by Noel Becchetti
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Connecting influencers and ideas for global mission
“I’d characterize Lausanne’s leadership style as one of discussion and consensus.”
David Bennett has served with the Lausanne Movement since 2009, his current role being Global Associate Director for Collaboration and Content. But the Lausanne Movement itself is nearing its 50th year of life.
“By the early 1970s, Billy Graham had met evangelists and ministry leaders throughout the world,” David told me. “They were all his friends, but most did not know one another. Billy wanted his friends to get to know one another. In that process, his dream was that global Christian outreach would be energized as leaders who had previously been isolated began to connect, converse, and ultimately, collaborate. He wanted to unite all evangelicals in the common task of evangelizing the world.”
The culmination of Billy Graham’s original vision was the first Congress on World Evangelization. In 1974, over 2400 participants from 150 nations gathered in Lausanne, Switzerland. In the decades since that first gathering, Lausanne has experienced encouraging highs and weathered discouraging lows. It now occupies a key position in global Christianity.
“Currently, Lausanne is organized around three key areas,” David told me. “Regions, Issues, and Generations.”
Lausanne organizes its world into 12 geo-political/linguistic regions, e.g English, Spanish, Portuguese-speaking Africa as one region in Africa, and French-speaking Africa as another region. Each region is led by a Regional Director who works with a Co-Director and Regional Team to connect influencers and ideas in their region of the world.
Lausanne has nearly 30 issue networks. These networks are led by Lausanne Catalysts and centered around a pressing missional opportunity or challenge, including Diasporas, Men and Women Partnering for the Gospel, Orality, Business-as-Mission, Children-at-Risk, Church Planting, and Freedom and Justice.
Beginning in 1987, Lausanne began gathering influential evangelical leaders under 40 years of age. After the third global younger leaders gathering in 2016 (YLG’16), they are now five years into a new initiative, Younger Leaders Generation (YLGen), committed to building connections across generations by walking alongside younger leaders and intentionally connecting them to networks, regional leaders, mission resources, and one another.
“The Lausanne staff is overseen by a Senior Leadership Team,” David continued. “Increasingly our staff team as well as our far more numerous volunteer leaders, including our board, reflect Lausanne’s diverse multinational and multi-generational networks.”
Michael Oh, our Global Executive Director, is Korean-American, and served as a missionary in Japan. Las Newman, Global Associate Director for Regions, is from Jamaica and Nana Yaw Offei Awuku, Global Associate Director for Generations, is from Ghana. Our Chief Operating Officer, Larry Russell, is from the USA, as am I. Our Chief Communications Officer, Russ Martin is Canadian by birth, but living in Singapore. Attila Nyari, Michael’s Chief of Staff, is from Hungary. We have other staff members from Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, Africa and Asia. And we are currently enlisting other staff members as well as key volunteer leaders, such as Catalysts and Regional Directors, across the Lausanne regions. Core Lausanne leadership is globally representative and polycentric.
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the staff leadership team met in person every two to three months, in addition to weekly Zoom meetings. During the pandemic, we have continued to meet by Zoom. And like everyone, we hope to return to in-person meetings soon. But while we hold this post-COVID hope, the movement is proactively engaging a digital transformation process for virtual agility in global mission collaboration.”
But whether in person or virtually, our M.O. has been leadership through discussion and consensus. The only way a multinational movement like Lausanne can authentically fulfill its mission is if we draw from the diverse voices that God has blessed us with. This same commitment to leadership through discussion and consensus permeates throughout the movement—in our issue networks, our regions, and our multi-generational initiatives.
“This kind of leadership style, which I would also characterize as polycentric in nature, requires open minds, good listening skills, and sensitivity from all participants. It takes time. It can be painstaking. But it is absolutely worth it. As I both look back on the amazing fruit that God has produced through the Lausanne movement while I also look forward to what could be coming in Lausanne’s future, I believe He has honored our commitment to leadership by consensus.”
Noel Becchetti is the Vice President for Leader Development at Asian Access. Previously, he served as Executive Director for Truthseekers International, a ministry committed to spiritual and social freedom for the oppressed lower castes of India. He previously served for 13 years as President of Center for Student Missions (CSM), an urban short-term mission and service ministry working in the United States and Canada. He also enjoyed over 12 years at Youth Specialties, where he launched and directed Youthworker Journal and eventually served as Vice President, Publishing.
This case study is from an interview with David Bennett of the Lausanne Movement (https://lausanne.org/) and is published here with permission.