Friendship is the Foundation of Lausanne
The story of the Lausanne Movement begins with a special friendship.
In 1955, the evangelist Billy Graham was invited to lead a mission to Cambridge University with John Stott as his chief assistant. These two young men formed a lifelong friendship, which would later lead to the launching of the Lausanne Movement.
About twenty years after their friendship began, Billy Graham perceived the need for a global congress to reframe Christian mission in a world of political, economic, intellectual, and religious upheaval. He believed this could only happen if leaders from around the world gathered to unite in ‘the common task of the total evangelization of the world’.
Graham and Stott’s friendship was foundational for the First International Congress on World Evangelization in July 1974. Over 2,400 participants from 150 nations gathered in Lausanne, Switzerland, for what TIME magazine described as ‘a formidable forum, possibly the widest-ranging meeting of Christians ever held’.
From this Congress issued the biblical declaration that Billy Graham had hoped for, The Lausanne Covenant, with John Stott as its chief architect. The Covenant was to prove one of the most significant documents in modern church history, shaping evangelical thinking for the rest of the century.Throughout their lives, Billy Graham and John Stott gave peerless leadership to evangelicals around the world. We should not look for successors. Their joint work in establishing a movement that bound evangelistic passion with theological reflection, and orthodoxy with orthopraxy, has proven a watershed for evangelicals. To this day, world congresses, global gatherings, and issue-specific forums and consultations have continued to be convened in what Billy Graham called ‘the spirit of Lausanne’—a spirit of humility, friendship, prayer, study, partnership, and hope—the very spirit mirrored in his friendship with John Stott.