Growing up as a missionary kid, I never really appreciated the extraordinary unity among missionaries overseas. My parents worked with people from across the world, spanning a number of denominations and creeds, and yet that was never an issue. The missionary community put aside their small differences in light of the greater goal: spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. At the time it seemed perfectly normal to me, but having spent a couple years back in the United States I have really come to appreciate the extraordinary environment I grew up in.
What drove that unity? Curious, I asked my father if there was any reason I never noticed denominational differences. Forgetting that Dad went to seminary, I expected him to say that there was some unspoken rule, or that there wasn’t time for denominational differences, or something along those lines — that it simply wasn’t significant. Instead he launched into an interesting, if long-winded explanation of the history of denominational division in missions.
The long and short of his comments was that originally, missions was heavily divided. One church would reach out to one region and a different denomination would reach the neighboring one in unspoken coordination, often along lines that reflected the colonial reality of the time. The only problem was that the Church doesn’t obey regional lines, and as the new churches grew they would eventually overlap, leading to unnecessary conflict.
All this led up to a theological document: the Lausanne Covenant. In 1974, at the first International Congress on World Evangelization, a 2,300-strong international cross-denominational committee was formed to create a comprehensive statement of faith, putting down the very core tenets of Christianity as they relate to missions. The Lausanne Covenant brought together evangelicals specifically and Christians generally, reminding us of the core things we hold to be true and that these essential values hold us together; namely that Christ is above all. As a simple but thorough statement of faith the Lausanne Covenant allows the Church to have a united front in its outreach, prioritizing God’s work over petty theological squabbles. Most importantly, the Lausanne Covenant is firmly grounded in scripture.
Although the Lausanne Covenant and the International Congress on World Evangelization is primarily an evangelical affair, I strongly encourage anyone to take fifteen minutes to read it as a reminder of the things that hold us together.
Thomas Hale is a sophomore concentrating in Computer Engineering.