Lausanne Update: Wow

Wow. That is an overused word, but the only way to describe the first three days of the Lausanne Congress here in Cape Town. In some ways, I wish I was participating and able to attend all the sessions. But I know that my role leading the communications team is a better use of my gifts. I have been able to participate in just a few sessions in the last three days. These were the highlights:

Ruth Padilla Deborst gave the Bible exposition on Ephesians 2. There was some controversy about allowing a woman to teach men. I hope that was dispelled by her beautiful explanation of how God has chosen to dwell in His creation through those of us in that convention center and all believers. She asked for no applause at the end. She asked us to contemplate what it meant to be the temple of God — He dwelling in our flesh — and while we bowed our heads, she walked off the stage. I have never seen such a dramatic ending to a sermon, as the room was silent for five minutes.

John Piper gave an amazing sermon, in which he asked us to consider, from Ephesians 3, how God uses suffering to spread the Gospel. He was followed by Libby Little, whose husband was martyred two months ago in Afghanistan on a medical mission. She held out her husband Tom’s sermon notes found on his body, stained with blood and sand. It was based on Ephesians. She then quoted from one of Piper’s poems about the blood of martyrs. I thought Piper had overwhelmed us with one of the best sermons I’ve ever heard. But then Libby one-upped Piper by living what he was preaching. My wife, Tricia, cried through Libby’s entire speech. She and I were sitting with Tim Stafford from Christianity Today. He said, “No matter what else happens today, that is the story of the day.”

Participants are saying that this is “life-changing” and “historic.” The sense of excitement is palpable in the hall between sessions. The World Council of Churches sent a news release today saying that they are of one heart with we evangelicals, and “it’s time to remove the distinction.” I can only assume that means they want to move back toward historic, orthodox, missional Christianity. They must know we won’t move in their direction.

In all this, there has been an overwhelming sense of spiritual warfare. Our website has been hacked by a coordinated attack from a country I won’t name. There was also a malicious virus within the building that brought our Internet service to a halt. God provided a miracle. Two cousins from India had volunteered to help set up printers and fix laptop problems. They happened to have the exact expertise needed to fix both problems after our IT team and some of the best experts on South Africa had worked for hours on them. One was an expert in creating viruses, to help companies build better firewalls. He’s the one who identified and contained the virus. What a great example of the sovereignty of God and the humility of people He uses. The cousins came forward sheepishly, after watching the team here work hard for two days. “Maybe we can help,” they said.

Steve Woodworth