The African Heads of Churches Summit, convened in Gomoa-Fetteh, Ghana, with the theme, “African Churches’ Response to the Critical Issues Facing Christian Witness in Africa and the World Today.” 1 Chronicles 12:32. There were about 105 participants from over 20 Church denominations in Africa.
The Goal of the Summit was to facilitate a platform/forum where strategic awareness was generated and action provoking QUESTIONS were raised, discussed and agreed upon by a catalytic group of African Church leaders on critical issues that present threats and opportunities for the African Church in fulfilling the Priestly, Prophetic and Apostolic (missionary) mandate of the Body of Christ in the continent and from the continent of Africa to the rest of the world in the 21st Century and beyond, if Christ tarries.
The Rationale for the Summit
- Missionary engagements by the Church in Africa are very minimal because the current players/main drivers are para-church ministries which operate mainly from the fringes of the major denominations. Hence, the missionary endeavors of the Church in Africa are slow. This will be accelerated if the key leaders of the Church in Africa can own, champion, and drive the African missions’ efforts within and outside the continent.
- From the Scriptures and several prophetic voices in contemporary times, a lot is expected from the Church in the Global South, and particularly the Church in Africa, in terms of setting the theological and missional standard of Christianity in the 21st century and beyond, as well as leading in the restoration of the centrality of the WORD and Christ in Church life and best practice and in the advancement of the Gospel of the Kingdom throughout the world in these last days.
- However, there are many EXTERNAL and INTERNAL factors and forces which militate against the priestly, prophetic and apostolic roles the Church in Africa is destined to play in these end times. This calls for sober reflection before the Lord of the Harvest and under the leading of the Holy Spirit, to receive instructions, directions, and strategies to tackle such forces as we proceed to fulfilling our divine mandate.
- The mega-challenges facing the Church and the people of Africa can be better addressed by the combined forces of the Church in Africa if the leaders can put their heads, hearts, and hands together to confront such – UNITEDLY.
The Critical Issues/Factors of Focus:
- External Factors/Common Threats/Challenges to the witness and existence of the Church in Africa
- Internal Factors which undermine, inhibit, and minimize the relevance and effectiveness of the Church in the discharge of her Priestly, Prophetic and Apostolic (missionary) mandate in the continent and beyond
Outcomes of the Summit
- Participating Church leaders agree that there is serious danger facing the witness and existence of the Church in our continent
- Participating Church leaders agree on the need to seek for answers and a collective response to the serious dangers and threats
- Participating Church leaders agree on the need to take responsibility to champion the efforts of getting other Church leaders to such round-table summits at various levels where they can put their heads, hearts, and hands together to address the common threats/challenges and exploit the Kingdom-enhancing opportunities that are available to them in times like these in a united way.
2.0 OUR REFLECTIONS ON CRITICAL ISSUES
- 1 External Factors
- Islamic insurgency, terrorism, and violence in parts of Africa (external and internal). Much of this is deliberately targeted at Christians and has resulted in massive losses, including deaths, destruction of their properties, burning of churches and Christian homes, and displacements/forceful uprooting of huge Christian populations, some from their ancestral homes. This has led to many churches in Africa having large number of widows, orphans, and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Many require not just spiritual support but also practical and spiritual care such as food, shelter, emotional and psychological support, etc. The Church has a critical role to play in nurturing the parts of the Body who are hurting and also reaching out in love to those who do not yet know Jesus as personal Lord and Saviour. The present situation of persecution of Christians provides an opportunity for the demonstration of true Christian witness even to those who may have been among the perpetrators of our sufferings as a Church.
- African governments are often pressured by the West through aid to make policies and legislation that are favourable to issues such as same-sex marriage, homosexuality and the entire LGBT – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender agenda and other issues which are not helpful to Africa’s causes. Some of these policies and legislation run counter to Christian beliefs.
- Prevalence of corruption in the Church and countries in Africa.
2.2 Internal Factors
- Irresponsible shepherds who do not care for their flocks, the malnourished, the poor, the sick, etc., but rather anchor their interest on self, with a desire for position and titles and lack intimate relationships and transforming fellowship with God.
- The Church today has many false teachers and teachings and these have misled many in the Christian faith.
- Dependence on denominational, institutional systems and structures rather than discerning and hearing biblically, the voice of God and obeying His will.
- Materialism and undue emphasis on the “Prosperity Gospel” that only enriches those who propagate it and exploit their members helplessly.
- Christians are influenced by the world: its systems, culture, and prevailing secular trends.
- Abandonment or neglect of our “first love”—JESUS—has resulted in the spiritual state of our churches being similar to those of five out of the seven Churches in the book of Revelation, chapters two and three (Ephesus, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis and Laodicea).
- A contrast of excessive wealth and immense poverty in the Church in Africa
- Racial cleavages, Ethnicity and Tribal discriminations are still being practiced in the Church in Africa.
- Demographics (Gender discrimination and physical abuse against women as well as Generational Inequalities which are still prevalent in the Church in Africa)
- Lack of “true worshippers of God as the Father and Sovereign Lord.”
- Lack of understanding the biblical concept of discipleship and intentional focus on disciple-making and spiritual formation of the character of Christ.
3.0 OUR RESPONSE
3.1 External Factors
- We should sensitize our numbers to challenge and seek to change negative government policies and laws that are contrary to the Christian faith, beliefs and practices. Our eyes are often focused on our local Church congregations and denominations. We must see ourselves as one body – The Church!!! We must work across denominational boundaries and embrace unity because we recognize that no single church or denomination can transform the society by itself.
- The Church should engage in every aspect of national life and be the salt and light in those spheres.
- The Church in Africa is the hope of the African Continent. We agree with William Bennett as quoted by Rick Warren that “the most serious problems affecting our society today are manifestly moral, behavourial and spiritual, and are therefore remarkably resistant to government cures. Spiritual revival is our only solution, and pastors are the most strategic change agents.”
- The Church should consistently speak out against the corruption and inequalities across the continent but must cleanse itself as well.
3.2 Internal Factors
- Resist current trends in pastoral training that emphasize human philosophies without Christ and place theological knowledge above Christ. We need to be biblical and Christocentric.
- Be serious about spiritual formation which emphasizes character and monitor the curriculums of our training programmes, from Sunday School to Seminary.
- Re-focus on intentional teaching that leads to life-transforming discipleship, lack of which has resulted in the alleged “one-mile wide/one-inch deep” phenomenon in the Church in Africa. (The Church in Africa does not however accept this unhelpful characterization. The millions of Christians who have stood firmly against persecution through the years and even now in the face of terrorism do not justify such claims).
- Help older Christians to continue growing and challenge them to mentor the younger ones.
- Take seriously ministry to children and teens because they are the next generation of Disciples. We recognize that strong families play a critical role in the success of God’s mission.
- Seek to transform each church member into a living witness for Christ.
- Teach and practice biblical spiritual warfare which is very needful in the believer’s daily walk with God.
- Teach correct doctrine, knowing that wrong doctrine always finds expression in wrong behavior while the right doctrine results in the right behavior.
- Emphasize and challenge believers to practice a life of prayer, which is critical and essential to transformation and God’s intervention in human affairs and power encounters in missions.
4.0 OUR RESOLVE
We resolve that we will actively and lovingly:
- Extend Christian love and witness Christ to our Muslim neighbours
- GO and MAKE disciples in OBEDIENCE to the Lord’s command. This entails: reaching, baptizing those who convert to Christ and teaching them the tenets of Christian discipleship.
- Not overlook the necessity of teaching, which leads to life-transforming discipleship
- Stand with our brethren who are victims of persecution including practicing the ministry of presence – physical visitation to bring encouragement and support.
- Resist outside pressures to compromise the sanctity of the Gospel and the authority of Holy Scripture.
- Lead as Christ led and not lording over church members and thus be “Be” living models of Christ-likeness
- Disciple our church members, which includes:
- Preparing and training them to be salt and light in all the spheres of life and being able to resist worldly temptations in all of its forms
- Taking seriously ministry to children and teens because young people are the next generation of disciples, families and leaders. They have a critical role to play in God’s mission.
- Recognizing that strong families produce strong disciples and positively affect the success of God’s mission
- Honour and allow others to serve with their gifts and not restrict them because of their
age, tribe, sex/gender.
- Target the remaining unreached people groups and plant indigenous churches among
- Mobilize other Church leaders in our countries so as to build a critical mass of people
who will bring about transformation in our churches and nations including hosting national Heads of Churches Summit to follow up on the implementation of our resolutions.
As lofty as our resolutions are, we recognize that only in Christ will we succeed. The Great Commission is not only a command but a mandate and a promise. In His strength and by His grace, people from all nations and peoples will be reached with the goodnews of Jesus Christ. We strongly believe that the Great Commission carried out in the power of the HOLY SPIRIT through obedience to the Great Commandment, which is love, will lead to the Great Celebration, when people from every tribe, tongue and nation will enjoy the presence of the Lamb who is seated on the throne (Rev. 5:9).
Motion moved by Bishop Geofrey Chukwuneye (Nigeria)
Seconded by Bishop Mark Mariuki (Kenya)
 Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Church, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1995, pg 20