Fish, Loaves, and the Five Thousand at the Cape Town Lausanne Congress
London – Two highs just now during a stopover on my way to the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Cape Town. First, in the heart of cavernous Westminster Cathedral, sharing a beautiful, intimate Holy Communion with 20 strangers inside a small, hidden, elevated chapel as hundreds of tourists walked beneath us. Second, sitting in the sanctuary of Methodist Central Hall Westminster Church across the street, and learning that the U.N. was birthed in this humble room in 1946 when leaders from 51 nations first gathered.
Good reminders of the significance of the small as I head to join five thousand participants amidst lots of buzz and expectations around the first-ever Lausanne Congress in Africa. Five thousand Christian leaders gathering from across the world, including 200 from China … Meeting in Africa for the first time … Major funding coming from non-western sources … A time of profound shift of Christianity’s growth from North and West to South and East.
Just before boarding the plane an image came to me: “expect revelation.” That phrase (from a favorite Madeline L’Engle book) sums up for me the both most important reality and challenge of paying attention beyond human action, to strain to seek, see, and discern what God seems to be saying and doing, and to be willing to be interrupted by God’s action (think Pentecost).
I take this quite seriously given the small surprises of a Lausanne event six years ago in Thailand that turned my life in a completely new direction. In 2004, out of the blue, I was over my head when invited to co-convene the global reconciliation issue group. This journey took me to Africa for the first time, gave birth to friendship with my colleague Emmanuel Katongole, and with him and others to the Duke Center for Reconciliation as well as a “new family” of 50 Christian reconciliation leaders. It marked a resurrection of God’s call on my life, into new growth and vitality after 17 years in Mississippi. When my colleague Spencer Perkins had died in 1998 I had wondered “is there any future without Spencer?”
So when I say “expect revelation” there’s a track record. A few fish, a few loaves. Beyond our power, they can be multiplied in profound ways. I’m keeping these convictions close as I head to Cape Town. I’ll be telling you what I see.
Finally, this is a little scary. Just finishing this post, thinking of the five thousand coming to Cape Town, the question came to me “And how many did Jesus feed?” With what? Pray that our five thousand come ready to receive miracles, perhaps even from the margins.
P.S. I’m helping lead a “common reconciliation journey” of 35 participants during the Congress. I’ll be sharing about that too.
About the Author: Chris Rice is co-director of the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School. He is author of Reconciling All Things, Grace Matters, and More Than Equals. He writes regularly at the blog Reconcilers.
- The Most Diverse Gathering Ever, Christianity Today, September 2010
- The Five Thousand painting by Eularia Clark, Methodist Art Collection
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