09 January 2014
A great multitude: reflections from Nigeria
Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, reflects on a remarkable visit to Nigeria…
It was an amazing sight: a million people of God gathered in Nigeria's second city – Lagos – for a week of passionate and fervent prayer, of seeking Him, and encouraging each other.
This was the Redeemed Christian Church of God's (RCCG) Congress, which I travelled to last month with my friend Rev Yemi Adedeji, who chairs our One People Commission (OPC); OPC members Pastor Agu Irukwu, who leads the RCCG 's 700 churches in the UK; and Pastor Kingsley Appyagyei of Trinity Baptist Church; Roy Crowne, who leads the HOPE initiative and Baroness Elizabeth Berridge.
I had been to the event once before – 10 years ago – and yet again, the presence of God was tangible and the delegates' dedication was clear – with people having travelled from all over Africa's most populous nation – and indeed from all over the world - to be there. Some of them had walked.
I couldn't help but be amazed at the sheer scale of the congress. The main venue stretched 1km by 1.8km and included a bank, hospital, shops and restaurants. Events ran from the Monday through to the Sunday, with a Friday evening gathering taking place from 7pm until 4am.
It's hard for my mind, even now, to comprehend what a million people in one place looks like.
But even more challenging to me was the sheer scale of commitment to the gospel I witnessed there and the passion for spreading it. The RCCG is made up of people committed to mission and church-planting, with a presence in more than 175 countries. Their aim is for there to be a church within five minutes' walk of every one living in a major city in the developing world.
The present meeting venue for the congress – even though it is able to accommodate a million people – is getting too small. They dream of a venue that will stretch 3km by 3km.
These are wonderful, passionate, Jesus-loving people. They challenge me to dream bigger. They remind me of the power of the gospel and the omnipotence of the God we worship.
I am often reminded of what we can learn from each other at our One People Commission meetings – made up of a group of key UK national leaders from diverse ethnic backgrounds. The contribution of ethnic minority churches to the UK faith landscape over recent decades has been fascinating.
And at the Evangelical Alliance we are passionate about ensuring that the UK Church is confident in its voice and inspired for mission, while celebrating its wonderful diversity.
I'm reminded of the vision in Revelation 7:9:
"After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb."
Does that vision excite you? Is it your hope that the UK Church will be beautifully vibrant and diverse while utterly united?
Will you enable us to make this happen?