Plenary 2: Mission and Evangelism in East Africa - The Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi (21st April)

Plenary 2: Mission and Evangelism in East Africa - The Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi (21st April)

This message was presented by Bishop Stephen Kaziimba on Abp Henry Orombi's behalf.

I want to begin my portion of the presentation on Mission and Evangelism by reminding us of a very familiar passage in the Gospels.  Mathew 9.35-37 says,

35Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.


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36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

37Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

38Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."

This, along with the Great Commission, is a well-known text for mission. Few of us could deny that in our contexts there are crowds of harassed and helpless people, like sheep without a shepherd. They are the harvest, and the harvest is, indeed, plentiful.  Isaiah records God asking, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”

There is another very interesting passage in Matthew’s Gospel that I have come to read in another way, in light of the missiological challenge before us as Provinces of the Global South. It is the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard in Matthew 20.

1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard.

2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

3 "About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing.

4 He told them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.'

5 So they went. "He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing.

6 About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, 'Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?'

7 " 'Because no one has hired us,' they answered. "He said to them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard.'

 8 "When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.'

9 "The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius.

10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.

11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner.

12 'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.'

13 "But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius?

14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you.

15 Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?'

16 "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

I think we all know that this passage is not about labor-management relations. It is chiefly about God’s grace and generosity in calling people to Himself. It is a warning to “veteran Christians,” and a welcome to “new Christians.”

But, let’s also play a bit with the fact that these workers are going out for the harvest…that harvest which Jesus said is “plentiful.” Indeed, the workers the landowner hired at the beginning are not enough. He has to go back to the marketplace and hire more workers at the third hour. Still, they are not enough, so he hires more workers at the sixth hour. Still, they are not enough, so he hires more workers at the ninth hour.  Finally, he still has to hire workers at the eleventh hour in order to get the job done.

If you think about the sweep of salvation history, I see the initial workers hired early in the morning as the People of God under the Old Covenant. God’s call to them was to be a blessing to all people and a light to the nations.

At the “third hour of salvation history,” we see the early church at work, obeying Jesus’ command to “make disciples of all nations.”  The early converts were mostly Jews who received Jesus as their long-expected Messiah and took that message throughout the Roman Empire…and, even beyond. We know that Thomas traveled as far as India, and perhaps, even, China. Even my continent of Africa was initially evangelized during this “third hour.”

At the “sixth hour of salvation history,” we see the rise of Christianity in Europe during the Middle Ages and mission movements rising chiefly out of the Roman Catholic Church and reaching primarily into Europe, with occasional forays to Japan and beyond.

At the “ninth hour of salvation history,” we see what has come to be known as the “modern missionary movement.” In fact, this year of 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of the 1910 Edinburgh Conference which sparked a great move of the Holy Spirit among students for cross-cultural and global mission. But, even the formation of the great mission agencies to whom we in the Global South owe such a debt of gratitude came during this “ninth hour of salvation history” – CMS, USPG, etc. This “ninth hour of salvation history” was mainly characterized by Europe and North America seeking to reach the ends of the earth with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now, here we are at the “eleventh hour of salvation history.”  Who now are the “eleventh hour workers?”  Is it not the very ones of us sitting in this room? Are we not the “eleventh hour workers?” 

In Uganda, the first missionaries came with the Gospel in 1877. By any understanding, we are still a young church.  We are among the last in the world to receive the Gospel. But, there are still others. The harvest is still plentiful, and ripe for harvest. Now is the time for us to rise and shine and go into the harvest.  Even though it is now the eleventh hour, Let us go!

John Stott, the great 20th century Anglican theologian, Biblical scholar, and mission strategist, makes an important point about mission in his book Christian Mission in the Modern World.

The God of all the nations is a ‘Missionary God.’  Mission arises primarily out of the nature not of the church but of God himself.  The living God of the Bible is a sending God…[God] sent forth Abraham, commanding him to go from his country and kindred into the great unknown, and promising to bless him and to bless the world through him if he obeyed (Gen 12.1-3).

Next, he sent Joseph into Egypt, overruling even his brothers’ cruelty, in order to preserve a godly remnant on earth during the famine (Gen 45.4-8).  Then he sent Moses to his oppressed people in Egypt, with good news of liberation, saying to him: “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth my people…out of Egypt” (Ex 3.10)

 After the Exodus and the settlement he sent a continuous succession of prophets with words of warning and of promise to his people.  As he said through Jeremiah: “From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day, yet they did not listen to me…” (Jer 7.25-26, cf. 2 Chr 36.15-16).

 After the Babylonian captivity he graciously sent them back to the land, and sent more messengers with them and to them to help them rebuild the temple, the city and the national life.  Then at last, “when the time had finally come, God sent forth his Son”; and after that the Father and the Son sent forth the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Gal 4.4-6, Jn 14.26; 15.26; 16.7; Acts 2.33).  (John Stott, Christian Mission in the Modern World)

As Global South Provinces, we must think about mission from this Biblical starting point.  Mission is not about us; it’s about God!  So often when we receive short-term mission teams from the West, it seems that to them, mission is about “helping” us.  No! Mission is not about “helping.” Mission is about participating in God’s work in the world today of drawing people to Himself who have been separated from Him. Mission is about participating with Jesus in inviting people from every ethnic group to become Jesus’ disciples and to be part of His Kingdom here on earth so they will also be part of His Kingdom in heaven.

My brothers and sisters, I want to make a solemn appeal to you. We are among the last to have received the Gospel. But, Jesus tells us plainly that the “last shall be first.” So, let us not be shy about going first and leading the way in dynamic mission and evangelism in the 21st century. Yes, those who have gone before us may get jealous. But, we’ve been told to expect that. Still, we must rise and go.

Let me share what I see as mission obstacles and mission opportunities, particularly from our context in Eastern Africa.

Mission Obstacles

1. State Church mindset.

One of the challenges we face as Anglicans is that our Mother Church in England is a State Church. Yet, for most of us, we are not in that situation in our own countries.  But, we have this problem that we think England represents ideal Anglicanism. My friends – the Church of England is declining; it is aging; there are few young people, and less than 1 million attend church on any given Sunday.  I’ve read the statistics, and I’ve been there to see for myself that this is true. If you look at other countries that have State Churches, you will see very similar patterns.  There are massive church buildings where once there was a thriving congregation. But, not any longer. 

We must purge ourselves of the “State Church” mentality that we inherited from our Mother Church in England. I see it all the time in my own Province, where we are often mired in bureaucracy and institutional inertia. For example, our capital city of Kampala is located in two dioceses – Namirembe Diocese and Kampala Diocese. The population of our city is growing rapidly, but we have not kept pace with church planting. Yet, we are paralyzed because of diocesan boundaries. We have churches in Kampala Diocese who could spin off daughter churches and plant them in growing sections of the city. But, those parts of the city are in Namirembe Diocese, and the process to establish cooperative and collaborative relationships is so cumbersome, that we get tired of the bureaucracy and give up.  Recently, however, we have renewed our efforts and are formulating a new strategy for inter-diocesan cooperation in order to move forward church planting in our capital city.

 We must not equate pure Anglicanism with England and the English way of doing things.  A major focus of the English Reformation, to which we are an heir, was to bring the Bible and worship into the language of the people. That value is at the heart of Anglicanism. So, we must not fear to bring the Bible and worship not only into the spoken language of our people, but also into the cultural language of our people.

Ironically, we ourselves are sometimes our biggest obstacle to mission.

2. Secularism through Globalization. 

We are experiencing this through the media, mostly television, movies, and radio. We are also bombarded with this message through international NGOs that have set up business in Uganda, and particularly some who masquerade secularism under the guise of human rights and development.  Ugandans in particular, and Africans in general, are religious and spiritual people. Secularism is not natural to us, and is quite foreign. Yet, the world view of media is, in general, secular. The current generation is growing up with this foreign influence and their parents and relatives do not understand it…they see only the impact it has on their children.  Our institutions of higher learning have professors who have been educated in secular Western institutions and they pass on secularism in the form of “higher education.”  Yet, our theological colleges have not kept up with the apologetics task of training our clergy and lay readers in how to respond in compelling ways to the challenge of secularism. 

In Uganda, religious education has been mandatory in the schools – either CRE (Christian Religious Education) or IRE (Islamic Religious Education). Our national motto is, “For God and My Country.”  The government, however, because of pressure from secularism is considering eliminating religious education from the curriculum. This is a big challenge to us. We have always considered ourselves partners with the schools in providing education, and a group of churches have come together to continue fighting this change.

3. The Prosperity Gospel. 

The prosperity gospel is a big problem for us in Uganda.  It is nothing but cheap grace and greed that has been baptized.  The common false belief of “I am poor” makes this Gospel attractive.  But, rather than bringing the blessings from God that it promises, it is wreaking havoc in the lives of families and undermining the true cost of discipleship.  It is producing disciples who are like the seed that fell among the thorns. When the “worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke them,” they wither and die.  We need to popularize a Biblical theology of wealth, stewardship, and material possessions. The only people in Prosperity Gospel churches who prosper are the pastors who take money from their members.  They do not preach the cross of Christ and the cost of discipleship. This is a betrayal of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and, for us in Uganda, a betrayal of Archbishop Janani Luwum and our early martyrs who considered it better to die for their faith than compromise.

4. Dependency. 

We in Uganda are a self-governing church. We are a self-theologizing church. We are a self-propagating church. But, we are not yet a self-supporting church. We are like a three-legged cow. When a cow breaks its leg, at best it limps. But, usually, we will just slaughter it.  We are a limping church because we are so heavily dependent on outside funding. It is only by God’s grace and mercy that we have not yet been slaughtered. But, the potential to be slaughtered is a distinct possibility.  Our mission in our local contexts and around the world is seriously hampered because of our dependency on others.

5. Regional instability and conflicts. 

One of the main reasons the Gospel was able to spread so quickly and so far and wide during the first centuries of the Church was because of the Pax Romana – the peace that existed during the Roman Empire.  Not to mention that they had good roads and infrastructure.  Our regional conflicts in Southern Sudan, Northern Uganda, and Eastern Congo have made it very difficult for the Church to accomplish its mission, and for people to move in those regions. 

6. Multi-Religious Contexts

We live in a tension.  On the one hand, we firmly believe the Gospel where Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” and yet, on the other hand, we live in multi-religious contexts.  We must learn to understand one another and develop gracious ways to present the Gospel.  The church needs to “wake up”.  In 1 Chronicles 12.32, as groups of men from the various tribes went up to Hebron to turn Saul’s Kingdom over to David, it describes the men of Issachar as men “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” The church today needs to be like the men of Issachar. We need serious discernment to see what is advancing – to discern the spiritual realities of our various contexts.
 

Mission Opportunities

Let me turn now to Mission Opportunities that are before us.

1. Leadership that casts the vision

In my own Province, two years ago at our Provincial Assembly, I called on the Church of Uganda to embrace the next ten years as the Decade of Mission – a comprehensive understanding of mission to embrace every aspect of our life as a church – personal mission, mission through our schools, mission through health care, business as mission, evangelism, church planting, etc.  Mission and evangelism must start from the very top leadership of the church. When I make a pastoral visit to the dioceses in my Province, to me it is like I am going for a mission. I preach evangelistic messages and call people to faith in Christ. It is the duty of the church’s leadership to continuously cast the vision of mission and evangelism and to lead by example.

2. Collaboration.

  1. Regional collaboration.We can’t all do everything together. But, we can start with regional collaborations. For example, in East Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda have linked up to partner with several dioceses in Eastern Congo for holistic mission and evangelism.
  2. Global South collaboration.Beyond the level of regional collaboration, we can have provincial exchanges from farther afield in the Global South. For example, Bishop Rennis of Singapore has invited me to preach in his congregation, and I invited him to preach at a major university mission last year.
  3. Interdenominational collaboration.There are many ways we can work together with Christians of other denominations for the purpose of evangelistic outreach. We must not see other denominations as competition or our enemy. Our enemy is the Devil not another denomination. In Uganda, we have very good relationships with such evangelical parachurch ministries as Campus Crusade for Christ (known in Uganda as LIFE Ministry) and the Navigators. Many of our church partners are Presbyterians, but we know we have a common love for our Lord Jesus Christ and live under the authority of Scripture.

3. Unreached/under-reached ethnic groups. 

  1. Traditional pastoralists, e.g., Karamajong, Borana, Maasai, Somalis, etc.  Globally, I believe, the church has not been very good at reaching the pastoralist communities. One Somali man, when asked why he couldn’t accept Christianity, is reputed to have said, “I can’t carry your religion on the back of my camel.” This is a big challenge for us to think through our strategies and approaches to mission. The church is not a building, and Christian faith is not something that happens only inside a building. It is a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Surely that can be carried on the back of a camel!
  2. In terms of addressing Uganda’s multi-religious context, we are behind, but at least we’re doing something.  We have recently established a new unit in our Mission Department for Christian-Muslim Relations. 
  3. We also have unreached ethnic groups in our region who are not originally from Eastern Africa. For example, we have a growing Chinese community because of all the Chinese businessmen. Because of that, we do have some very good Chinese restaurants in Kampala!  I am ashamed to say that we have never penetrated the Indian community in Uganda.  Again, our problem is our own mindset. We think, “They have their communities, and we have ours.”  And, we have forgotten that they are part of the harvest that is ripe.  We need to develop intentional mission strategies for the minority ethnic communities in our regions.

4. Professionals. 

We certainly have many lay professionals who are doctors, engineers, and teachers who could be linked across Provinces and coordinated for effective mission.  Our Sudanese neighbours, for example, have a great need at this particular moment in time, for teachers. In Uganda, we are graduating teachers from Teacher Training Colleges and from universities with Bachelor’s degrees in Education. But, they can’t find jobs. Why couldn’t we create a youth mission corps who would offer themselves as teachers, evangelists, and disciplers to the church schools in Southern Sudan for two years?  Why couldn’t a Christian Chinese doctor from Singapore partner with a Diocese in Eastern Congo to establish a health centre?

5. Business community.

ikewise, our businessmen and women are a great resource for mission…and, not just to fund mission. There are many Ugandans who have gone to Sudan to do business. What if they went to Sudan as missioners disguised as businessmen? They would be there not only to do business, but to trade in the Gospel.   We wouldn’t have to wait to raise funds to send them as missionaries, because they could support themselves!  We need to see even our businesses here as an opportunity for fulfilling God’s mission in the world and for seeking first the Kingdom of God.  Not only can Business fund mission, but it can also be the means by which we do mission.

6. Youth. 

Youth are not only a target for evangelism, but they are our greatest untapped evangelism resource.  In my office, I have created two positions for Youth Interns.   Two different youth come for six months at a time. They travel with me when I go for pastoral visits to dioceses, and assist in other ways in the office when I am in town. When it is appropriate, I invite them to share their testimony. They are part of my team, and I want to encourage youth to engage in mission. I spend a week every year at Youth Camp. I will almost always accept any invitation to speak if it is related to Youth – Scripture Union Conventions, Diocesan Youth Conventions, etc.   I started ministry as a Youth Pastor, and I always want to encourage the youth to be involved in mission and evangelism in our church today.  Our recently retired Chaplain at Makerere University developed a youth mission and outreach programmed called “Back to Jerusalem.” University youth formed evangelism outreach teams based on their regions. When they would go home on holiday, they did evangelism outreaches in the schools in their dioceses. This has been a very successful programme, and many more youth mission teams could be organized and deployed.

Conclusion

The opportunities for mission are legion. The fields are ripe for harvest.  My brothers and sisters, we are the Eleventh Hour Workers. Pray, therefore, the Lord of the harvest, to send out laborers into the harvest.

I would hope that we could leave this meeting of Global South Provinces having resolved together to make the next ten years a Decade of Mission in the Global South. Where we resolve such things as:

  • Every Province will create a mission sending agency. We know how to receive missionaries very well. But, we can’t receive from one another, if we have no way to send them to one another. This means we must also address the issue of supporting missionaries we send, whether through the traditional means of support coming from the sending church, or through non-traditional means of tent-making and Business as Mission.
  • We will collaborate together to strengthen our churches, especially those living in strong multi-religious contexts.
  • We will commit ourselves to doubling the size of our Provinces and increasing the number of Provinces in the Global South.
  • We will welcome into our churches and embrace the youth with all of their enthusiasm. We will harness and channel their energy for God’s Kingdom mission.
  • We will challenge Christian professionals and business leaders to use their professions for mission.
  • We will develop intentional mission strategies to reach those who have been overlooked in our communities, especially those of other faiths, pastoralists, refugees, ethnic minorities, etc.

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  1. Billy Says:

    A very well articulated message on Mission and Evangelism! May I make communication and invitation for “The 10th Bugolobi Annual Youth Conference [BAYC 2010] Kampala, Uganda.”

    The Bugolobi Annual Youth Conference (BAYC) Kampala, Uganda is organized and hosted in Kampala – Uganda, bringing together young people, student leaders, youth ministers and mission workers from different nationalities across Africa and around the world. BAYC is potentially Africa’s foremost Annual Christian Conference.

    Over 50% of the people on the face of the earth today are under the age of 25 [78% under the age of 30] - the largest youth generation in history! The generation of young people [of the prime ages 16 to 40 years found in the high schools, universities & colleges, and market place in the economic, social and political spheres] is tomorrow’s hope and so should be today’s focus.

    “We agreed that the future of the Communion lies in winning the next generation for Christ. We urge each region to adopt initiatives to better understand the needs and characteristics of this new generation so that we might better communicate the Gospel and Christian values to them. It is essential that the ethos and traditions of the Church be imparted to the youth in creative and dynamic ways so that they will be equipped to live for Christ for their generation and beyond.” Fourth Trumpet from the Fourth Anglican Global South to South Encounter [GSE4], St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Singapore, 19th – 23rd April 2010.  The Conference is a deliberate effort, intentional action and strategic focus on the young generation.

    There has been remarkable feedback on how the impact carried back from the Conference over the years continues to not only transform the young generation but also touch communities. There are amazing and incredible testimonies of thousands of leaders that have emerged, souls that have been saved & prospered, hearts that have been molded & blessed, minds that have been renewed & transformed, lives that have been healed & delivered; and the thousands of young people that have been equipped through the power of the Holy Spirit to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.

    The Conference has a quadruplet core objective: • Devotion to God in Worship & Service • Development & Commissioning of Leaders • Discipleship & Mission Orientation • Distinction in Social Action & Responsibility.

    The Booking & Registration
    Booking & Registration for BAYC 2010 is open, and can be done on the Conference Website: http://www.bayc.or.ug; Thursday, 01st April 2010 to Sunday, 01st August 2010. We encourage this to be done well in time in order to guarantee accreditation, enhance orderliness and enable ample reception at the Conference.

    We are hoping that you will find adequate information on BAYC 2010 through the pages of the Conference Website; should you have any more inquiries or require any other guidance, please contact the BAYC 2010 Secretariat.