“From the commencement of this consultation, it seems to me that God has a message for the churches and the indigenous missions groups in Africa.” – Rev. Dr. Panya Baba
Twenty-five people from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Zambia met in Abuja, Nigeria, for three days of intensive discussion and planning 21-25 April 2008. Included was Dr. Panya Baba, who has been part of the Lausanne Movement since its inception in 1974. The aim of the gathering was to identify the most critical issues facing the African Church over the next five years, and to explore ways of making Cape Town 2010: The Third Lausanne Congress as effective across the continent of Africa as possible. The meeting was chaired by Gideon Para-Mallam, Lausanne International Deputy Director for English, Spanish, and Portuguese Africa, who is also on staff with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students.
Para-Mallam opened the meetings by delivering greetings from Doug Birdsall (Lausanne Executive Chair), Lindsay Brown (Lausanne International Director), and the Anglican Primate of the Church of Nigeria, the Rt. Rev. Peter Akinola, who was represented at the meeting by Ven Tunde Papoola.
The gathering expressed enthusiastic appreciation for the choice of Africa as host continent for the 2010 Congress and made an appeal: “Please do not come to the African continent and leave us as you met us, without taking a look at the issues which are pertinent to the Church on the continent.”
While the African Church has both weaknesses and strengths, the leaders acknowledged that the Lord has infused the Church with passion and vibrant worship. The leaders felt this passion and vibrancy could be a gift to the global Church at the Congress. “We need to continue working toward a healthy Church on the continent, as it is bound to have an impact on the culture, in politics, and in every sphere of national life,” said Para-Mallam.
In looking toward the Congress, participants saw benefits to creating greater awareness of the Lausanne Movement. They sensed that as word spread, there would be a sense of delight in Africa being the host continent and a genuine desire to pray for the Lord to use the Congress as a means of blessing both Africa and the world.
The goals for the Abuja meeting were:
- to identify the key theological and missiological issues confronting the African Church today;
- to identify critical issues confronting Africa as a continent, and to consider their impact on the Church: its growth, its training in discipleship, its contribution in social concerns, etc; and
- to consider how these relate to our commitment in fulfilling the Great Commission on the African continent and beyond.
Participants included missiologists, theologians, church workers, evangelists, and Christians in the marketplace. These groups met separately then came together to pool their wisdom, and to hear what other contributors who were not able to come had written. The seven top needs the group identified included:
- good governance, including leadership, a spirit of servanthood, and role-modeling (mentoring);
- poverty and wealth, including good management of resources to stop resource exploitation in Africa’s resource-rich land;
- more education to replace illiteracy, including the issue of educational instability;
- addressing ethnicity and tribalism, including violence and disregard of sanctity of life;
- the rapid spread of diseases, including HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and tuberculosis;
- more intentional disciple-making; and
- the spread of Islam, including the need for creative ways to engage Muslims.
Other important issues included:
- issues surrounding the sanctity of life,
- gender questions, and
- a concern for youth.
Participants were aware of the fact that the university is the most influential institution on the continent (in human terms) and that its influence lay behind all public policy. More Christian influence in the university at senior administrative and faculty level could have profound implications in the long term for governance and public life in each nation. Participants concluded that if they are serious about world evangelisation, they dare not ignore the university. Para-Mallam added: “At the moment, it is working largely against us. Let's engage. Lausanne really needs to take the university and ministry to young people seriously.”
Contribution of the Church in Africa to the 2010 Congress
Participants also listed the contributions the African Church can make to the Lausanne Congress. These consist of:
- Praise. Songs should be biblical and express good theology and missiology. It was hoped to see a characteristically joyful African nuance in the praise, perhaps with African choirs.
- Prayer sessions. The African Church is a praying Church, and wants to help other churches be such.
- Church growth. The African Church can bring stories of phenomenal growth, like those found in Anglican and Pentecostal denominations. These could present a model to the global Church.
- Mission mobilisation. The emerging indigenous mission movement could bring deep inspiration.
- Islam. The Church in Africa could help other churches engage with Islam.
Several additional points were made:
- Poverty would be no barrier to the African Church’s role in fulfilling the Great Commission.
- The African Church would cover the costs of many Congress participants. Stronger churches would be approached to provide in scholarships for participants from poorer countries.
- Migration would not be seen as negative, but as a creative mission opportunity. Several of the largest churches in Europe are African churches.
Participants held one prayer goal in common: through hosting the Congress, the Church in Africa will become more serious in her commitment to the Great Commission.
Similar regional consultations are being held in each of the Lausanne Movement’s twelve regions.
(This article was written and compiled by: Francis Osteen, Rebecca Samuel Dali, and Julia Cameron.)