Interactive’ Lausanne opens

Glenn Davies

Cape Town 2010 is the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. The first was held in Lausanne in 1974, under the leadership of John Stott and Billy Graham. The second was held in Manila in 1989, at which I was privileged to be a participant, and the third is currently being held over eight days from 17-24 October in South Africa. Each iteration of the Lausanne Congress has grown in size from its predecessor, so that Cape Town 2010 is host to 4,200 participants from 192 countries.

Sadly the Chinese delegation is missing due to last minute travel restrictions imposed by the Chinese Government, as they were in Manila. What is the most notable development from 1989 is the use of technology for communication. Thus all the major papers were released on the Lausanne website well in advance of the congress allowing for a global conversation with facilities for many participants to post their comments.

The most significant structural change in the Congress is the introduction of Table Groups. Unlike Lausanne I and II, where the participants passively listened to talks in a tiered auditorium, Cape Town 2010 has been promoted as an interactive congress, where all participants are assigned to a table group of six persons, with a designated leader, for the two morning plenary sessions. The logistics of providing 700 tables in an auditorium with five large screens for those (like me) who are not within cooee of the main podium is a challenge, but it has proved very successful for providing a degree of intimacy within a very large space.


On Saturday six hours of training were available for all table group leaders (and a condensed three hour session on Sunday morning for those not able to come a day early). Having listened to and been involved in the provision of small group training for many years, I was impressed with the preparation and delivery of these sessions, The process of how the groups would actually work, the importance of gaining feedback from the groups, and the importance of recognising cultural sensitivities were all well explained. An introduction to the methodology of inductive Bible study as a tool for exploring the letter to the Ephesians was also well handled. A copy of the ESV of Ephesians on one long concertina-fold piece of paper was issued to all participants to foster the sense of a letter on papyrus, as it might have looked to the first century readers. Each table group would then use the methodology of observation and interpretation, followed by a plenary speaker expounding the passage, after which the table groups looked at aspects of application of the passage to their lives.

The first day of the congress began at 3.30pm, having allowed time for participants to attend local churches in and around Cape Town. The first session was 'Welcome to the Table'. With congress sitting in view of Table Mountain and the biblical image of table fellowship, time was given to an introduction of each person's life and ministry, including an honest evaluation of gifts and weaknesses/hardships, their hopes for the congress and a prayer request. A person then prayed for the one who shared. In the space of 90 minutes there was a degree of sharing and knowledge among six persons rarely achieved at such international gatherings. Knowing that we would all be sitting together in the two morning sessions for the rest of the week helped us open up more readily than we might otherwise have done. In my group was a woman who pastors a rural congregation north of Johannesburg, a German Salvation Army member who is a Christian Democrat Member of Parliament, a missions director from California, a doctoral student at Oxford and a pastor from Jordan - six persons spanning five continents!

After dinner we had the opening ceremony which was a splendid mix of African dance and song amidst a flurry of flags from all nations represented. As a reminder of the seminal Edinburgh Conference on world missions held in 1910, the same opening hymn at that conference, "Crown him with many crowns", was also sung in Cape Town one hundred years later. Greetings were conveyed from John Stott and Billy Graham, both too elderly to travel, but not too elderly to pray for the congress! Short messages were given by several speakers including Doug Birdsall (Executive Chair of Lausanne Movement), Michael Cassidy and Archbishop Henry Orombi and others, interspersed with some drama and video presentations.

It was a great night, but with a 6am rise to get to the early morning table group leaders meeting, I was refreshed in spirit but also ready for bed.

(Picture: Lausanne 2010 [url=][/url])