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Underrepresented at Cape Town 2010

25 October 2010

Andy Crouch writes: Underrepresented at Cape Town 2010 | Liveblog | Christianity Today:

I’m in Cape Town for the third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. Four thousand delegates are here in what is being described as the most representative gathering of Christian leaders in history. But one group is notably underrepresented: prominent figures associated with evangelical Christianity in the United States, especially pastors of large churches. Rather than name names, let me put it this way: pick a celebrated American evangelical church leader, especially one who founded his current congregation, and I will give you 5-1 odds that he (and most of the missing are “he”s) is not here, at least not as part of the official US delegation.

For better and for worse, these absences tell us a lot about power, influence, innovation, and the future of global movements like evangelical Christianity. Here are a few lessons from the ecclesial Realpolitik of the no-shows (in rough order from brutally honest to genuinely hopeful) . . . .

  • For megapastors, platform time is the price of participation
  • Learning happens in the hallways, not the hall
  • Innovation happens today in small distributed networks, not in large centralized meetings
  • The globalization that made “Lausanne 1974” so powerful, and made “Lausanne 2010” possible, may well make “Lausanne 2046” unnecessary
  • The absence of major American figures really doesn’t matter and probably actually helps

And Andy Crouch concludes, “Very likely, when we look back from 2046, we will discover that the most significant outcomes of Cape Town 2010, unforeseen and unforeseeable today, came from those relationships—and from the very spaces created by the missing megapastors. And in 2046, without a doubt, those leaders will be the ones having to make the tough decisions about what to do with their power and their all-too-limited time—just like the no-shows of 2010.”

I can think of several other groups that were underrepresented at Cape Town 2010. There didn’t seem to be many Orthodox participants, for one thing, though whether that was because they weren’t invited or didn’t bother to attend, I’m not sure.

But it seems that there were not many African megapastors there either, which is more significant for a congress held in Africa than the absence of American megapastors.

It appears that some African pastors who preach a prosperity gospel are also conducting and promoting witch hunts, and especially of child “witches”, and this is being publicised outside Africa, creating considerable resistance to the Gospel in Europe and elsewhere. Though one of the topics at Cape Town 2010 was “prosperity gospel”, this aspect of it was barely touched on, and yet the competition between the new megachurches and the old African Independent Churches is one of the raw nerves of African Christianity today. Perhaps it was the elephant in the room that nobody wanted to talk about. Or perhaps no one at Cape Town 2010 was aware of it, precisely because those for whom it is most important were absent.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. 25 October 2010 7:10 am

    My pastor was spending time with his kids before they graduate and go to college.

  2. 25 October 2010 9:32 am

    An interesting reflection Steve, I am generally suspicious ( if that is the right word) of the mega church movement, so often it is little more than a personality cult. My daughters boyfriend is currently in Cape Town for the conference, invited as a future leader, he has really been inspired by this. He is blogging his response here: http://davesankey.wordpress.com/

    • 26 October 2010 8:06 am

      Sally, Thanks for the link. There seems to have been some intersting discussion, but I wonder about some of the gaps.

  3. 25 October 2010 12:35 pm

    I met four delegates from my alma mater in Los Angeles, and perhaps there were more. One wonders how they pulled off such a monopoly. And then I met the US (US citizen) delegate from the Philippines, the US delegate from Cambodia, the US delegate from Canada, the US delegate from the UK … It’s a funny world.

  4. 25 October 2010 8:11 pm

    This Orthodox (albeit a neophyte) did actually get as far as looking up their website when I realised that I was going to be in Cape Town at the time with a little time on my hands. I thought that there may be sessions that were open to the public or something like that. Apart from the fact that that was probably naive and didn’t seem to be the case, I was frankly rather put off by the way the central event of the day seemed to be a “celebration of the Bible.” I don’t want to deny that dialogue with and making common cause with evangelicals can be important, but there really are rather different paradigms at work and that struck me as almost blasphemous and didn’t encourage me to investigate further.

    • 26 October 2010 8:20 am

      Macrina,

      I wouldn’t say “celebration of the Bible” is blasphemous (if that is what you were referring to. After all, we Orthodox “celebrate the Bible” at every Divine Liturgy at the little entrance.

      But I am concerned about the claim that it is the “most representative”. A bit like the FIFA World Cup. We were not allowed to forget that it was the FIFA World Cup rather than the South African World Cup, with foreign singers imported for the theme song, etc. And as Thomas has pointed out, this seems to have been an American event held in South Africa. I wonder how many Zionists, for example, were present or invited — yet they have done most of the evangelization in Southern Africa.

    • Dana Ames permalink
      28 October 2010 1:21 am

      Macrina,
      here is a blog post explaining how it was decided who would come, and from where:
      http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctliveblog/archives/2010/10/representing_th.html

      Steve,
      I don’t know if you read the rest of the live blog, but here’s the latest entry:
      http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctliveblog/archives/2010/10/new_reformation.html
      Of interest is that prosperity teaching was specifically denounced.

      Tim Stafford, the author, is a principled journalist. He lives in the county next to me in California, and I met him while I was still a Protestant. I actually got to hear C. Wright at the last National Pastors Conference I went to, Feb 2009 (the week before I became a catechumen). He also impressed me with his integrity.

      I used to go to the conf. in order to hear the authors whose books were “hot” in Evangelical circles in the US. It was easy for me to get to; in addition, since it was held in San Diego, where my daughter was in college, it was a good way to spend a few days with her.

      Most Evangelicals are not comfortable trying to relate to Orthodox folk. You’re so right about the different paradigms, Macrina.

      Dana

      • 28 October 2010 7:03 am

        On the “who got to go” question, I was interested to see how the article alternated between “whole church” and “evangelical Christians”. I suppose my question is, who gets to decide who counts as an evangelical Christian?

        And the question of the prosperity gospel is not simply that it should be denounced by a speaker in the absence of those who preach it. Were any of those who preach it there? So it comes down again to who gets to decide who is “evangelical” – are Pentecostals, Neopentecostals and charismatics excluded?

        I’ve tried to follow to some extent, and as far as I can see I’m the only Orthodox who has participated in the “conversation”. Apparently there were some Orthodox actually at the Manila congress.

  5. 27 October 2010 11:07 pm

    Interesting post. I was also not at the Lausanne, in Cape Town. I know not of any people who went there, who are involved in SAMS, except one or two newer members. Perhaps one need to bear in mind the background of the movement itself. In my view, it was really the response to the ecumenical movement where, so it seems, the old evangelical networks were basically behind the scenes operating. We must also bear in mind that you could come by invitation only (or nomination) by a national network or some-one inside.

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