Movement for African National Initiatives 2006: Uniting African Church Leaders

Pastors and church leaders throughout Africa gathered
for MANI 2006.

Many people are sceptical of Africa. The growing and large number of believers in Africa, though it does boost world Christian statistics, is seen by many as an inch deep and a mile wide. As for mission potential, some expect little from Africa. The Christian and secular media has influenced many of us in forming our image of Africa.

We may ask, “Can anything good come Africa? Can these dry bones live?” The answer to both these questions is yes and the second gathering of the Continental Consultation of the Movement for African National Initiatives 2006 (MANI 2006) provided the answer to how and why the African Church is so important to global Christianity. The MANI 2006 consultation convinced African church leaders that the Church in Africa is emerging as a viable, strong alternative leader of the continent. Already some Christians in the West have begun to look to Africa for leadership and one Anglican Bishop assured me that they “are ready to give it.” One example of how the African Church has stepped up is the Global Day of Prayer. An event initiated in Africa, Global Day of Prayer now includes over 150 countries joined together in prayer.

African Church Leaders Gather in Nairobi
MANI 2006 was held at the Kenya College of Communication and Technology in Nairobi 27 February to 3 March. During the consultation, Ross Campbell, the MANI continental coordinator said, “You are among five hundred leaders of influence assembled at MANI 2006 from across the continent and around the globe. Delegates have arrived from forty-nine African nations and are joined by global leaders from eighteen countries beyond our shores. Together we exert leadership influence over hundreds of denominations and organizations, thousands of churches, tens of thousands of Christian workers and many millions of believers.”

Suddenly I was aware that I was among world class Christian leaders. Each came at their own expense because they realized that Africa must stop looking elsewhere for resources and start being a giving church, especially one that gives to missions. Participants became aware that resources were accessible right there in Africa. Dr. Uzodinma Obed, one of the pastors at the conference, shared that his church, The Glory Tabernacle Ministry, in Ibadan, Nigeria, already supports three hundred missionaries. Two of the missionaries are leaders of large African missions, one of which, Calvary Ministries, has more than three hundred missionaries in twenty-seven countries in Africa and beyond.

MANI 2006 Showcases God’s Work in Africa    
Most sessions were led and presented by competent and passionate African men and women. The sessions opened with singing and a time of honouring the Lord. The Africans’ passion to serve the Lord and the spirit of prayer are second to none. The courage they have shown in the midst of persecution in many of their countries makes one feel they are ready to face the world for Christ. 

One thing that was not African was keeping to a relatively rigid time schedule for each session. Although this was helpful, there was one session where I felt they should have been a little more flexible. The speaker was Dr. Tokunboh Adeyemo, general secretary of the Association of Evangelicals in Africa. During his exposition from Revelation 2:8-11 called “The Beatitudes of Persecution,” he had his listeners hanging onto every word he said. When Dr. Adeyemo was made aware that he was running out of time, he quickly concluded his speech. “Persecution is a blessing,” he told the delegates. He quoted a Jewish church leader as saying, “Fifty percent of the Bible is made of suffering and the other fifty percent the glory that follows it.” All the devotional speakers sharing about the seven churches of Revelation alluded to persecution. The churches the Lord commended in Revelation were under some form of persecution.

One of the sessions under the “Critical Issues and Challenges” workshops addressed a topic that is not usually addressed at a missions conference. “Discipleship: Deepening and Enhancing the Quality of Christianity in Africa in the Twenty-first Century” was taken by Dr. Obed. His book,  Mobilising the African Church into Missions, is one of the tools George Verwer uses in Missions Mobilisation Network. Other issues such as Islam, poverty, HIV/AIDS, corruption, leadership, children and women were also discussed. There was a strong sense that the Church, not the government, was the answer to transforming Africa. Dr. Reuben Ezemadu, director of Christian Missionary Foundation in Nigeria and the MANI regional leader for English-speaking West Africa, also spoke. He shared that the name “Africa” is of Celtic origin and means “pleasing” or “pleasant.” He shared that there are five hundred references to Africa in the Bible. Reading Isaiah 19:23-25 (which speaks of a “highway from Africa to the Middle East”), Dr. Ezemadu pointed out that “the Church in Africa will play a key role in the discipling of the Middle East in the twenty-first century.”

Sitting next to me for most of the conference was a brother from North Africa. Kamal oversees four hundred missionaries who work in the Middle East and North Africa. Asked to speak on the Arab World, Kamal’s presentation on many of the countries in this area was a great encouragement and challenge for the African Church to meet the many spiritual needs of the Arab World. My own role at the conference was to network with many of my African brothers and sisters. I was glad to see that five hundred copies of an article (“12 Ways to Be an Effective Mission Mobiliser” by George Verwer) I placed at the literature table were gone in three days. I also left a few copies of “I Have Come to Help You Die,” the story of my 17-year-old son Sunil, who went to be with the Lord in 2003. I also met many people from various countries in Africa who were faithfully serving the Lord.

Speakers at MANI 2006 equipped pastors to take a
leadership role in Africa.

Inner Workings of MANI 2006
Our host for MANI 2006 was the newly-formed organisation “Finish The Task” (FTT). Campbell reminded us that the organisation was a result of an embarrassment the Kenyan delegation faced at a World Evangelical Alliance conference held in Malaysia. They were told at the conference that there were nearly twenty unreached peoples in their country. The Kenyan leaders responded, “Never again shall we be told that there are unreached people groups in our country.” Upon their return they formed the FTT, which in a few years succeeded in engaging each of the unreached groups. Today the Church is growing among each of these groups.

Just before the closing worship, our African brothers and sisters honoured Campbell and his wife Avrille for their forty years of service to Africa. The Campbells came from New Zealand as WEC missionaries to Ghana. Since the early 1990s they have also been partnering with AD2000 and Beyond in mobilising the African continent toward its goals to have “a church for every people and the gospel for every person.” The work included visiting each country in Africa. One year he visited thirty-eight countries. The Campbell’s hard work has been greatly blessed and they can now look back and see a continent deeply committed to missions. There are multiplied numbers of missions leaders and missionaries coming from every African nation to complete the task of missions into all Africa and beyond.

As many came forward to thank the Campbells, they confessed that the honour belonged to God. Ross said, “To God be the Glory. He will not share his glory with another. He is a jealous God.” He handed over the responsibility of the continental co-ordinator role to Dr. Ezemadu and a team of seven regional coordinators. At their request, Campbell will remain as a consultant for Movement of African National Initiatives.

Just as I was bringing this report to a close, I received an email from Dr. Ezemadu that was addressed to the global partners at the MANI 2006. He writes, “We give glory to the Lord for the success of the just concluded MANI 2006 consultation. The feedback from participants has been very encouraging. We are very grateful too for your presence, support and encouragement in several ways…We will continue to value your partnership especially as we understand that whatever the African Church can and will do in this bid to make her own contribution to world evangelization, will be a supplement to, and not in isolation from what the global Church is doing. We are excited about this new dawn of partnership and look forward to the rapid results that will now attend our joint efforts in world evangelization.”

I thank God for MANI, for what I have seen, heard and felt. I thank God for this new breed of African Christian leaders. God is indeed blessing the world through the African Church. And this is only the beginning.

Chacko Thomas is coordinator of Missions Mobilisation Network (MMN). He is also a missionary with Operation Mobilisation, having served in India, and on three of OM's ships, the Logos, Doulos and the Logos ll, in various ministry and leadership roles.