Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lausanne Covenant 07

Continuing our Evangelical Documents Study Series, we'll be examining the seventh portion (actually, seventh and eighth, as enumerated in the document) of the Lausanne Covenant, promulgated in 1974 by the first International Congress on World Evangelization. The first segment dealt with the purposes of God; the second segment dealt with the nature and authority of Scripture; the third segment dealt with the uniqueness of Christ as the only savior of the world; the fourth segment dealt with the nature of evangelism; the fifth segment dealt with Christian social responsibility; the sixth segment dealt with the Church's calling to evangelism; and now the seventh segment deals with Christian partnership in evangelism:

7. Cooperation in Evangelism

We affirm that the Church's visible unity in truth is God's purpose. Evangelism also summons us to unity, because our oneness strengthens our witness, just as our disunity undermines our gospel of reconciliation. We recognize, however, that organisational unity may take many forms and does not necessarily forward evangelism. Yet we who share the same biblical faith should be closely united in fellowship, work and witness. We confess that our testimony has sometimes been marred by a sinful individualism and needless duplication. We pledge ourselves to seek a deeper unity in truth, worship, holiness and mission. We urge the development of regional and functional cooperation for the furtherance of the Church's mission, for strategic planning, for mutual encouragement, and for the sharing of resources and experience.

8. Churches in Evangelistic Partnership

We rejoice that a new missionary era has dawned. The dominant role of western missions is fast disappearing. God is raising up from the younger churches a great new resource for world evangelization, and is thus demonstrating that the responsibility to evangelise belongs to the whole body of Christ. All churches should therefore be asking God and themselves what they should be doing both to reach their own area and to send missionaries to other parts of the world. A reevaluation of our missionary responsibility and role should be continuous. Thus a growing partnership of churches will develop and the universal character of Christ's Church will be more clearly exhibited. We also thank God for agencies which labor in Bible translation, theological education, the mass media, Christian literature, evangelism, missions, church renewal and other specialist fields. They too should engage in constant self-examination to evaluate their effectiveness as part of the Church's mission.

One key element here is a call to Christian unity. This may not take the form of organizational unity just yet - though, whether the drafters of the Lausanne Covenant would agree or not, I think that is an urgent ultimate goal - but must involve a close partnership that centers on the gospel rather than the traditional denominational barriers that we've erected. We need to see close cooperation in evangelistic efforts across all such lines - Presbyterians providing resources for Methodists, Baptists laboring side-by-side with Anglicans, and so forth - as a witness to the world. Another key element here is that 'missions' is no longer what it used to be. The image of a missionary in the popular mindset, both within Evangelicalism and outside as well, is often still that of an American or European traveling a great distance to bring the gospel to some place in South America, Africa, or Asia. But no longer can that be the dominant model. Christianity is no longer a predominantly American or European religion; we have already reached the point where the 'average' Christian is from the so-called Two-Thirds World. And so in addition to missions from the West outward, there are also missions to the West as well, and from one part of the West to another, and from one part of the 'Global South' to another, and so forth. The Lausanne Covenant calls us to forget about traditional notions of 'Christianized' societies and instead focus on making sure that every local body, everywhere in the world, is able to do two things: evangelize in its own area, and send/support missionaries somewhere else.

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