The evangelist partnered with John Stott on the Lausanne Movement and helped revive the World Evangelical Alliance.
In 1974, Billy Graham convened an enormous conference in Lausanne, Switzerland.
“I traveled the whole world meeting such wonderful leaders,” Graham later told Lausanne global executive director Michael Oh. “But I found that they didn’t know each other.”
Graham wanted to assess the way political, ideological, and theological world issues affected evangelism, and to bring evangelical leaders to a common vision for both evangelism and social justice. He invited about 2,400 evangelical leaders from 150 countries.
The meeting turned out to be outrageously important. Not only did the participants make up “possibly the widest-ranging meeting of Christians ever held” and signal the rising strength of conservative Christians worldwide, it also delivered unity on the most divisive issue of the day—whether social justice should be as highly prioritized as evangelism.
And it kicked off the Lausanne Movement.
“No one else did as much to turn evangelicalism into an international movement that could stand alongside—and ultimately challenge—both the Vatican and the liberal World Council of Churches for the mantle of global Christian leadership,” wrote George Washington University professor Melani McAlister for TheAtlantic. Her forthcoming book is The Kingdom of God Has No Borders: A Global History of American Evangelicals.
“He used his status as the most important religious figure of the 20th century to help lead American evangelicals into a more robust engagement with the rest of the world,” she wrote.
In some ways, the first Lausanne conference was the culmination of a meeting 20 years earlier, when Graham was first introduced to British evangelist John Stott …