Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Mission-minded? A message from Africa to the West

Oscar Muriu from Kenya spoke to an Intervarsity meeting in December 2007, in St Loius.
Some of his points:

• There were nine million Christians in Africa in 1900, over 360 million today.
• There are more Anglicans in Nigeria than in all of North America and Europe.
• Kenya has more people with a personal faith in Christ than the whole of Western Europe.
• The largest congregations in Kiev, London and Z├╝rich are led by African pastors.
• African has the fastest church growth in the world.
• For every North American or European Christian who drops out of church (6000 a day), 4 are added in Africa (23,000 a day).

The centre of gravity of Christianity has moved from the ‘north’ to the ‘south’, and it is the Christians of the non-Western world who will increasingly define what it means to be a Christian in the world today. Muriu asks: “If western models of church are not working in the west ... should he church of the two thirds world copy the models of the west or embrace western theologies?”

On the other hand, we still all need each other. Muriu spoke about the absolute importance of building genuine partnerships between Christians across the world. Although Africa is now sending missionaries to the rest of the world, missionaries are still needed in Africa. We all need each other. (1 Corinthians 12:14-27).

Muriu stated: “The mission industry of the last 200 years was hugely successful. ... We who come from Africa will always be eternally grateful to your forefathers who sent out their very best, their own sons and daughters, and resourced them to bring the gospel to us.”

Well - what do you think?

At the first church I served in as an ordained minister, the whole path of the congregation was turned around by a visit from an African, Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo. We had invited him to come and lead a mission, then we got cold feet, and disinvited him. He wrote to us and said that if we could not fund his visit, there were African Christians in Kigali who had a mind to support mission, who would send him. And so he came, and we all had a wonderful time enjoying God's grace through Bishop Alexis’ preaching.

I have two thoughts. One is that we in the West should always remember and give thanks for the many missionaries who have been sent out, and who sowed the seeds of faith in Christ into the 2/3rds world, often involving great personal sacrifice. These seeds are now bringing forth sweet and wondrous fruit all over the earth. The students have surpassed their teachers. This should never cease to give us joy.

The other is that we have great cause for confidence. The gospel is going out to the nations. It is being presented by the power of the Spirit of God, as He enables ordinary men and women, boys and girls all over the nations to confess Christ boldly. Let us do the same.

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