Southern and Portuguese –Speaking Africa
18-22 February 2008
MANI stands for Movement for African National Initiatives. Its history is linked with the demise of the AD 2000 and Beyond Movement. The final meeting of AD 2000 and Beyond was to have taken place in Jerusalem in at the end of 2000 AD. “Celebrate Messiah 2000,” as the celebration was called, had to be cancelled when the Israeli Immigration Officers went on strike and delegates from Africa, Asia and Latin America were unable to get visas to enter Israel. Not to lose the payments already made for accommodation, tours, and airfares, over 320 delegates from 36 African countries rescheduled their trips and met in Jerusalem the next year — and in 2001, MANI was birthed.
The Jerusalem Declaration that came out of this 2001 meeting declared that “The African Church is of age and ready to accept the challenge of completing the task in Africa.” It was resolved that Africa becomes an “active partner in global evangelism.” MANI was launched as a new network of African initiatives for the fulfillment of the Great Commission in Africa and beyond. Its ultimate goal is to see the Body of Christ mobilized to complete the Great Commission — by discipling its own country and making a significant contribution to the evangelization of the least-evangelized peoples and countries of the world.
To that end there have been a number of MANI meetings in Africa over the past several years. The first Africa wide meeting was held in Nairobi, Kenya in March 2006. But since then there have been regional gatherings in Lome, Togo: Bangui, CAR; and now in Pretoria, South Africa. This present regional meeting focused on the Southern African as well as all the Portuguese-speaking countries of Africa.
We will not try to report here on what is going on in each country except to say that in almost every country represented, there are networks of evangelicals who are focusing on the least-reached within their country. There is also a growing list of countries who are taking up the cause of Global mission. The strongest would be Nigeria and South Africa which both have mature mission programs. There is a growing movement in Ghana. Other like Ethiopia are picking up momentum. There are embryonic movements in Zambia and Malawi as well. There are still many African countries which do not have a global mission vision or program. To my knowledge, the only two countries which have national associations of African based indigenous missions are Nigeria and Ghana. We have yet to see any movement toward a continental association of African based indigenous missions.
Up until recently, Nigeria has been the superpower of African missions. Francophone Africa has identified herself as a second major player. But now, South Africa seems to have emerged as one of the front runners as well. Part of this may have to do with the fact that the racial divide which so significantly characterized South Africa in the past, is slowly starting to crumble. With increased integration within South Africa, South African evangelicals (both black and white) have been strengthened. Their mission movements are not only stronger today, they have more acceptance and appeal within the wider African arena. At this meeting, the South African contribution to the African mission movement came of age – and was duly celebrated.
Another significant development at MANI South Africa 2008 was the meeting of about 40 mission leaders from the Global South and the Global North. This forum (by invitation only) was set up to discuss the widening gap between the older missions (usually from the North and West) and the newer emerging missions from the Global South. There have been tensions between the two for a long time and this group felt these issues needed to be addressed openly. Having heard some of the tensions, the North-South Dialogue Forum is calling for a period of reflection and, if necessary, reconciliation. A COVENANT is being drafted that will call upon mission leaders from both sides to seek unity and renounce the things that divide us. It is thought that the MANI stream may join with others from other parts of the world and this topic could be one that would seek official resolution at the upcoming Lausanne/WEA meetings in South Africa in 2010. In the big picture of things, this dialogue might turn out to be one of major contributions of MANI South Africa 2008.
Pertinent Issues for Africa — Defining the Task
At this consultation there were two speakers who most clearly defined the pertinent issues for Africa. One was the Nigerian, Dr. Uzo Obed who gave the daily devotionals — and the other the well known South African, Caesar Molebatsi.
Caesar Molebatsi had been asked to give a prophetic challenge to the delegates. He spoke of Africa’s emergence from centuries of slavery and colonialism. “Africa,” he said, “is learning to define what it means to be free.” As this is true in the secular realm, it is also true of the Church as well. Caesar’s sense is that as the colonial powers once dictated to the nations of Africa, so the missionary task in Africa is being defined, not by Africans, but by outsiders as well. With this in mind, Caesar asked, “What is “THE TASK” from an African perspective?” Implicit in his question are two points. First, that “THE TASK” which may have been handed to Africa from the outside may not be square with the realities on the African continent. Second, that Africans have been listening to voices from the outside and are now confused as to what the real TASK is.
Caesar made a compelling point that the Western mission agenda is a shifting target. First it is to “evangelize the lost.” Then it is to “reach the unreached.” Then it is “saturation evangelism.” Then it is “to disciple all people.” Then it is to “plant churches” – even “indigenous churches.” Next it is to start “church planting movements.” Next to “reach an entire nation.” Then it is to be “holistic” and nowadays it is “to transform society.” All these voices cry out as being the TASK! And we are to finish the TASK by AD 2000!
Caesar rightly asks those in the West, “Do Africans agree with you on what the TASK really is?” More importantly he asks, “When have we Africans ever sat down and decided what the TASK is for Africa? Africa needs to be defined by Africans.” From his perspective, the Church in Africa has not had enough time for reflection. He says, “We need to be given space to think for ourselves… We need to learn to be Africans.”
Reflection: As one listens to Caesar, one cannot help but remember the debates of 20-30 years ago as the Latin Americans were working out their Liberation Theology. They were calling for “conscientization” which was reflection in their own context. They were insisting that they needed to set the theological agenda from their perspective and with their own hermeneutic. That initially lead to some problems and misunderstanding – but in the end, if one looks at the evangelical community within Latin America today, we can say it helped them engage with their community and transform it for good. What Caesar is asking for is good if it can be done with those who truly love the Lord and are committed to His agenda.
Pertinent Issues for Africa — Authentic Transformation
Dr. Uzo Obed is the senior pastor of Glory Tabernacle Ministries in Ibadan Nigeria. His church is partially supporting 240 missionaries and they have recently started a program of feeding the poor in their immediate neighborhood.
Pastor Obed reacts to the familiar characterization that of the church in Africa – that it is, “a mile wide and an inch deep.” He traces this phenomenon to two fundamental flaws. First, he is genuinely concerned that, while Africans are being evangelized in increasing numbers (maybe highest in the world), that discipleship is not happening at the individual level – and transformation is not happening at the societal level. “Why,” he asks, “do we have the highest number of conversions, but at the same time, we in Africa are leaders in poverty, in corruption and in HIV & AIDS.” As he sees it, “The way we do discipleship is not creating disciples and the Gospel that we are preaching is not transforming Africa.” For that reason, he suggests that we must renew our search for authentic people preaching and teaching an authentic Gospel.
Obed starts with the issue of our call to authenticity. “Servants become like their masters,” he says. And if we are people who lack authenticity we will be producing disciples who lack authenticity, It is because those who are making the disciples are following someone other than Jesus. Jesus told the original disciples, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” He is the authentic image of God and if we truly follow Him, then we will become godlike in character. No other model will do. Jesus must be our model of what it means to be authentic. Those who carry the vessels of the Lord must themselves be holy for He is holy.
A person whose call is not authentic, cannot do authentic ministry for God. We don’t need eye service (looking to others for approval) or lip service (just saying things we do not mean) but heart service. Obed believes that Africa has a divine destiny to take the Gospel to the rest of the world. But before that can happen, there must be both a revolution in African Christianity as well as revival. We not only have to be like Jesus in our calling but also in our ministry. Just as we cannot fake a call, we cannot fake a ministry. Jesus went everywhere preaching the Kingdom of God. Kingdom values need to come back into the church for us to be authentic – and to be authentic means to do ministry as He did it. If we return to holiness – we will see the power of God as it should be. But there will be no power without holiness.
Obed calls on us to be authentic in our perception of Africa. Remember, he has defined authenticity as being like Jesus. He asks, “How do you perceive Africa?”
He then describes how the African is perceived by the rest of the world (Obed’s words not mine).
The African is someone with a slave mentality. Africa is the dark-continent. Africans can never do anything well. There are the poorest. They are hopeless. They have the highest levels of epidemics. They always need help. They are despised by immigration officers. They are timid followers, dependant, recipients of help and those who will always surrender to superiors.
“How long will this perception continue?” cries Obed. “Africa Christians need a transformed mentality of themselves and their continent.” He reminds of us the German evangelist, Reinhold Bonke who preaches all over Africa and cries out, “I see a blood washed Africa! Africa shall be saved.” The way to transform our perception of Africa or Africans – is to have an authentic perception of Africa. And an authentic perception of Africa is to see it the way that Jesus sees it.
Dr. Obed then painted a picture of Africa as he sees it – and maybe through the eyes of Jesus.
I see Africa as a continent transformed by the glory of God. It is one restored to peace and harmony. It is blessed with diamonds and gold with people who are strong and have learned to survive. It is the home of many who have paid the ultimate sacrifice of their lives for the Gospel. It is a place where the nations will come and buy bread as they did in the days when Joseph saved the world from starvation. Africa will be a continent impacted by the glory of God and a fountain of blessing for the nations of the world. Destinies will change because of Africa. I see a transformed Africa with a destiny to change the world.
What can we say? “Thank you Dr. Obed for giving us a glimpse of what our Lord may see.” We can add nothing to this.
Howard Brant, Serving In Mission (SIM) www.sim.org 11 March, 2008, Nairobi, Kenya <firstname.lastname@example.org>
NEW INITIATIVES IN MISSIONS: Preparing a highway for all nations to be involved in world missions.