When does a Missiology Become an Effective Movement?
I guess I've been asking the question when does a Missiology become an effective Movement? How do you bring about a tipping point? Looking around the collection of people here at Cape Town I found myself short of answers but with many questions. However if you get to the end of this post you may find me in a more positive state of mind. The Third Lausanne Congress came to an end with an amazing Communion Service involving over 190 nations. The music was spectacular and the act of Communion was itself a wonderful demonstration of the unity of the body of Christ. In many ways the service redeemed great chunks of the conference that seemed to me to verge at times on the mediocre and which seemed quite disconnected. In saying this I need to be careful to underline this as my experience, many I'm sure were connected by the very things that disengaged me. This in itself was a learning experience that not all cultural programmes appeal across the board.
This disconnection might have been remedied for me at least if the address that Lindsay Brown gave at the closing ceremony had been given at the opening ceremony. His address laid out clearly the vision and purpose and influence of a Congress like Lausanne in bringing together a wide spectrum of the Christian Churches, especially from the Protestant Evangelical wings. This was an opportunity for evangelical Christians to engage with the issue of sharing faith in a multicultural pluralistic world where poverty and injustice continue to steal the lives of so many innocent people. The challenge for Lausanne if it is to become a movement for renewal across the whole church is to engage realistically with those who also came as observers from the more liberal wings of the Church. For me it is essential that evangelicals who now make up a large part of the world Church remain committed to not only the evangelisation of the world for Christ but also the unity of the worldwide Church. This theme was developed at the Congress throughout the Bible readings from the Epistle to the Ephesians and was a timely reminder to all of us in leadership that our disunity is a scandal not a strength. Unity need not mean conformity but it calls us to journey together in mutual love and understanding till we all 'attain as Paul says 'mature adulthood in Christ'.
Lausanne has been off many churches radar screens in the UK for a number of years. The last Conference took place in Manilla in 1989. I think the Centenary of the Edinburgh 1910 Missionary Conference created the impetus for this event to happen. However trying to connect with the strategy of the movement has not been all that easy at least for me. Yet I'm sure that continuing to engage with the broad themes of the much smaller Edinburgh Conference of 2010 an important partnership might well be explored that would allow at least dialogue between the two Movements to continue. I had been struggling all week to try to see how such a disparate group of disconnected people, many representing para church groups, could connect in the task set before us as a worldwide church to make the Gospel known to every tribe and nation. The importance of discovering a unity through partnerships was an important strategy that the participants were all encouraged to develop and it had certainly reassured me that something very worthwhile could emerge as a legacy of Lausanne 3. Sharing resources and staff without being in competition must surely become a mantra for the Church of Christ today.
This feeling of confusion may further have arisen due to the fact that the conference was engaging with a large number of topics while seeking to make them relevant to over 4000 delegates from so many diverse backgrounds.
The conference began with a great emphasise on the importance of the philosophical objectivity of truth. This may have been a mistake because it created an environment where it appeared that propositional truth was being placed in juxa- position with those who would seek to embrace truth as being revealed in the person and action centred compassion ministry of Jesus. Indeed through all who express these Jesus attributes. I'm not saying this topic should not have been discussed. I'm suggesting maybe it was not the most unifying with which to begin. While many in the West are stimulated intellectually by reasoned propositions the church in the south had a different way of engaging such issues.
Hind sight is a great gift but perhaps if we had begun the Congress with the affirmation of our unity and a Communion Service like last evening which demonstrated the incarnational reality of the gospel many more people would have been tuned into the nuances of proclamation and holistic ministry, without feeling that their perspective had been threatened or indeed that there was any division of thought. So I think what I'm saying is that it was in the engagement with the sacrament of Holy Communion that I received some answers to my questions. How can such a disparate group of people disconnected and even disbelieving take the Gospel into the world? The answer came through the bread and the wine. Only by His brokenness can our brokenness be healed. Only by his revelation and grace can our confusion become clear, it is only by our 'abiding in the vine' that we can be sustained and bear fruit. It was a solemn reminder to me of the importance of the sacraments in enacting out the power and affirmation of the resurrection in all our lives. It was a great reminder that I am called to be a minister of not only Word but of sacrament. This was one aspect of the teaching that was missing from those who emphasised the place of the Word in our gospel proclamation. Proclamation is not enough it needs to be sustained and Nurtured by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Thanks be to God that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Truth is much more than a proposition it is a reconciling Word in Action which finally connected this disconnected body member to the whole body at Lausanne. So as I continue to ask my questions I'm reminded of the Humility and integrity and simplicity of being connected to the Vine. Now these last few words were key words shared by another speaker Chris Wright on Saturday. However that's another post for another day.