01 November 2013
Has there been a shift in global mission?
Christianity is growing every day in Africa, Asia and Latin America while it appears to be declining in the Western world, in places such as North America and Europe. Christians from the global south have taken the mandate to spread the gospel so that there is now reverse mission from the former mission field to Europe and North America.
In the British context, Caribbean and African Christians have taken the lead in establishing churches since 1906. Many of these churches, commonly known as black majority churches (BMCs), particularly the African churches, are church plants from their headquarters back in Africa. Examples of these are The Church of the Lord Aladura, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Church of Pentecost, Victory Bible International Church and many others. All the above churches started in West Africa and have sent missionaries and pastors to the UK to do missions. This type of African churches constitutes the first set of African churches in Britain and other parts of Europe. The second type of African churches are those that were founded here in Britain and are now sending missionaries and pastors to different parts of Europe and other parts of the world. It is to this second group that I want to draw attention.
An example of an African church that started in Britain and is sending missionaries to other parts of the world is Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC), founded by Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo in 1992. KICC is one of the largest churches in Britain with a congregation of around 12,000. They have church plants in major cities in the UK such as Birmingham, Luton, Milton Keynes, Bristol, Bedford and Oxford. KICC is also involved in global missions through their television station KICC TV which is viewed in Africa, Europe, North America, Asia and the Caribbean. Another avenue KICC use in spreading the gospel to other parts of the world is through conferences (Winning Ways Africa), gospel campaign meetings and relief work. In addition, KICC also has church plants in the Republic of Ireland, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Namibia and Malawi.
Another example of an African church that started in Britain and is involved in global missions is Trinity Baptist Church, founded by Rev Kingsley Appaigyei – a member of the Alliance's One People Commission – in 1989. Trinity Baptist Church is also considered one of the largest black majority churches in Britain with a congregation of around 3,000 people. Trinity Baptist Church since its inception has been involved in many church plants within the UK and other parts of Europe. They have churches in Italy, Denmark, Netherlands and Ghana. In addition, they also have an orphanage home in Ghana.
Another example is Jubilee International Church founded by Dr Femi Olowo in April 1992 in south London. Jubilee International Church has planted churches within Britain and other parts of the world, such as in African countries like Uganda, Kenya,Zambia, the Congo, Ghana, Ivory Coast,Sierra Leone and the Gambia, and in Asian countries like Pakistan, India and the Philippines. In addition, the church conducts mission trips to Europe, Africa and Asia.
Lastly, the Embassy of God Church, founded by Pastor Sunday Adelaja in 1994 in Kiev Ukraine, is yet another church founded by an African in Europe and is involved in global missions. The Embassy of God Church is one of the largest churches in Europe, having about 20,000 members. This church cannot actually be labelled an African church because 99 per cent of its membership is white European. The church has a leadership training programme, International Training School for Leaders which trains and equips church leaders, missionaries and church planters in global missions. This school has sent missionaries to different parts of the world so that today the church can boast of having more than 200 church plants in the former countries of the Soviet Union, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Greece, Georgia, India, Canada, United States of America, Finland, Czech Republic, Sweden, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Japan, Moldova, Estonia and Finland. The Embassy of God Church is also involved in relief work in some of these countries.
Having given few examples of African churches' involvement in global missions, it is important that European mission agencies and organisations recognise and possibly partner with these African churches in working together for God's kingdom on earth. Gone are those days when Europe an and North American mission organisations can claim the monopoly of world missions. This shift in global mission must be recognised and co-operation is needed on both sides to work together. Let us drop our agenda of doing it alone and work as partners in reaching the unreached.
Rev Israel Olofinjana is author of Turning the Tables on Mission: stories from the global south in the UK, published by Instant Apostle