InterVarsity's Cape Town 2010 Blog

Saturday-Sunday, October 23-24, 2010

Sunday's final sessionSaturday and Sunday at Cape Town 2010, Christian leaders were called to repentance and commitment.  Denominational and organizational leaders are often the ones who call cultures to change and engage the gospel but are often not challenged in the way we were at Cape Town 2010.  Christian leaders were challenged to repent in three primary areas.

  1. Idolatry: Churches and organizational leaders were challenged to give up the tribalism of evangelicalism and to cease pursuing status and position.  The reality of organizations, networks, and projects do require designation and hierarchy. However, leaders were challenged to pledge themselves first and foremost to the Kingdom of God and to the Global Church for the purpose of world evangelization.  Idolatry shows up among Christians in many ways—church growth, church size, title, projects, conferences—but all such idols are just as worthless as the worldly idols of power, sex, material possessions, and access.  There is no such thing as a redeemed idol!
  2. Greed: Many voices from around the world articulated what greed looks like in their own context but the thread that bound them together is the sense that greed is not only a blight on the Church and her mission but also an affront to God.  Greed transforms true worship into a transactional relationship with God and with others.  We see this in its most blatant form in the prosperity gospel movement.  While prosperity theology has waned greatly in the U.S., it still ravishes the poorest of the poor communities and countries of the world-particularly Africa.  Greed, however, is evident throughout the world today.  One speaker asserted that, “…the Church is far too rich,” and that we need to release our resources for God’s Kingdom in faith.
  3. Integrity: Convicting messages around integrity in ministry were also given over the last two days, emphasizing honesty in reporting, relating, and responding.  Evangelicals have blighted the name of Christ by misrepresenting numbers of conversions, baptisms, church membership, dollars raised, and impact on communities.  Evangelicals have blighted the mission of the Church by failing to relate to fellow Christian ministries in a way that is encouraging and empowering, favoring rather to compete against other Christians.  Competition amongst Christians has robbed us of the power to truly make lasting impact and has entrenched a tribalism that is sure to fail.

Through extended times of prayer, liturgical response, and moving calls of visible response, leaders at Cape Town were challenged to partnership.  Bible poverty, unreached and under-reached people groups, victims of human trafficking, the empowerment of women in ministry, and the sharing of tangible resources were a number of the issues participants were challenged to address.  Addressing such challenges in each organization’s context will not be easy since churches and organizations have often spent decades carving out what it means to live according to God’s call in their area of expertise. 

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA is passionate about Scripture exposition and Bible literacy and partners with mission agencies and other IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students) groups around the world to spread the gospel message.  Through InterVarsity Link, Urban Projects, Global Treks, and Global Projects, InterVarsity is sending faculty, students, and staff literally to the ends of the Earth.  InterVarsity is partnering with non-governmental organizations like World Vision in the U.S. and abroad to end modern-day slavery in our lifetime.  InterVarsity is sharing resources with the global Church through the ministry of Urbana, 2100 productions (our media department), InterVarsity Press, and other ministries.  While all of this is true, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has much to do in order to fully embrace the challenge of Cape Town 2010.  In the coming days, senior leaders will begin to ask God together what it is that He is calling us to in these days of the emerging global Church!

Posted by York Moore, Cape Town, South Africa, 10/24/2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lausanne III at Cape TownOn Friday, Cape Town 2010 focused on the Church in Africa and on ministry to children.  The American Church is beginning to realize the centrality of the Church in the global south as the center of Christianity has now shifted, with more Christians in the south and more people coming to Christ in the south than in the west. 

This realization can be seen in the fact that the Lausanne Movement brought Cape Town 2010 to the continent of Africa.  It is widely perceived that the Church in Africa will be one of the dominant forces in world missions in the next 100 years.  An African missiologist spoke at Cape Town saying “100 years ago as the modern era of missions dawned at Edinburgh, Africa was unevangelized. It is now a missionary-sending continent.”  Already, churches throughout Africa are sending career missionaries who are planting churches in the U.K., across Europe and South America, and in the U.S.

For many who have grown up in a missionary-supporting American church, such realizations can be hard to believe.  Christians in Africa desire to reach North American non-Christians with the gospel and are looking to the next 100 years as the “Age of Africa!”  Doug Birdsall, Executive Director of Cape Town 2010, and a North American, said, “I look forward to the age of reciprocal missions.”  This shift can be seen in other countries throughout Latin America. Impassioned speakers at Cape Town receptions and seminars have tied the massive movement of immigrants throughout the world to the wise actions of God to spread the gospel to the nations!

There are obstacles, however.  Zalelem Abebe, General Secretary for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students in Ethiopia, said, “The millions of young people across Africa will be agents of transformation,” but Africa according to Africans is a divided continent where sexual sin, political factions, war, and brutal violence still rule.  “The African Church needs to regain legitimacy in the eyes of the global Church by addressing these problems,” another African delegate shared at the African Delegates Reception.  “Africa is a fatherless country,” others have said at Cape Town 2010.  This admission naturally bridged into the second theme of the Congress on Friday, ministry to children.

Paul Eshleman, the founder and former director of the JESUS Film Project, said, “We’ve moved from preaching, through printing, to portraying the gospel [now] through media,” and this is the air global youth culture breathes.  Technology is not merely a set of tools youth culture uses to accomplish tasks, it is as central to life and identity as the telephone, automobile, and television have been for past generations.  It is estimated that a full 25 percent of those who come to faith on-line do so now through mobile phones and most of these conversions are in the 15 and under category. 

In many countries, there are now more children and youth than any other segment of the population.  Youth ministry is central to the future of the Church. Reaching children and youth for Christ was emphasized but also equipping them to reach their peers with the gospel.  Social media has created in a few short years a “global youth culture,” as they now listen to the same music, wear the same designer shirts, and watch the same on-line videos.  The youth culture of the world is a global culture and we as the Church must commit our resources to engaging this youth, utilizing the language and tools native to this culture.

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA is doing just this.  In recent years, we have seen more students come to Christ than in any other time in our organization’s history.  This student generation is the first American generation to think of themselves first as global citizens and second as American citizens. The global resources and worldview of InterVarsity are playing a huge part in attracting them to our fellowship. 

With over 33,000 students, faculty and staff, InterVarsity attracts nearly 9,000 non-Christians to our weekly campus fellowship gatherings and engages many more thousands with a vision for a Christ-centric Kingdom through evangelistic programs and activities.  This Christ-centric Kingdom vision connects well with emerging youth culture as it speaks authentically and transformatively to the global issues American youth are passionate about.  Intervarsity is proud to be a part of the Lausanne Movement and to be a partner at Cape Town 2010 with the global Church!

Posted by York Moore, Cape Town, South Africa, 10/23/2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

York Moore at Cape of Good Hope National ParkExcursion: A Sabbath Rest at Cape Town 2010

Thursday was a day of Sabbath rest at Cape Town 2010 and many delegates took excursions, as I did, to see the sights of the Cape of Good Hope National Park.  What I did not realize was how much God would use this sight-seeing tour to help me to see his heart for the global poor.  I had looked forward to a break from lectures, messages, video, and testimonies about things like the persecuted Church, globalization, Biblical illiteracy, the spread of radical Islam, and issues like poverty but one of my greatest learning experiences came on my “day off.”

Jesus said that the poor would always be with us but in our increasing globalized world, there are more and more people living lives of abject poverty literally right alongside some of the greatest widespread expressions  of wealth the world has ever seen. 

During my tour to the Cape of Good Hope, our tour director helped us to understand Cape Town’s history and the role Apartheid played in generating segments or sections of the city that are thoroughly entrenched in poverty.  Driving along serene, winding cliffs, we came to one spot where a private winery and horse ranch sat.  A beautiful white family, fully outfitted in riding gear, rode together, enjoying each other as well as a slice of God’s creation that seemed more like heaven than earth. 

Within eyesight of this family, literally across the road, sat what our driver referred to as a “community,” a remnant of Apartheid-a settlement for blacks.  The homes were the size of shipping containers, made of cardboard walls and thin tin roofs.  A small boy in oversized clothes played in the dirt before being punished. Then he sat by his mother in a lone chair on the side of the road. 

Our driver, Friso, a non-Christian white man from Amsterdam, took the time to passionately speak of South Africa’s need to grow up into its promises for a better future for all South Africans.  Friso’s lecture sounded much like a Lausanne Congress plea to look with God’s eyes at the poor; God had my attention as he used Friso to get hold of my heart.

Friso and I spent time during the half-day sight-seeing tour talking about the role the Church is playing in addressing global poverty and how the Lausanne Congress at Cape Town was comprised of organizations and churches that represented literally millions of Christians around the world who are working to care for the poor and address the systemic injustices that give rise to oppressive poverty. 

The tour continued, bumping and jostling down roads past skulking wild baboons and below mist-sprayed mountains on our way to the sea. We finally stopped to observe African penguins in the wild.  Breezes of sea air greeted us as we arrived to find luxury homes worth millions just feet away from the penguins. The penguins sat within inches of our feet. 

These homes, often owned by wealthy Middle Easterners and Europeans as “holiday homes,” were a stark contrast from the Black community we had left behind. But a reminder of poverty followed us to this surreal end of the continent.  Friso’s eyes were drawn not to the luxury homes but to a home with no roof and decaying walls.  He began to talk again about the plight of South Africa and the unsustainable growth of their housing market.  Friso spoke with a broken heart about the new soccer stadium that took billions to build and that now sat empty.  “I hope they use much of the money FIFA brought to Cape Town to expand affordable housing for the poor,” he said.

God used Friso and this surprising tour of beauty and brokenness to reaffirm my call to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.  Earlier in the conference, pastor and theologian John Piper spoke of our Christian commitment to care deeply for both the temporal needs of those who suffer as well as their eschatological or eternal suffering without Jesus Christ.  On my “day off” God used a tour guide driver to tell me the same thing.  Thanks Friso.

Posted by York Moore, Cape Town, South Africa, 10/23/2010.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

John PiperIn the United States, there is a growing concern among evangelicals that evangelistic and theological rigor are being eclipsed by the Church’s focus on ministry expansion and church growth, compassion and justice oriented work, and postmodern ministry contextualization.  This concern among leaders within the United States is also shared by many around the world, including some who have spoken at Cape Town 2010. 

In his talk today, pastor and theologian John Piper began the important work of creating space for understanding and dialogue on differing perspectives on these issues.  After a riveting exposition of Ephesians 3, Piper described this growing schism in the area of justice and evangelism and offered a well thought-out, scripturally-based integration of the two seemingly competing practices. 

Piper closed his message by asking, “Why can’t this Congress say that we as evangelicals care about all suffering—the  suffering of those who suffer now and the suffering of those who will suffer in hell?”  By framing up the dialogue in this way, Piper has done a great service to the dialogue both within the U.S. Church and between U.S. Christian leaders and their counterparts who are growing ever more suspect of our commitment to truth, mission, and cultural engagement. 

Piper's call to consider the suffering of women and men in a temporal as well as eschatological terms brings both the work of traditional evangelism and gospel proclamation, and the work of justice and compassion together exquisitely.  We cannot choose between proclaiming the gospel and the work of freeing slaves, defending widows, serving the poor, or providing medical care to those infected with the leprosy of our day, HIV/AIDS.  We also cannot capitulate to the spirit of tolerant relativism. So we must proclaim Jesus Christ as the only way to be saved from the “suffering” to come. We are saved through the cross of Christ!

The Lausanne Congress is a meeting of passionate leaders from 198 countries who have given their lives for the sake of the gospel. So, it is inevitable, even desirable, that there be real, substantive debate and dialogue on our way to greater reconciliation and understanding. The Church expresses itself in different cultural paradigms throughout the world. This is quite real to hose of us who are working in the West to express a relevant response to postmodern culture that is also evangelistic and theologically rigorous. I've learned in my ministry that American postmodernity is less a cohesive world view articulated by its literary and philosophical European counterparts than a cultural shift in learning and relating. 

Too often, many people over simplify American postmodernity and reduce it to mere relativism when, in fact, American cultural postmodernism has helped throw open the door to engaging the un-churched in dramatic and fruitful ways.  In the last several years, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA has seen its largest sustained evangelistic growth in its history, with more students coming to faith in Christ than ever before! 

This, in large part, is as a result to our commitment to planting and building transformative, witnessing communities of students, faculty, and staff on our 500+ campuses amongst our 32,000+ constituents.  God is on the move in a powerful way in the United States and Cape Town 2010 provides a rich opportunity for us to share with the rest of the world what we are learning.  We have much to continue to contribute to the global Church in U.S., effective methods and paradigms that are biblically sound and productively sustainable.

Cape Town 2010 has been referred to as “the most diverse gathering of Christians in the history of the Church.”  John Piper exposited Ephesians 3 at Lausanne today and the end of this chapter is fitting for these complex issues.  At the Congress, as we grapple with issues as complex as reconciliation and globalization, theology, and cultural engagement, and the role of the Church in politics, the media, and commerce, we need God to fulfill Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians in chapter 3 as we do so.

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (emphasis added, New International Version).

Posted by York Moore, Cape Town, South Africa, 10/20/2010.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010Cape Town speaker

As Western Christians, we often read and hear about the persecuted Church but, here at Lausanne 2010, the persecuted Church has faces and names.  While most nearly all Chinese delegates to Lausanne were denied departure from China and some detained, a handful of Chinese Christians are here in Cape Town for the Congress.  While speaking to one of them at length today, I asked him why he would risk arrest and persecution for coming to Lausanne.  His words moved me to tears.  “How can I decline this invitation?  How can I fail to be here and receive what this event has to offer me and my people? How can I be silent about Jesus, I must come and I must speak!”  These words were repeated over many times from the platform and around tables as women and men from Serbia, from India, from the Middle East, shared stories of suffering and persecution for the gospel. 

Lausanne 2010 celebrates the proclamation of the gospel around the world because the gospel is worthy of our very lives!  The gospel is the only way to “break down the wall of violence and hatred,” said Dan Sered (Jewish Christian) and Shadia Qubts (Palestinian Christian) together at the close of this morning’s session.

Throughout the conference today, the social justice issues of our time were front and center, particularly the growing problem of human trafficking.  While it has become common knowledge that there are over 27 million slaves today (more than were trafficked in the entire four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade when adjusted for population), today those slaves had faces and names, as riveting stories of suffering and rescue were told by the International Justice Mission’s Director of Aftercare, Panitha Timothy who serves in Chennai, India.  “Often, the poor in India are not truly poor but rather slaves cloaked as the poor.”  Another worker for the International Justice Mission pointed out that not only are slaves throughout the world unreached by the gospel, they are also “unreachable” in that they are hidden away from any kind of structure and interaction with the outside world.

The evening session focused on God’s work throughout the Middle East.  While in places like Iran, hundreds of thousands of Muslims are turning to Jesus, other places continue to outlaw conversion, and persecute and kill Christians.  The good news is that new believers in Christ throughout the Middle East, like China, are standing for the gospel and Jesus is being made known everywhere!  It is estimated now that there have been more conversions to Christ in Iran in the last 13 years than in the last 1300 years as Muslims tire of the corruption and violence of Islamic rule.

One of the goals of Lausanne 2010 is to address issues that face the Church globally which hinder the gospel’s expansion and the persecution of governments, of radical Islam, and of slavery are at the top of the list.  At Lausanne, over 4,000 leaders from 198 countries help us see the faces, hear the stories and share the tears of those who suffer for the gospel.

Posted by York Moore, Cape Town, South Africa, 10/19/2010

Monday, October 18, 2010Cape Town opening ceremony

The ThirdLausanne Congress was pronounced “open” by Doug Birdsall, executive director of the Congress yesterday.  Over 4,000 delegates from 198 countries are gathered at the Lausanne Congress in Cape Town, South  Africa this week and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA is here!  The week began with a celebration of the African continent and people in a program of dramatic pageantry.  The shift in the global population of Christians to countries in the southern hemisphere is just one of many reasons this historic congress in being held in Africa.  The contribution of the African Church to world missions is growing and sitting at the feet of theologians, pastors, and practitioners from around the world on the southern most tip of Africa is fitting for such an historic event.  Lausanne 2010 marks 100 years of missionary activity which began with the Edinburgh Conference of 1910

The opening of Lausanne 2010 was both a celebration of the familiar voices of evangelicalism as letters from John Stott and Billy Graham (founder of the Lausanne movement) were read, but also a forward celebration of missiological reciprocity as the two-thirds world begins to take the lead as the dominant power in the Christian world!  Lausanne celebrates global missions through the lens of our commitment to the Scriptures, proclamation evangelism, and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.  All of these great evangelical commitments were reiterated today with exposition and messages from leaders from Egypt, Germany, Hong Kong, and the U.S.

During Lausanne 2010, the contribution of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA is evident.  Each morning all delegates gather at tables to study Ephesians in “manuscript style,” thanks to the hard work of InterVarsity associate regional director, Lindsay Olesberg.  Lindsay and many other InterVarsity staff  have helped shape the Lausanne 2010 Congress over the last several years.  InterVarsity has sent 15 of the 400 U.S. delegates, including president Alec Hill, to the Congress and is humbled to be a part of this historic moment in global missions. 

Posted by York Moore, Cape Town, South Africa 10/18/2010.