan, “The Whole Church taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World”, and asked what each of those ringing phrases actually means – theologically and missiologically.  The result is a series of statements that can now be read at: http://www.lausanne.org/documents/twg-three-wholes.html


Then more recently, I have been asked to take on the responsibility of chairing the Statement Committee for the Cape Town Congress. This is something that I find very daunting indeed. However, it was John Stott himself who encouraged me to accept the role – having conveniently forgotten that when he introduced the original Lausanne Covenant to the 1974 Congress, he began by describing what a tough task it had been, and urging those present that if ever they were invited to serve on a Statement drafting committee, his best advice to them would be to decline!  We are a small international team of six men and two women and we seriously need your prayers.  

The Statement will be called The Cape Town Commitment, and is in two parts. Part One, “For the Lord We Love: Our Commitment of Faith”, is an affirmation of core Christian belief, couched in the language of covenantal love. It has already been drafted and will be read in advance by participants.  Part Two, “For the World We Serve: Our Call to Action”, will be generated at the Congress itself from all the input of plenaries, multiplexes, dialogue sessions, etc., somehow condensed into a manageable document.  That will be the hard part.  The whole thing, along with a study guide, and a liturgical response, will be published early next year by The Didasko Files. 

My hopes for Cape Town are many, but one that I have expressed for years is that it could fuel a 21st century reformation – particularly among those of the world church who choose to call themselves evangelicals. Of course we long for a much greater missional effort by all the church, for the love of our Lord Jesus Christ. But there is so much in our own mis-shapen appearance that hinders our mission and brings shame on the name of Jesus. So the other responsibility I have in Cape Town, for which I also ask for prayer, is co-ordinating a plenary session on Day 5 (Saturday, October 23), on the theme, “Calling the Church of Christ Back to Humility, Integrity, and Simplicity” -  calling us away, that is, from our endemic homage to the idols of pride, manipulated success, and greed. You can check out my paper for the pre-Congress reading on this subject  and join the ‘global conversation’, at http://conversation.lausanne.org/en/conversations/detail/10520

It seems to me, as I hope to say in my presentation, that

  • Before we go out to the world,  we must come back to the Lord
  • Before we try to change the world,  we must change our own hearts and our ways (Jer. 7:3-8)
  • Before we take the words of the gospel to the world, we must take with us words of confession to God  (Hos. 14:1-2).
  • Before we get off our seats to seek the lost, we must get on our knees to seek the Lord.

Please join me in prayer that Cape Town will be such a moment of repentance, renewal and recommissioning, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and for Christ’s glory. 

Christopher J.H. Wright

Dr. Christopher J. H. Wright is International Director of the Langham Partnership International. He also serves as chair of the Lausanne Movement’s Theology Working Group and chair of the Theological Resource Panel of TEAR Fund, a leading Christian relief and development charity. 

He has written several books, including Living as the People of God (An Eye for an Eye in the US), God’s People in God’s Land, Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament, Walking in the Ways of the Lord, Deuteronomy in the New International Biblical Commentary, The Message of Ezekiel in the Bible Speaks Today series, Old Testament Ethics for the People of God, The Mission of God, and The God I Don’t Understand. 

Chris and his wife, Liz, have four adult children and six grandchildren. 

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