The Lausanne Movement, which came out of one of the most important Christian conferences in modern history, is only as important as people think it is, said the movement's executive chair.
"Lausanne as an organization is very, very small. We have no members, we have no permanent office anywhere," explained the Rev. Doug Birdsall, executive chair of The Lausanne Movement, during a Lausanne/Cape Town 2010 global conference call Wednesday. "Lausanne really is only validated to the degree that people buy into the importance of the issues and add value to relationships they are able to make through Lausanne connections."
For nearly four decades, the Lausanne organization has served to bring Christian leaders worldwide together to strategize on how to evangelize the world. Billy Graham convened the first Lausanne Congress in 1974 and drew some 2,700 participants from over 150 countries. From that conference came the Lausanne Covenant, an evangelical manifesto that called for active worldwide Christian evangelism. The covenant is one of the most influential documents in modern evangelical Christianity.
On Wednesday, Birdsall and some 1,000 Christians worldwide joined the second of four global conference calls for Lausanne/Cape Town 2010 to share and hear about the preparation for the upcoming congress in Cape Town.
"I think the thing that people value about Lausanne is there is no one organization, person, or agenda that dominates," said Birdsall. "We have been given a great legacy in the ethos of the movement in the people who brought it into existence, namely Billy Graham and John Stott."
Next month, some 4,000 Christian leaders from 200 nations will attend Lausanne III to focus on the future of the Church and evangelization in the 21st century. Participants will wrestle with challenges to the Church today including the issues of secularization, the threat of terrorism, and HIV/AIDs.
In preparation for the conference, the Lausanne Movement launched a global chat room in eight languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish) to draw mission-minded Christians into discussions about issues facing the global church months before the event.
At the end of the conference, Christian leader will adopt a new document modeled after the historic Lausanne Covenant, which will be called the Cape Town Commitment. Organizers hope the document will provide evangelicals with a clear definition of the call of the Church.
"I sense there is growing excitement and anticipation around the world," said Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, the international direction of the World Evangelical Alliance, which has partnered with Lausanne for the third congress. "This Congress has the potential for shaping and impacting a whole new generation of leaders."
Cape Town 2010, also known as Lausanne III, will take place Oct 16-25 at Cape Town International Convention Center in Cape Town, South Africa.
Cape Town 2010 will mark the first time that a Lausanne conference is held in Africa. The second Lausanne Congress in 1989 was held in Manila, Philippines.