Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Missio Dei - Part 2

Distinctives of iServe Africa in the Mission of God. 

1. An indigenous African organisation
 iServe Africa has its roots firmly in Africa but it is reaching out under the modern mission banner  ‘from everywhere to everywhere’. The organisation is registered in Kenya and the leadership (board) is largely Kenyan with only a couple of expatriate missionaries on the board. Through the training and placement of apprentices from all over the continent and finding placements for the all over the world, iServe Africa embodies the concept of modern missions as being from everywhere to everywhere. The thought that it is Africa’s moment to missionize the rest of the world has no place in iServe Africa as she sees her mission as a complementary effort that will be best achieved in partnership with other players rather than in isolation.

Martin Goldsmith argues that mission needs to move to the place where all are givers and all are recievers as we need each other in mission and everybody has something to bring to the table.  He goes on to say that such intermix of nationalities and backgrounds in missions will bring international benefit, enhancing the life and growth of God’s people.  iServe Africa has a British national on the staff team and has current apprentices placed in England through international partnerships. Over the past 3 years, 5 international apprentices have served in Kenya from Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda. There is clear intention to continually recruit international apprentices and then release them back to their countries at the end of their apprenticeships, better equipped for mission in their own contexts.  This gives iServe Africa a global outlook and it is equipping workers for global mission.

2. A Short Term Mission Movement.
There is clear understanding within iServe Africa that the nature of its ministry placements (mission engagement) is largely short term and hence the main concern is in doing it right.  There is therefore care not to override ongoing mission activity especially in contexts where there are Least Reached people groups such as the placements in Moyale, Garissa and Wajir. We work closely, and under the supervision of the existing missionaries drawing lessons from past experiences and integrating them for effectiveness during the relatively short period of apprenticeship. iServe Africa recognises that short term mission is shaping the mission of the future and in this I agree with Goldsworth in asserting that short term mission is now not only a real possibility but has indeed become the norm. He contends that although short term mission has its unique challenges, it seems to be the typical model of mission in the 21st century and that it is the short termers who gain most from their term of service, they learn a great deal and amazingly mature both spiritually and personally.   In order to do this well, iServe Africa has an internal operation procedures and manuals and is also  subscribes to best practice in short term missions.

3. A Member Care Movement
One of the challenging areas of African mission enterprise has been lack of sufficient member care for missionaries in the field. Although the nature of iServe Africa apprenticeship is essentially short term, great care and support is given to apprentices straight from recruitment all the way through the apprenticeship and into debriefing to integrate the lessons learnt. Deliberate effort is also made to encourage alumni after they leave the programme to enhance ongoing missional lifestyle and involvement at local church or market-place level.

For the apprentices in any one given year, there is a dedicated staff team that does visits in placements, supports the apprentices in their discipleship and ensures the well being of the workers among other member care initiatives.

4. A Missions Mobilising Movement
iServe Africa sees missions as a present involvement and as a possible next step for its apprentices. Through the 1 or 2 year apprenticeship, young men and women are challenged to think about longer term involvement through faithful going or faithful sending. Recruitment to join the programme takes a great deal of mobilisation with staff and volunteers transversing the country to make presentations in colleges and universities, encouraging students to step up and take the challenge of missions. Through the national student movements, more are recruited every year and taken through this discipleship. Eventually this mobilises young people towards missions.

Among our alumni,  some have joined longer term Christian ministry. Others have gone into the marketplace and are honouring the Lord in their jobs while supporting missions and bearing witness to the Lord Jesus.

5. A Locally Supported Movement (Partnership Development)
iServe Africa apprentices and  staff are all supported with gifts from partners, largely local. The apprentices are encouraged to meet the costs of their ministry half way while their placement provides the other half. They are trained on models of mission support and are expected to carry out Partnership Development in order to raise the requisite support for their yearlong mission. Staff are also required to raise their full support from partners who may be individuals, churches or other Christian organisations.
Whereas this model is vulnerable in the sense that it depends very much on the charisma and personality of particular staff/ apprentice, it also ensures longer term sustainability of the organisation since staff costs are the single largest expense item to mission agencies. As an intervention, careful training is provided to ensure success. Many Christian organisations have faced challenges in the area of fundraising and iServe Africa is by no means an exemption. However, the leadership believes that African mission will be African supported (funded) and that we have to grow an awareness of the need to support mission locally if we expect to be at the forefront of the mission agenda in this century.

I see iServe Africa right at the cutting edge of Missio Dei in the 21st century African continent and beyond. 

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Missio Dei

That the church in Africa is rising to the challenge of global mission is not in doubt, what is not new however is a close scrutiny of both missions to and in Africa, in his book, the missions on trial, Walbert Buhlmann argues that missions in Africa have for many years been in the crossfire of criticism. In an earlier age they were much admired but later they are attacked and accused by radical Christians, cold atheist and by black nationalists.[1]  Certainly the need for greater involvement cannot be over emphasized. It has been stated again and again that “Christianity’s centre of gravity has shifted to the global South”[2]. This is the amazing fact that within just one century, Christianity grew incredibly 70-fold from a mere 7 million to 470 million such that now approximately one-out-of-five Christians in the world are from Sub-Saharan Africa[3]. Surely this is tremendous advance of the Gospel.
Congruent with the general growth of the Church in Africa is the slow but certain growth in mission engagement. The African church has diverse needs and chief among them is qualified workers to engage with the current generation.  Thankfully,  there is an emerging vision for missions among African churches and communities. One such movement is iServe Africa, an indigenous African organisation that seeks to recruit and train fresh graduates on the basics of missions through the apprenticeship model. This paper seeks to explore the nature of iServe Africa and its contribution in the mission of God and especially her role in the emerging African mission enterprise.

Towards an Understanding of Mission
Missions in Africa has been understood as an event, a short term, usually week-long series of meetings with door to door witness in the morning and an open air crusade in the afternoon. Once the event is over the volunteers from different backgrounds head off to their homes until the next mission event. This has largely been the case with university students who hold ‘annual missions’ on similar understanding with the emphasis on the unreached/less reached people groups in the rural areas. The model is no different in towns where mission typically means  door to door witnessing, an open air meeting in the afternoon and a 'revival' in the evening. 
Whereas this understanding of mission has seen thousands, perhaps millions won to Christ, little or no discipleship has followed leading to lack of follow through on those commitment and an eventual need for another ‘mission’. Again, this model has failed on many fronts where longer term cross cultural activity is concerned. Besides this has led to a limited understanding and ultimately involvement in world mission. Long term cross cultural mission has traditionally been associated with a white man, sent and supported from Europe or America and usually with some developmental interest. To many in Africa, a missionary is not an African, without a considerable amount of wealth and can by no means expect to take the message of the gospel to other lands, not least among a racially different community. This, unfortunately, is the predominant view of mission.
In his book, The Mission of God, Christopher Wright defines mission as Mission: Our committed participation as God’s people, at God’s invitation and command, in God’s own mission within the history of God’s world for the redemption of God’s creation. [4] Essentially the meaning of mission is not what churches, missionaries or agencies do but what God is s doing. Missions need to be thought of in terms of God’s redemptive actions in history. [5]
Wright argues that a biblical theology of mission finds its genesis all the way back at creation and the subsequent call of Abraham. “In the call of Abraham God set in motion a historical dynamic that would ultimately not only deal with the problem of human sin but also heal the dividedness of the nations” [6]  I agree with him in asserting that the first Great Commission was Abraham’s commission to “Go . . . [and] be a blessing . . . and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen 12:1–3). He shows from the Scriptures that when God entered into a covenant with Abraham, he had in view the rest of the nations as well. The church of Christ, therefore, is nothing less than the fulfillment of the hope of Israel—that all nations will be blessed through the people of Abraham. The people of God are those who are sent to “be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2) and not simply to share a message of blessing. “When God set about his great project of world redemption in the wake of Genesis 12, he chose to do so not by whisking individuals off up to heaven, but by calling into existence a community of blessing[7]   
This understanding of mission as the mission of God or Missio Dei places God and not the task or the missionary at the centre of the mission enterprise. Mission is therefore a work of God through and through and human agents are mere instruments at His will and disposal.  It also clearly captures  the intentionality and purpose of God in the mission task and especially the creation of a community of faith – this places discipleship at the core of mission and not separate from it as has been understood in Kenya type missions. Wright goes on to say   "There is one God at work in the universe and in human history, and ... this God has a goal, a purpose, a mission that will ultimately be accomplished by the power of God's Word and for the glory of God's name.  This is the mission of the biblical God" 

It is of this holistic understanding of mission that iServe Africa comes into being.

TBC next week.

[1] Buhlmann Walbert: The Missions on Trial, Orbis Books, MaryKnoll New York 1979, p9.
[2] Jenkins, Philip : The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity Oxford University Press 2002.
[3] The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life- Study on Religion in Africa, 2010 available at
[4]Wright, J.H Christopher  The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative, InterVarsity Press
[5] Caleb Chul-Soo Kim et al: African Missiology:Contribution of Contemporary Thought, Uzima Publishing, Nairobi 2009,
[6] Wright J. H. Christopher. The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s MissionBiblical Theology for Life. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.P 41, 73
[7] ibid

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Only One Life

As we think about the events of the last few days, I am drawn to reflect on the fickle nature of life and reminded the words of David in Psalms 90:12 ... “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (NIV) and in Psalms 39:4 "LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered--how fleeting my life is.” (NLT). CT Studd arrests my thoughts in the words of his poem, only one life....

Only One Life by C.T Studd
 “Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Oh let my love with fervor burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, “twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one,
Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last. ”
— extra stanza —
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”
                                                                                - C.T Studd

C.T. Studd (1860-1931) was an English missionary who faithfully served His Saviour in China, India, and Africa. His motto was: "If Jesus Christ is God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him. More on him here.

Only what is done for the Lord will remain. Have a blessed week ahead. 


Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Discipleship = Discipline Part 1

I have meditated over and over again on the question of discipleship and what it really means to be a follower of Christ.  It seems to me that the key to life is discipline. That restraint from excess, that desire to do right, that strength to say no, that ability to keep going, that will to trust. I don't suppose that I could cover the breadth and length of the subject in one short e mail but it is becoming all the more clear that discipleship has a lot, perhaps everything, to do with discipline. Training in godliness, which is what iSA apprenticeship is all about, is a discipling –nay-disciplining process. The word of God over and over again challenges us to be disciplined in speech, conduct and just about every field of our being.

The harsh reality, however, is that discipline/discipleship is never a piece of cake. It calls for tough decisions, sheer hard work, keen determination and at times gritting of our teeth through somewhat unpleasant experiences. It is never all sweet and happy, oftentimes it is bitter but its got to be done if we are to enjoy the fruits of it. Come to think of it: No athlete can claim any victory without discipline, no student has excelled without discipline, no army can win a battle without a disciplined force, we cannot expect any less in any field, not least in gospel ministry or even in our personal/family lives. 

Saturday, 2 June 2012

from June 2012. Moving my weekly sharing with iSA apprentices to this forum.