A keynote address to the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa Mission and Evangelism Conference
Brothers and Sisters:
"Fire exists by burning and the church exists by Mission and Evangelism". This is becoming an increasingly popular adage in mission circles.
The New Testament witness is that the early church grew by addition... (Acts 2:41)
"So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls" RSV
...and by multiplication (Acts 6:1)
"Now in these days when the number of the disciples was multiplying, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution." KJV
Later, the growth was by daily increase (Acts 16:5)
"So the Churches were strengthened in the faith,
and they increased in numbers daily." RSV
This was possible because the leadership of the Church at the time was fully aware that the whole world was its constituency. It was totally devoted to this one goal of the world's evangelisation. Their mission was to carry the gospel to all parts of the world.
It is also interesting to note that they did not just preach to the world, they responded to human needs as they arose (Acts 6). The spirit of Christ was with them and the power of God was manifest so much so that Peter could tell the lame man at the temple that "silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give you - in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk". We know that the man did walk and leaped, praising God. Is the power of Christ still residual in today's Church?
The early Church did not have to advertise or describe itself to the world. The world knew them for who they were - the Church the followers of Christ, Christians. They were regularly in fellowship, study and teaching of the word. There was division of labour so that some were assigned the social responsibilities and administration of the church while others concentrated on proclamation of the Gospel of Christ. The goal was simply to focus on world evangelisation, undistracted.
Question: Today, does the Church have a universal mission goal? I doubt it. A section of the church would rather we spend our time, resources and energy debating women's ordination and homosexuality. In Africa, some of us are preoccupied with how to maintain our existing structures such as church buildings, furniture, officers and hierarchy, while others are overwhelmed by poverty and disease. Meanwhile, a good number of para-church organizations specialise in organising endless workshops and seminars leaving the actual work of the Gospel proclamation untouched.
For me to talk about "Where we want to be" therefore, is a provoking challenge because in my opinion there cannot be any other goal other than "Africa for Christ". Until the continent is won for Christ the church cannot claim any justification for its existence in this part of God's world.
I therefore challenge this conference and through you the entire church leadership in Africa, to set a five-year-goal for Mission work in Africa. During this five-year-period we will have to commit everything possible to the evangelism process just like the apostles did.
Brothers and sisters, I am not unaware of the many problems we are likely to encounter among which are
These problems cannot be wished away. They are a reality. I therefore suggest the following practical steps:
Until now, emphasis on Churches in Africa has been on interdependence. Now, we know better. The Church has to endeavour to be self-sustaining to earn the respect of outsiders and so that it is not unduly pushed around by negative forces of our time.
I would like to sincerely thank the organisers of this Conference and those who have funded it. I would also like to thank you for coming and I hope that after a few days of sharing together, we shall leave this place strengthened and ready to serve the Lord by winning people to Him until the whole of Africa is claimed by Christ!
God bless Africa!