Tuesday, July 1, 1997
Key Note Address
The Church in Africa can be likened to the Church in Corinth in a number of ways. Speaking of God's giftings to the Church in Corinth Apostle Paul writes:
"I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by him in all utterance and all knowledge even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you so that you are not lacking in any gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor 1:4-7)
The Church in Africa, like that in Corinth, inherited a heroic, laudable, missionary heritage. Such missionary statesmen as David Livingstone; Andrew Murray; C.T. Studd; Mary Slessor; Robert Moffat; and Roland Bingham blazed the jungles of Africa during the nineteenth century to bring us the Good News. Nothing could stop them! Hostile chiefs; fierce animals; unfriendly climate; the King's business must be done. And done it was, even at the expense and risk of their health, personal security and lives. We salute them and celebrate the birth, growth and development of the church in Africa today.
Ours is a church that has come of age and we are not lacking in any gift. - Ours is a continent of spiritual dynamism and fervency. - Ours is a church with missionary potentials to finish the task of world evangelization. - Ours is a land of untold natural and mineral resources, rich enough to carry the gospel to the uttermost part of the world if released and well managed. - Ours is a continent where the Church is growing faster than the population rate.
In many of our nations south of the Sahara the most lucrative and fast growing industry seems to be that of starting a church. For good or bad many a university professor in such disciplines as science and law has left the academics for a calling in the pastorate. Churches of every denomination are growing, albeit at different rates. According to David Barret, Latin America and Africa are the two continents where the church is growing fastest today. In the GCOWE '97 manual, it is categorically stated that:
When the Lord blesses an individual or a nation, it is to the end that individual or nation may be a blessing to others. This was true for Abraham (Genesis 12:2) as an individual as well as for Israel as a nation (Zechariah 8:13). For this reason, in His parable of a faithful steward, the Lord says: "For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will as the more." (Luke 12:48) The Church in Africa has received much; and from her much shall be required. This brings us to the peoples yet to be reached in Africa as our immediate Jerusalem, and of course, the rest of the world.
Project Joshua 2000 lists 1739 people groups yet to be reached with the gospel. Of these 568 are to be found in Africa, almost one third. Unbelievable! 297 ethno-linguistic peoples with a minimum population of 10,000 have been sorted country by country to have no known church planting effort going on in them. These peoples are scattered in 41 African countries, the top 7 being: - Sudan 54 peoples - Nigeria 31 peoples - Chad 25 peoples - Cameroon 22 peoples - Mali 14 peoples - Ethiopia 11 peoples - Ethiopia 11 peoples
Looked at differently, 16 of the current 56 African nations consider themselves Islamic. Over 80% of each of their national population professes Islam as its religion. Most of these nations fall within the 10/40 window separated from Africa south of the Sahara socially, culturally, linguistically and geographically.
If the facts and figures are accurate, and if the mandate of the Great Commission extends to all ethno-linguistic people groups as being emphasized at this consultation, I wonder what moral right we have as pastors, evangelists, teachers, Christian leaders in general, to continue to preach the Gospel Sunday after Sunday, 52 weeks a year, year-in-year-out, to the same congregation when within our national boundary are peoples who have not heard the Good News once? I wonder what justification we have for our elaborate church building programs or purchase of very expensive automobiles or private jets when many graduates who feel called to cross-cultural missions are still lacking financial support? I wonder why more and more feel called to serve as missionaries in comfortable and affluent business centres like Pretoria, Harare, Nairobi, Lagos, Abijan and Accra to name but a few, and not to hostile war torn cities like Mogadishu, Juja, Tunis and Algiers? I wonder.
Hasn't the time come for the Church in Africa to revisit the call for moratorium issued by moderator Gatu in 1973? Isn't there a need for an embargo, an embargo , not on foreign missions per se, but on ourselves as African church leaders in respect of our activities vis-a-vis missions and church planting and our financial commitments?
Charles T Studd gave away a fortune. He was rich and comfortable. He could have lived at his home in Britain in great luxury, but he chose rather to give away all that he had and go to China as a missionary. Why? Strange as it may seem, it was the statement of an atheist that started him on his way. It so gripped him when he read it that he felt he must leave all and follow Jesus Christ. Here is the statement: "Did I firmly believe, as millions say they do, that the knowledge and practice of religion in this life influences destiny in another, religion would mean to me everything. I would cast away earthly enjoyment as dross, earthly cares as follies, and earthly thoughts as feelings as vanity. Religion would be my first waking thought, and my last image before sleep sank me into unconsciousness. I would labour in its cause alone. I would take thought for the morrow of Eternity only. I would esteem one soul gained for heaven worth a life of suffering. Earthly consequences should never stay my hand, nor seal my lips. Earth, its joys and griefs would occupy no moment in my thoughts. I would strive to look upon Eternity alone, and on the immortal souls around me soon to be everlastingly happy or everlastingly miserable. I would go forth to the world and preach to it in season and out of season, and my text would be, 'What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his soul?' "
Doesn't this grip you and cause you to reconsider your priority? It did for C.T. Studd and is doing for me.
In November 1993 at its 6th General Assembly held in Lagos, Nigeria; the Association of Evangelicals In Africa (AEA) declared a 7 year strategic campaign to reach the rest of Africa for Jesus by the year AD 2000. In keeping with its nature, the campaign is to establish an average of 4 new National Evangelical Fellowships per year from 1994 to 2000 both inclusive. At the time when the campaign was declared, 29 of the 56 nations have fellowships (or evangelical platforms for collaborative witness and actions.) It was clear to everyone that it was not going to be a walk-over but a warfare, especially given the fact that 16 of these nations are Islamic.
Catalytic components of the campaign are: prayer; research; training; education on awareness; mobilization; systematic evangelism; church planting; and evaluation. We are now half-way into the 7 year campaign and the Lord has enabled us to establish 11 new national fellowships leaving 16 nations to go for the next 31/2 years.
It has not been easy. As you will be hearing a report on Chad this afternoon, hell has been let loose since the declaration of the campaign. It has meant many more days of fasting and prayer, absence from family and friends; living out of a suitcase; intensified persecution and suffering including accidents and death under mysterious circumstances. If Africa is going to be reached for Christ, someone has to pay the price. It is my honour and yours to be called upon at the close of this millennium to pay the price. Don't transfer the call.
It is my prayer that GCOWE '97 in general and the Africa National Initiatives in particular may not be "yet another conference". Rather, may this be an encounter with the Resurrected and Reigning Lord to change our paradigms; fire us with passion and compassion for the lost so that by the year AD 200- if the Lord tarries, there will be a church for every people in Africa.
These look daunting, but the zeal of the Lord shall perform it. It won't be by might or human power but by the Spirit of the Lord.
So help us Lord!
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