On the 500th anniversary year of the Protestant Reformation, the Lausanne Movement invited 90 global mission leaders to Wittenberg, Germany, to participate in a gathering entirely dependent on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. New partnerships, collaborative ideas, and exciting initiatives have been formed as a result of the gathering, all of which have the potential to significantly impact global mission over the next 3-5 years.
The room was buzzing with excitement as Lausanne’s first-of-its-kind gathering came to an end on Wednesday in Wittenberg, Germany. During the three days of the gathering, 90 of the most influential men and women in global mission, representing all regions of the world and different age groups, sought to hear from God regarding the first two parts of the four-fold Lausanne vision: to see the gospel for every person and an evangelical church for every people.
’These past three days, we wanted to seek new and innovative ways to work together, in order to see a significant acceleration in the spread of the gospel,’ says Dr David Bennett, Lausanne’s Global Associate Director for Collaboration and Content. ’Because of the high birth rate among Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists, the rate of population growth is overtaking the growth of the church in many parts of world, despite the hard work of church planting, evangelism, discipleship, and other areas of mission.’
In preparation for the gathering, Lausanne had asked the participating leaders to identify what they saw as the most critical factors for seeing breakthroughs in global mission, especially from their own perspectives as leaders of various ministries. Through three rounds of research surveys, we arrived at the 12 clusterings of topics that would be discussed and prayed about at the gathering. The participants themselves were then subdivided into 12 corresponding table working groups, based on their individual passions and interests identified in the survey process. These working group topics included clusters of priority areas for mission such as evangelism, church planting, and intentional discipleship.
The gathering’s schedule was unique in that it was designed to depend entirely on the Holy Spirit’s guidance. There were no plenary speakers other than morning Bible expositions, and participants spent most of their time in table working groups, listening to each other as they spent time praying, dialoguing, and brainstorming about the topic of their working groups.
’Coming into the gathering, we didn’t exactly know what to expect, but we were hoping that it would result in action plans that can start to be implemented in the next months and bear fruit in three to five years,’ says Dr Bennett, in summarizing the Wittenberg 2017 gathering. ’As an incredible answer to prayer, all of the 12 table working groups came up with significant initiatives, ideas, and commitments. These plans are more realistic than we first imagined, not pie-in-the-sky dreams, but big enough steps to significantly accelerate the spread of the gospel in five years.’
One table working group, for example, decided to research ways to provide need-based training tailored specifically for different kinds of evangelists. Another group centered on partnership and collaboration sought to catalyze more partnership for global mission by launching an annual partnership award to highlight the remarkable examples of missional collaboration as a way of inspiring further partnerships, and initial funding for the award has already been committed. Detailed plans and next steps are now being worked out by the 12 table working groups, and Lausanne looks forward to sharing stories of what takes place in the days ahead. Other strategic directions from these initiatives include: making prayer a practical priority in missions; repositioning disciple-making as the church’s primary call; facilitating the continued formation of a local church culture with a kingdom mindset; and encouraging the 2% who are in professional ministry to prepare the 98% (laity) for ministry.
Besides the initiatives and research projects from specific groups, there were overall trends that emerged throughout the conversations among many groups, with the urgency of prayer and partnership topping the list. ’A prophetic call is going out from this place to the global church, reminding us that our first action point is prayer, and the second is to partner more closely together,’ says Dr Michael Oh, Global Executive Director and CEO of the Lausanne Movement, reflecting on the early outcomes of the gathering.
He continues, ’There isn’t a bigger barrier to global mission than the attitude of “I don’t need you.” We know of over half a thousand networks formed to advance global mission. What could happen if these networks partnered deliberately, with a laser-sharp focus for global mission?’
The deliberate partnership and collaboration of diverse peoples across many nations is exactly what happened at this Wittenberg gathering—and it is our prayer that its outcomes will ripple across the world.
’Lausanne’s role was to convene the influencers, set the table, and make space through this unique agenda for God to speak,’ concludes Dr Bennett. ’The participants are now responsible for moving these plans ahead as they made their commitments to each other and to the Lord. We will follow-up with the table working groups to support and encourage progress on the plans launched here in Wittenberg. Mission is ultimately about God, and he’s the one we’re trusting to complete his work on earth.’
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