The Cape Town Commitment

As you may know, the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization was held in Cape Town, South Africa, 16-25 October 2010. Some 4,000 leaders from 198 countries attended as participants and observers; thousands more took part in seminaries, universities, churches, and through mission agencies and radio networks globally, as part of the Cape Town GlobaLink.

What you may not know is that one of the unifying statements of this amazing event powerfully affirms integration and ministry in and through work. When The Cape Town Commitment: A Confession of Faith and a Call to Action was released, I was pleased to find the following section titled “Truth and the workplace.” It’s a strong indication that the church is realizing the harmful effects of the sacred-secular paradigm and the general failure to equip believers for ministry at and through work:

3. Truth and the workplace

The Bible shows us God’s truth about human work as part of God’s good purpose in creation. The Bible brings the whole of our working lives within the sphere of ministry, as we serve God in different callings. By contrast, the falsehood of a ‘sacred-secular divide’ has permeated the Church’s thinking and action. This divide tells us that religious activity belongs to God, whereas other activity does not. Most Christians spend most of their time in work which they may think has little spiritual value (so-called secular work). But God is Lord of all of life. ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,’ said Paul, to slaves in the pagan workplace.

In spite of the enormous evangelistic and transformational opportunity of the workplace, where adult Christians have most relationships with non-Christians, few churches have the vision to equip their people to seize this. We have failed to regard work in itself as biblically and intrinsically significant, as we have failed to bring the whole of life under the Lordship of Christ.

  1. We name this secular-sacred divide as a major obstacle to the mobilization of all God’s people in the mission of God, and we call upon Christians worldwide to reject its unbiblical assumptions and resist its damaging effects. We challenge the tendency to see ministry and mission (local and cross-cultural) as being mainly the work of church-paid ministers and missionaries, who are a tiny percentage of the whole body of Christ.
  2. We encourage all believers to accept and affirm their own daily ministry and mission as being wherever God has called them to work. We challenge pastors and church leaders to support people in suchministry – in the community and in the workplace – ‘to equip the saints for works of service [ministry]’ – in every part of their lives.
  3. We need intensive efforts to train all God’s people in whole-life discipleship, which means to live, think, work, and speak from a biblical worldview and with missional effectiveness in every place or circumstance of daily life and work.
    Christians in many skills, trades, businesses and professions, can often go to places where traditional church planters and evangelists may not. What these ‘tentmakers’ and business people do in the workplace must be valued as an aspect of the ministry of local churches.
  4. We urge church leaders to understand the strategic impact of ministry in the workplace and to mobilize, equip and send out their church members as missionaries into the workplace, both in their own local communities and in countries that are closed to traditional forms of gospel witness.
  5. We urge mission leaders to integrate ‘tentmakers’ fully into the global missional strategy.

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