CM2000 29 December, 2000
Plenary: Affirming the Role of the Majority Church in World Missions


Role of the African Church

Reuben Ezemadu
Nigeria

At the dawn of the third millennium most of the world's Christians live in Asia, Africa and Latin America. We rejoice at the spiritual vitality present in these continents that are home to most of the people currently turning to Christ for the first time. Yesterday's great harvest fields have become today's great harvest forces, with the majority church now sending out more than half of the world's Protestant missionaries. In recent decades, excellent leadership in the majority church has arisen to serve global evangelical movements, and to generate national initiatives and whole nation church planting movements with notable results. Many international mission agencies have moved their headquarters to the great cities of Asia in order to draw upon the vast human and material resources of the churches in that region. The churches of South Korea and South Africa successfully hosted two major global consultations, GCOWE `95 and `97 respectively, providing accommodation, meals and excellent logistics. The most successful partnerships and networks for reaching the unreached are functioning within the regions of the majority church, where technology and finance blend with spiritual fervency, faith, resilience and numerical strength. Gathered here in Jerusalem from the churches of the east, west, north and south, we therefore COVENANT TOGETHER to recognize each other as equals, to esteem one another highly, and to work together for the advance of Christ's Kingdom among all peoples. (1 Ch 12:32; Mt 9:36-38; 1 Ti 3:3:1-13; 3 Jn 5-9)

The hitherto "harvest fields" of the world have become contributors to the "harvest forces" required to continue with the task of world evangelization. The labours of the past heroes of the Church in the regions of the world that had no Christians two centuries ago have been blessed by the Lord to such an extent that the minorities have now become the majority in Christendom. The Church in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, alone now contribute about 89% of the individuals who become Christians within a twenty-four hour period around the world (65,100 out of 73,100 global average).

The role of the majority Church therefore can best be assessed on the basis of the contributions from the regions of Africa, Asia, Latin America and other former non-Christian areas that have now become forces to be reckoned with as far as world evangelization is concerned.

CHURCH GROWTH BELT:

According to Bryant L.Meyers, over half the Christians live in the Two-thirds World and nearly 70% of the all evangelicals live in the non-Western world.

Africa, with ten countries which have very large Christian majorities ranging from 69% to 92% of their countries' populations, is experiencing the fastest church growth of any region in the world.

The Evangelical Church in Ethiopia is among the fastest growing in the world. Believers have doubled to eight (8) million between 1984 and now. Latin America is the only region in the world where the number of evangelical Christians is growing three (3) times as fast as the population. Evangelical Churches here are currently growing at an average of 15 per cent per year. Seventy (70) million evangelicals make up around 14 percent of the region's population of 500 million.

At the inception of its " Decade of Harvest" project in 1990, the Assemblies of God Church in Nigeria had 3,682 local churches and membership of 707,782. At the close of the decade (1999), the number of local churches was increased by 4,044 to 7,726 and the membership by 1,103,614 to 1,811,396 ( i.e. a growth rate of 156%).

South Korea, four years ago, had 40,000 local congregations with over 80,000 clergymen. The total membership of the churches in South Korea as at that time was 10 million, i.e. 22% of the total population of South Korea. Four of the world's largest local congregations are located in South Korea alone.

THE ROLE OF THE MAJORITY CHURCH IN MISSIONS:

It is estimated that the number of Protestant missionaries from Africa, Asia and Latin America in 2000 AD is about 170,000, accounting for over 70% of the total world Protestant missionaries. Many mission agencies and associations are coming up to take the challenge of reaching people cross-culturally. Many denominations are becoming aware of their roles in missions and are setting missions boards, mission societies, missionary training schools to prepare and send missionaries from their denominations.

India has over 100 indigenous mission agencies, which are sending out a total of over 12,000 missionaries.

Church leaders in Philippines pledged some time ago to send two Philippine missionaries for every three missionaries Philippines receives from outside. It is estimated that there are 3,000 foreign missionaries in Philippines. That means there are over 2,000 Philippine missionaries outside the Philippines according to their pledge.

There are 7,000 local congregations of the Chinese churches outside Mainland China. 1,000 of these churches have sent out 700 missionaries as follows: from Singapore: 300, from Hog Kong: 200; from other cities : 200

In 1996, the South Korean churches had sent 4,402 Korean missionaries to Asia, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Latin America, Africa, Middle East and Oceania.

Many missionaries are flowing from the Brazilian Protestant churches into the unreached people groups around the world particularly Africa, Middle east and southern Europe.

The Evangelical Missionary Society of the Evangelical Churches of West Africa is the oldest and largest indigenous evangelical mission agency in Africa. It has about 1,200 missionaries working cross-culturally within and outside Nigeria. The Nigeria Evangelical Missions Association has over 50 member-agencies with over 3,000 missionaries.

The Anglican Communion in Nigeria has formed its own Missionary Society with many dioceses forming Diocesan Missionary Societies to convey the gospel to places where it is yet to be preached.

THE MAJORITY CHURCH AS A RESOURCE BASE:

The Church worldwide has been blessed by the Majority Church in so many ways. Many Western mission agencies now recruit workers from the Church in some countries that were some years ago "harvest fields". Attracted by the spiritual maturity of the missionary candidates and increasing shift of wealth particularly from the West to the East, these smart Western mission agencies are tapping into the "reservoir" of the Majority Church by locating their operational bases to such places and targeting their recruitment drives at the Majority Church, particularly in Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, etc.

The Majority Church has also produced excellent leadership for most of the global ministries of the world-wide Church both at international and regional levels. Ministries such as the World Evangelical Fellowship, the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelization, the AD 2000 and Beyond Movement, the Scripture Union, the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, World Vision, Campus Crusade for Christ, Youth With A Mission, Operation Mobilization, United Bible Societies, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, etc, have all benefited from the excellent leadership provided by the Majority Church at all levels of their ministries.

The massive number of Christian students and young people in Asia particularly South Korea), Africa (particularly Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, East Africa), Latin America (particularly Brazil, Argentina) that are showing interest in missions constitute a big reservoir for major missionary thrusts from the Majority church.

THE MAJORITY CHURCH AS A VEHICLE TO ADVANCE THE CAUSE OF THE GOSPEL

The numerical strength, the cross-cultural experience gained from its pluralistic contexts, the resilience developed from its sufferings and limited resources, and the resultant trust in God, the preponderance of unreached people groups, all made the Majority Church a vehicle that has advanced greatly the cause of the Kingdom of Christ. It is no wonder then that the church grows faster, significant breakthroughs are recorded, there is an increasing supply of labour force, thereby adding to the numerical strength of the Majority Church.

Mid-way into the life span of the AD 2000 and Beyond Movement's double barreled goal of " A church for every people and the gospel for every person by the year 2000", John Stott observed that this goal would only be realizable because of the proliferation of indigenous missions in Africa, Latin America and the Pacific rim of East Asia.

When the Joshua Project 2000 was launched, Churches in Asia, Africa and Latin America were the most enthusiastic in adopting the remaining unreached people groups. At a meeting of Latin American Church leaders, they identified their share of the "global burden" and challenged each country to take up its own share. The same happened in 1990 when the Churches in Asia accepted their own share of the global burden.

The strategies of National Initiatives and Saturation Church Planting have thrived most in the regions of the Majority Church. In fact, the success stories of the these two strategies are scripted and acted out by the Majority Church. The Church in Ghana was the first to carry out a full national strategy of researching the unreached peoples of the country, convening national and regional consultations to discuss and draw national plans to reach every segment of the entire nation. Of the four models of goal setting for saturation church planting in Discipling A Whole Nation strategy, three were from the Two-Thirds world and the star countries are Zimbabwe, Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, Venezuela.

THE MAJORITY CHURCH NOW HOSTS THE WORLD:

Two major global consultations that shaped the cause of world evangelization and generated the momentum which has greatly accelerated the pace of penetration of the unreached lands in the past decade, were hosted and administered by the Majority Church. The first Global Consultation for World Evangelization (GCOWE) which was held in May 1995 in Seoul, South Korea, has been described as " Right of Passage for the transformation of mission fields into a mission force".

According to Dr. Ralph D. Winter, GCOWE 95 was the only large global Christian Mission Conference that has ever had more than half of its participants from the former mission fields. GCOWE 95 was hosted by the Majority Church in South Korea and had over 4,000 participants, two-thirds of which were from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Feeding and accommodation for majority of the participants were provided by the host-Churches at an estimated cost of over $25 million. Participants from the Two-Thirds world paid their way to the consultation with very minimal subsidies coming form outside.

Two years later, the Majority Church hosted the world in another GCOWE in July 1997, this time around in South Africa. Described as a launching pad for Africa and the world into the final push for a " church for every people by the year 200" and as "opportunity for Africa to take its place as a full partner in world evangelization". GCOWE 97, like its predecessor, scored many `firsts'. Africa had the largest number of delegates (69% of the total of 3,930 participants). 80% of the delegates were citizens of countries that formerly were viewed as missionary receiving countries. Of the total GCOWE 97 registration fees, 64% came from the Majority Church. All the delegates from Africa paid their own way as there were no subsidies for African delegates as there were at GCOWE 95. 76% of the participants were under age 50. >h3>THE MAJORITY CHURCH NOW A FULL FLEDGED PARTNER IN WORLD EVANGELIZATION

The transition from "harvest field" to " a harvest force" has made the Majority Church a major partner of the Church in the West. The most successful partnerships and networks for reaching the unreached take place within the regions of the Majority church where technology, finance and expertise of the West are being matched with the spiritual fervency, faith, resilience and numerical strength of the Majority Church to tackle the remaining task. Missions no longer flow in one direction. Missionary teams are no longer mono-coloured. Missionaries from the Majority Church have added beauty to the colour of missionary teams making them to glitter like gold and as colourful as the rainbow.

Sources:

  1. The New Context of World Mission- Bryant L. Meyers, MARC/ World Vision 1996
  2. The Church is BIGGER than you think- Patrick Johnstone, Christian Focus Publications/WEC, 1998
  3. Internationalising Missionary Training- Willian D. Taylor (Ed), WEF-Missions Commission, 1991
  4. DAWN REPORTS- DAWN Ministries, Colorado Springs, U.S.A.
  5. MISSION FRONTIERS- Bulletin of the U.S. Center for World Mission; Pasadena, USA.
  6. KOREAN TORCH for World Missions- Korean Center for World Missions, Seoul, South Korea
  7. INDIAN MISSIONS- India Missions Association, Chennai, India
  8. CHURCH PLANTING MOVEMENTS - David Garrison, Office of Overseas Operations/IMB of SBC, U.S.A.
  9. THE RESPONSE OF NIGERIAN CHURCH TOWARDS REACHING THE UNREACHED BY THE YEAR 2000- Nigeria AD 2000 & Beyond Movement , Ibadan, Nigeria

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