Lausanne Movement

Strategic Foresight: A New Horizon for Innovation in Ministry

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By Derek Seipp.

This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of the Lausanne Global Analysis and is published here with permission. To receive this free bimonthly publication from the Lausanne Movement, subscribe online at


You may not be aware that there is a plan on the horizon to begin colonizing Mars by 2026. SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s plan does not stop there. Musk’s ultimate goal is to see one million people living on Mars by the end of the century.

Let us consider US President John F Kennedy’s speech in 1961, calling for a man to be put on the moon within a decade. In order to put his vision in context, in 1961 there were no personal computers, most commercial aircraft still used propellers, and TV was still predominately black and white. Considering the available technology at the time, Kennedy’s horizon was audacious. People thought it just could not be done; yet eight years later, Neil Armstrong descended a ladder and took that famous ‘one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind’.

Higher horizons versus incremental steps

If we had simply continued doing what we were doing, taking incremental steps to do it a little better each year, we would probably never have set foot on the moon. Yet this is where most of us find ourselves: looking for steady, incremental improvements. The problem with this kind of thinking is that we look back at what we have done in order to see what is possible in the future. In essence, we look backward in order to look forward.

However, Kennedy did not base the future upon the past. He set an audacious horizon, looking forward, to something far and beyond where we were. It inspired people to reach beyond mere incremental improvements.

Kennedy knew that the knowledge and technology needed did not even exist in 1961. This caused scientists to look forward and explore what technologies would be necessary to accomplish such a radical goal. Once those necessary technologies were identified, scientists began working their way back to the present. This allowed them to create a roadmap starting from the future, which identified each technology that needed to be developed to bring them to their desired destination.

Great horizons always push us to look forward beyond ourselves. Once we understand the desired future, we walk back to the present and figure out how to get there. This kind of thinking results in innovative, paradigm-changing ways of impacting our world.

When we set our sights on higher horizons, it is amazing what can be done. Pyramids are built. Cathedrals are constructed. Brave new worlds are discovered.

Horizons for mission

Bill O’Brien was Vice-President at the Southern Baptist Convention Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board) when he read an article in 1994 about a physicist at NASA who was setting broader and higher horizons. The article literally changed the course of his career. It described how physicist Dr John Andersen led his team to find a revolutionary new approach to space travel. As a result, they cut the time necessary to fly to Jupiter down from several years to just a couple of months.

‘This is what we need in Christian mission’, O’Brien excitedly thought. He contacted Andersen, who was more than happy to lead a group of ministry leaders through a similar process. In 1996, international leaders gathered to discuss the future of Africa in the year 2050. O’Brien said: ‘The reason Andersen pushes those horizons out so far is that it helps people engage in the process and stop just extrapolating elements in the present. The second thing is that we need to construct a new framework, not just for fantasizing, but for using critical relevant thinking within that framework.’

‘This is not a way of creating strategic plans, but it is a way of creating new ways of thinking’—O’Brien.

Andersen kept pressing the group to look out further and further to the future, while exploring higher and higher leverage capabilities. Then the group worked backwards to today in order to discuss all the steps necessary to arrive at this new future. O’Brien says the results were revolutionary for everyone involved.

O’Brien was convinced. He began helping other organizations practice this type of thinking. One such project was with World Vision. They explored the possibility that the organization would be forced out of business by 2030. ‘It got everybody scared’, says O’Brien. The organization realized just how vulnerable it was to the many changes happening in our world. Many significant changes came out of those meetings.

‘This is not a way of creating strategic plans, but it is a way of creating new ways of thinking’—O’Brien.

Understanding potential futures

Our world is changing faster than ever before. Entire cultures are changing in the light of globalization, technology, urbanization, and a host of other factors. Unreached people groups are migrating to cities. The number of global languages will likely drop by half. In the face of these radical changes, merely seeking incremental improvements in our ministries will only set us further and further behind.

Forward thinking empowers leaders to explore and understand all the various places the future could take them. They break free from limited thinking patterns holding them back from something greater. As leaders do this, they begin to see themselves differently. They also view the resources at their disposal differently too.

Gideon example

The Bible is full of stories which highlight this type of thinking. Take Gideon, for instance. He limited himself by thinking he was the least family member of the smallest tribe in Israel. Yet God saw Gideon as something else entirely. To enable him to share God’s perspective, he needed a radically new horizon. God told Gideon he would rout the entire enemy army; but he would have to do it with just 300 men. Now, it is important to note that God never told Gideon how to do it.

As a result, Gideon deployed 300 soldiers in an innovatively new way. To the old Gideon, hiding in a well and constrained in his thinking, the original vision was as impossible as sending a man to the moon.

Studying trends

A good soccer player knows not to go to the ball, but to get to where the ball is going to be. The same can be said about ministry organizations. As the changes leaders face come faster and faster, leaders must learn to align their organizations with the future environment before it emerges.

To do so, leaders must seek to understand the most likely environments to emerge in the future. One way to do this is by studying the emerging trends, issues, and choices being made. As a weatherman creates forecasts by examining how weather changes interact in the environment, leaders can use trends, issues, and choices to create forecasts about their future environment as well. The greater these are understood, the clearer the forecast of the future will be. And when leaders have a clearer picture of the future, they have a much greater chance of getting to where the ball is going to be.

Mission Society example

O’Brien was asked by The Mission Society to help them address an issue of growing concern. It was their 25th anniversary and a significant gap had developed between their vision and the way their missionaries were being deployed on the ground. They gathered missionaries and leaders from around the globe in Prague in 2008.

‘The horizon was 25 years’, says Vice-President Jim Ramsay. They explored what the world would look like far into the future. Ramsay said they realized: ‘If we don’t change, we won’t be addressing the key global issues in 10-15 years . . . the future is going to challenge our structural models as well as our funding models. We have to rethink how we do everything. It’s an exciting time, and there is a lot we have to wrestle with. Broad organizational shift is happening as a result of that meeting—its fingerprints are all over many aspects of our organization today.’

‘Wisdom is supreme—so acquire wisdom, and whatever you acquire, acquire understanding.’—Proverbs 4:7 (NET).

The results of that meeting in 2008 are still creating an impact. The organization refined its vision and mission, and then changed its structure and culture as well. They are also realizing the tremendous potential in developing multi-agency collaboration for global partnerships. Other new innovative ideas continue to emerge as individuals continue to align themselves with the future.

‘Wisdom is supreme—so acquire wisdom, and whatever you acquire, acquire understanding.’—Proverbs 4:7 (NET).

The chiefs of Issachar

David had been cast out from King Saul’s presence into the wilderness. There he gathered to himself the best men of Israel. Among them were great warriors, able to use their weapons with both their right and left hands. In the middle of this great list of warriors is a curious group. The Bible says these 200 chiefs of Issachar understood the times and knew what Israel should do. They understood how the issues and choices would interact to create a future in which David would be king. These warriors’ greatest weapons were their minds.

Implications and suggested responses

The Bible commends the chiefs of Issachar for understanding the times and knowing what to do. God is looking for similar men and women today, who are prepared to lead ministries into the future. To get started, leaders should begin engaging their teams in conversations about the future. Here are some initial questions to ask:

What emerging trends, issues, and choices do we see happening in our environment? 

How might these combine to change our future environment? 

To what new horizon is God calling us? 

Is our organization prepared for the future 5, 10, 20 years out? 

There is also a small but growing set of books and resources which can fuel these conversations. In 1998 Paul McKaughan, Dellana O’Brien, and William (Bill) O’Brien co-authored Choosing a Future for US Missions, which is available from the William Carey Library. Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Center for the Study of Global Christianity produces many resources highlighting global Christian trends. More often, however, the most innovative ideas arise as we study other disciplines and then seek to apply them in our own areas of expertise. Finally, later this year, the William Carey Library is publishing a book by the author of this article specifically designed to help ministry leaders develop a comprehensive framework for analyzing trends, thinking about the future and setting broad new horizons.


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Lausanne’s Renewed Engagement in Global Mission

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By Michael Oh and Justin Schell.

The following article is an update from the Lausanne Movement, highlighting the impact and implications of the large gathering in Cape Town in 2010. We thought you’d appreciate knowing what’s happening in this movement which unites evangelicals in mission around the world, especially since Kirstin and John from the NZCMS staff team as well as Zane from the NZCMS Council will be participating in the Younger Leaders Gathering this year. (To learn more about the Lausanne Movement, watch the video above.)

This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of the Lausanne Global Analysis and is published here with permission. To receive this free bimonthly publication from the Lausanne Movement, subscribe online at


During our 40th anniversary year, leading up to the leadership meeting in Vevey in May 2014, the Lausanne leadership prayerfully produced a fresh articulation of what we hope to communicate as our vision for engaging in global mission in the next 40 years.

Fourfold vision

Though our mission has not changed, we now communicate it this way: Connecting influencers and ideas for global mission. We then wrestled with what that mission looks like in reality. Or to ask it another way, if by God’s grace we were to succeed in this mission, what would the world look like? Out of that process emerged Lausanne’s fourfold vision:

Cape Town fruit

All of this is fruit from the Cape Town 2010 Congress (CT2010). The one thing that everyone involved in planning CT2010 was 100% agreed upon was this: CT2010 must not be simply another conference. The value of any gathering lies primarily in the resultant impact—the enduring worth—of the gathering. Especially in an age where technology and globalization have made it possible to ‘gather’ vast numbers of people from all over the world easily, it was essential that Cape Town bear fruit that lasted.

Now we are well on our way. The low-hanging fruit of Cape Town was the potential to collaborate on the more than 30 critical issues that were identified as crucial for the global church to engage in mission. In these five years, existing global networks have been strengthened and accelerated, and new global networks have formed around several of these issues.

Issue networks

Leaders, thinkers, and practitioners are working together to engage on topics as diverse as Islam, mission to and by the disabled, the arts in mission, and cities. They are indeed bringing Kingdom Impact in Every Sphere of Society.

In March 2015, over 300 leaders in diaspora mission gathered in Manila, Philippines, to help produce a comprehensive textbook on Diaspora Missiology. Gatherings on Islam in Ghana, Children at Risk in Ecuador, Jewish Evangelism in Jerusalem, Creation Care and Mission in Jamaica, Care and Counsel as Mission in Germany, and others have resulted in tangible strategic resources and partnerships. As always, the fruit of Lausanne grows best on others’ trees, but no one could have imagined what rich fertilizer CT2010 would prove to be!

Each of these issue networks is growing, gathering, planning, and working together in their spheres of influence so that the world might know Christ. They are all at different sizes and stages of development, but the potential is so exciting. Some of the best fruit coming from these issue networks can be seen right here in the Lausanne Global Analysis (LGA)—our bimonthly publication designed to bring seminal and timely biblical reflection and strategic analysis to evangelical leaders around the world.

As always, the fruit of Lausanne grows best on others’ trees, but no one could have imagined what rich fertilizer CT2010 would prove to be.   Regional networks

At the same time, the Lord has allowed Lausanne to help strengthen and renew regional networks as well:

In East Asia, house church leaders are being equipped to lead their congregations in global mission. In English, Portuguese, and Spanish speaking Africa, the Mission Africa Trust Fund (MATF) has been launched. MATF has described its raison d’etre like this: ‘Africa has moved from a missionary receiving continent to a missionary sending continent. The time has come for the African church to become a mission giving church.’ Can you imagine what the world will look like in ten years if abundant prayer and timely service were to cover this initiative? Latin America has played host to two very important gatherings in 2014—on the critical issues of Global Theological Education and of Prosperity Theology, Poverty, and the Gospel—helping chart the future course for developing Christian leaders, and addressing an errant teaching that has ravaged the church worldwide.

As regional engagement grows, so has a natural and wonderful consequence: namely, the translation of key global mission resources into more and more languages, making the fruits of CT2010 accessible to even more Christian leaders around the world. The Cape Town Commitment has been translated into at least 25 languages (and maybe more), and the LGA is being translated into several languages as well. The Lausanne Global Classroom initiative will deliver ongoing missiological education to the seven major languages of CT2010.

The longer view

This is just a taste of the fruit of CT2010. However, we are not only concerned with the low-hanging fruit that has come out of this historic gathering. Cape Town also reminded us of the desperate need to take a long view in the work of global mission. Nearly 40 years after the first Lausanne Congress, Cape Town offered a stunning picture of the fact that global mission must be a multigenerational undertaking. Neither Billy Graham, nor the late John Stott, was at Cape Town. The young, passionate Latino leaders of 1974, Samuel Escobar and Rene Padilla, were now sharing from nearly 40 more years of experience. Alongside of this, new voices spoke into the global discussion, and perhaps the biggest shock of all is that it was a North Korean high school girl who provided the most profound moment of the entire gathering.

Next generation of leaders

Lausanne has always had an interest in seeing the next generation of mission leaders emerge. Lausanne has hosted two global (Singapore 1987, Malaysia 2006) and several regional and national Younger Leader Gatherings (YLG). However, with the generational transition in leadership apparent and under way on stage at CT2010—even two and a half years before a younger leader named Michael Oh would be appointed as Executive Director/CEO of Lausanne—it was clear that change in global mission leadership was coming. We believe that Lausanne will have a unique role in that transition: namely, to help see generation after generation of Christ-like Leaders for Every Church identified and empowered.

In 2016, in Jakarta, Indonesia, Lausanne will host the third global Younger Leaders Gathering. Some 1,000 younger leaders from more than 150 nations will gather for what, as we resolved for Cape Town, must not be simply another conference. The need for Christ-like leaders for the church is too important to be content with a week of meetings and speakers. These younger leaders will certainly hear from and engage with their more experienced counterparts, but they will also take part in creating the future that God is bringing into existence.

In 2016, in Jakarta, Indonesia, Lausanne will host the third global Younger Leaders Gathering. Some 1,000 younger leaders from more than 150 nations will gather for what, as we resolved for Cape Town, must not be simply another conference.

The participants will take part in ‘laboratories’ where their greatest passions and inspirations and the world’s greatest needs will intersect. They will receive encouragement and coaching on how to initiate the next generation of missional networks, organizations, businesses, and ministries. Historically, we have seen these eternity-shaping initiatives launched out of Lausanne gatherings (300 such networks came out of Manila 1989 alone), but this is the first time where we will actively nurture such undertakings. We are excited about the kingdom initiatives waiting to be birthed.


Again, the need for Christ-like leaders for the church is too great simply to be content with a week of meetings and speakers. The YLG will not be the end of Lausanne’s engagement with these younger leaders. The gathering will actually launch a ten-year initiative called Younger Leaders Generation (YLGen).

Those who attend the YLG, as well as other younger leaders, will be connected in mentoring communities and receive critical mission education through Lausanne’s Global Classroom initiative. These are just two of the ongoing opportunities. It is often easy to get people excited about a big event, but there is no other Lausanne initiative that excites us as much as YLGen. We truly believe that if you want to change the world, you must change its leaders.

Wittenberg gathering—toward a greater partnership

Besides highlighting the multi-generational nature of the church, Cape Town also reminded us that global mission is too important to ignore and too difficult to do alone. Regional networks, issue networks, and generational networks are all manifestations of God’s people connecting for global mission. We want to share with you, for the first time, about an upcoming event that we ask you to pray about and fast over. It is our hope that the event results in powerful partnerships aimed at seeing the Gospel for Every Person andan Evangelical Church for Every People become a reality.

In 2017, Lausanne will be hosting a gathering in Wittenberg, Germany. That year will mark the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. While we certainly will celebrate the faithfulness of God over these 500 years, we also understand that the gospel, the good news that Martin Luther and others worked tirelessly to defend and articulate, has yet to reach billions of men, women, and children.

The gospel the Reformers championed must continue to be heralded throughout the world. In light of this, Lausanne will be inviting 70 of the most influential mission leaders to Wittenberg to pray and plan toward a greater partnership in global mission. For more than a year before the gathering, they will be engaging in a process of prayer, discernment, reflection, and interaction.

We have much to be thankful for. However, there also remains much to do. May we continue to sense a holy, joyful urgency to engage in global mission! It is too important to ignore and too difficult to do alone. Would you pray for these networks and initiatives? Would you pray and act toward seeing this fourfold vision become a reality, for the glory of God and that the world might know Christ?

Michael Oh is Executive Director/CEO of the Lausanne Movement. He is also the founder and Board Chair of CBI Japan, which includes Christ Bible Seminary, church planting efforts, and various outreach ministries, including the Heart & Soul Cafe, in Nagoya, Japan. Michael holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Harvard University.

Justin Schell is Director of Executive Projects for the Lausanne Movement. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, he has served in leadership with a variety of mission and mobilization organizations for 15 years. Contact Justin at