The bi-annual Lausanne International Leadership Meeting got underway Monday in Budapest, Hungary, bringing together nearly 400 delegates from across 60 nations to explore new ways of bringing about world evangelization as well as the many challenges for mission.
The new Executive Chair of Lausanne, Douglas Birdsall, set the tone for the week as he outlined the vision of Lausanne for the future in an address on Monday evening.
"We are here to think of ways in which we can … powerfully, compellingly articulate the changeless truth about God in a radically, rapidly changing world," he said. "Global challenges require global conversations to find global solutions."
A post-Christian, post-modern, pluralistic world was one such challenge, he said, and was compelling the church to re-think the way it presents Jesus Christ as the way the truth and the life in a "new time".
"It will take the whole church to take the whole Gospel to the whole world," he said, adding that it was time to find a new equilibrium no longer based on power, wealth, prestige or position but rather on shared calling, vision, resources and mutual respect. "I trust we will become a community of grace more and more," he said.
In response to the challenge of an increasingly secularized world, Birdsall said, "We must re-discover and re-establish Judeo-Christian moral foundations for our societies."
He said Lausanne III in 2010 would be defined by a sense of home, hope and spirit of Christianity, as he challenged Christians to unite and move away from ambivalence to confidence in the message of the Gospel.
"We can look to the future with confidence that God who began a good work in us will bring it to completion," he said. "Let us commit ourselves afresh to taking the whole Gospel to the whole world as people who represent the whole church."
He also welcomed the head of the World Evangelical Alliance, Geoff Tunnicliffe, to the conference. Later this week, the two leaders will officially launch their partnership ahead of the next major conference, Lausanne III, which takes place in Cape Town in 2010.
Delegates also heard a message from John Stott, one of the founders of Lausanne, in which he told of the new challenges facing Christians and worldwide mission, including global warming, HIV and AIDS, and a "growing hostility" to the Gospel in parts of the world.
Despite these challenges, there were still "new reasons for confidence," he said, including the "extraordinary growth" of churches in the Global South, new technology and a new generation of young leaders rising up ahead of Lausanne III.
Conference delegates also received copies of a letter from world evangelist Billy Graham. In it, he commented on the developments since the historic Lausanne Congress in 1974 – which he led. It was at this event that Christian leaders from around the world joined in signing the Lausanne Covenant.
"The world has changed, the church has changed, younger leaders have been raised up, but the Gospel has not changed, and the need for evangelism is more urgent than ever before," he said in his letter.
Also among the delegates present at this week's conference is Leighton Ford, also one of the first generation of Lausanne leaders.
Ford will convene a group of 25 Lausanne "First Generation" leaders during the conference who served on the committee between Lausanne I and Lausanne II.