A Movement rooted in African History
Over the past forty years, 37 African countries have launched National Initiatives to mobilize churches and ministries for national and global evangelization. Such initiatives are deeply rooted in the history of the continent.
The starting point was during the 1960’s when many African nations gained independence. This great move toward liberation gave birth to a new sense of African destiny. Political change inspired a corresponding change in the Church with a major surge toward indigenous leadership. Many leadership positions occupied by missionaries were handed over to nationals.
During the mid-1960’s, saturation evangelism movements were launched in two nations. The Evangelism In Depth movement was initiated in Zaire, followed by the New Life For All movement on the central plateau of Nigeria. African churches began to commit to work together for the evangelization of their countries through the mass training and mobilization of lay people for evangelism. This created a rippled effect as other nations took note of what was happening and training was shared.
These movements helped to catalyze the emergence of the Ghana Evangelism Committee (GEC) during the 1970’s. The GEC emphasized mobilizing the whole Church for renewal, church planting, church growth and missions. In the first ten years of the program, there was a net increase of 8785 new churches in Ghana. A national survey followed in the mid-1980’s during which 23,000 towns were surveyed. A total of 14,711 were discovered to have no church presence at all. These findings challenged the existing denominations to accelerate church planting efforts targeting the least-evangelized communities in Ghana.
During the latter 1980’s, the Target 2000 Movement emerged in Zimbabwe. A national survey on the Harvest Field and Harvest Force led to the setting of a national goal in 1992 by 60 denominations to plant 10,000 new churches by the year 2000.
At the same time, the FinTask Movement was launched in Nigeria with major impact in mobilizing the Church for mission. This cooperative national effort led to the multiplication of churches in Nigeria and a significant outpouring of Nigerian missionaries targeting the least evangelized peoples within and outside the country.
What began as a trickle in the 1970’s became a flood by the 1990’s. During that decade three global movements and ministries found Africa to be a fertile soil in which to plant their strategies: the AD 2000 and Beyond Movement with its emphasis on unreached people groups and saturation evangelism/church planting; Interdev – strategic evangelism partnerships and Dawn Ministries – saturation church planting.
In July 1997 1,200 African leaders from forty-six nations came together in a consultation on African National Initiatives at the GCOWE ’97 in South Africa. This consultation accelerated the birthing and development of structured African National Initiatives. This catalytic event led to the proliferation of new national movements, such as Finish the Task Kenya. A further development in 1997 was the adoption of African National Initiatives as its basic strategy by the Evangelism and Missions Commission of AEA.
At the end of 2000 forty-six African countries linked with the African National Initiatives movement planned to attend ‘Celebrate Messiah 2000’ in Jerusalem. When the event was cancelled African delegations determined that they must still go to Jerusalem to consult together on the unfinished task in Africa and the world.
How did MANI begin?
In the last decade of the 20th century, the AD 2000 and Beyond Movement encouraged many nations in Africa to develop National Initiatives to mobilize national churches to respond to the Great Commission mandate. Through these National Initiatives the Body of Christ in many African nations was challenged to reach the unreached and it was with joyful anticipation that country delegations prepared to attend Celebrate Messiah 2000 in Jerusalem at the end of the year 2000 to celebrate and share the blessings of God. When Celebrate Messiah 2000 was canceled at the eleventh hour, African delegations determined that they must still ‘go up to Jerusalem’ to celebrate and consult together on the unfinished task in Africa and the world.
In March 2001, 320 delegates from 36 African nations met in Jerusalem for the African Millennial Consultation. In the course of the consultations there was a growing conviction that Africa’s hour had come. Everyone felt that the Church in Africa was to take primary responsibility for the final gospel thrust in Africa, and that the African Church was uniquely positioned to play a major role in world evangelization in the 21st century.
Recognizing that the AD 2000 and Beyond Movement, as an organization, was in the process of disbanding, and that there yet remained much to be done, the participants determined to establish a continuing African movement. Participants unanimously adopted the ‘Jerusalem Declaration,’ affirming their commitment to pick up the torch for national and global evangelization, as laid down by the AD 2000 and Beyond Movement. Thus the Movement for African National Initiatives (MANI) was birthed out of the death of the AD 2000 and Beyond Movement.
The Jerusalem Declaration is explicit on the fact that the African Church ‘is of age’ and ready to accept the challenge of completing the task in Africa, and that Africa become an active partner in global evangelization. The Movement for African National Initiatives is to be a network of networks for Africa, and the world, for the fulfillment of the Great Commission in Africa and beyond.