October 18, 2010
Cape Town Diary: Day Zero
Watch where you walk.
Before the busy schedule of Lausanne's Cape Town 2010 began, an American friend and I took a brief driving tour of Africa's most European city. Our guide was a retired newspaper editor, and as a colored citizen of South Africa, he had tales to tell about the days of apartheid.
One beautiful part of the city to which he took us stacked its houses up a tall hill, giving the residents glorious, expansive, but expensive views. We parked at the end of the neighborhood's highest street and climbed a steep dirt path to get the best possible view. The dirt path was unstable, slippery, covered in loose rocks. So on our descent my friend, a Wheaton alum, talked about a lesson she'd learned when she took a mountain climbing course while a student. I learned you should always keep your eye on where you are, she said. Not where you're going or where you've been. If you look ahead or behind, you'll just freeze.
My friend knew it was a metaphor for life.
So it seemed like a providential moment when Doug Birdsall, executive chair of the Lausanne Movement, introduced the first event for the gathering's 4,500 participants. He reminisced about the great leaders who led the first Lausanne gathering back in 1974.
He mentioned Billy Graham and John R. W. Stott, Rene Padilla and Gottfried Osai Mensah. But then he said we are not here to recreate Lausanne I. Our purpose was not to restore some sort of missiological golden age. Nor can we solve the missiological problems that will be faced by our grandchildren. Our duty is in the present. Our challenges are in the present. And those are what we are here to analyse and strategize about.
In a talk later that evening, Birdsall referenced several of the conference's major concerns: how we are to witness to people of other faiths and how we are to cautiously capitalize on the dynamics of globalization. He spoke of priorities: scripture translation and reaching unreached people groups.
He concluded with a call to moving forward in "bold humility."
This morning, on the conference's first full day, four plenary speakers will talk about "making the case for the truth of Christ in a pluralistic, globalized world." Clearly, the ground of pluralism is like the hill my friend and I climbed on day zero--slippery, covered with loose rock. An important element of our strategy must be to look very closely at where we are walking.