An writer from Christianity Today asked me last night what the highlight of my week has been so far here in Cape Town. I didn’t have to think long to answer. I told him that I have prayed a lot for the persecuted church in Nigeria this past year. But I never knew any of those who were suffering for Christ. So the opportunity to have dinner with a pastor from the region where I was praying for who could tell me in detail what his church has gone through was a deep privilege. I remember that somewhere in that conversation, while I was listening to him talk, I had the distinct sense that I was not simply talking to a Christian from another part of the world. But I was speaking with a very godly man.
The greatest joys to come to me from the Lausanne Congress in Cape Town are the joys of meeting so many believers from all over the world and having lengthy conversations.
Instead of sitting in rows for the daily meetings, we all sit at tables. We are at the same table for the whole week for the first half of each day. Table participants were deliberately chosen so that each table would be a representation of the global church. So for example, my table consists of a Bible translator from Singapore, a pastor from Ethiopia, an NGO worker from England, a Chinese missionary, and a woman from the Ivory Coast who is studying theology, and a Bible college professor from the US. All week long we have talked together about the Scriptures, and about the issues that face us as church leaders. We have had the privilege of processing things with each other, learning about what it means to be a Christian in those places, and just thinking globally as the church.
That’s something we do not usually do. We usually think locally (me and my church), or nationally (the church in America). But with a week like this you start to ask—how do other believers see things, what are the lenses through which we look at these things, what biases keep us from seeing things, what do we see that our brothers and sisters from other parts of the world don’t see, what do they see that we don’t see, what do we have to learn from each other, how can we work together, and what is God doing in the world.
Outside of my table group, the networking opportunities are immense. And I am so glad RTS, the EPC and CCU (the three groups I am representing this week), have a place here in Cape Town. One minute I am talking with an Anglican bishop from Rawanda, the next I am talking to a Pentecostal pastor from Nigeria, or a woman who works with International Justice Mission in India. Meeting Christian leaders and friends from the West has also been a joy. I just had tea with an Anglican chaplain from Kampala who has worked with my wife’s Uncle and Aunt in Uganda. This taste of the worldwide unity of the body of Christ has been very, very sweet.