Shift in global missions
African churches are deeply involved in global missions - could there be more partnerships with European mission agencies, asks Israel Olofinjana?
That Christianity has shifted from the North to the global South is a reality that we are living through. The emphasis has been that Christianity is growing every day in Africa, Asia and Latin America while it appears to be declining in the Western world 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 the 1930s. These Churches are commonly known as Black Majority Churches. The majority of these churches, particularly the African churches, are church plants from their headquarter churches 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 to mention a few.
All the above churches started in West Africa and have sent missionaries and church planters 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 Church planters 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 having a congregation of around 12,000.
But in addition to engaging in reverse missions, they are also involved in global missions. This is done through their television station KICC TV which is viewed in Africa, Europe, North America, Asia and the Caribbean. Other avenues that 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 Republic of Ireland, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Namibia.
Another example of an African church that started in Britain and is involved in global missions is Trinity Baptist Church founded by the Revd Kingsley Appaigyei in 1989. Trinity Baptist Church is also considered one of the largest Black Majority Churches in Britain having 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 a church in Italy, Denmark, Netherlands and Ghana. In addition, they also have an orphanage home in Ghana.
Another good example of an African church involved in global mission is Jubilee International Church founded by Dr Femi Olowo in April 1992 in South London. The church is affiliated to the Assemblies of God in Britain.
Jubilee International Church has planted different church branches 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.
Dr Femi is also the founder and principal of a theological training centre, South London Christian College. The college was founded in 1991 and it attracts many international students. The college is very much involved in global missions as Dr Femi leads students on regular short term mission trips to different parts of Europe, Africa and Asia, along with special Bible tours to Israel.
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 have send missionaries to different parts of the world so that today The Embassy of God’s Church can boast of having over 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 a 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 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!
Israel Olofinjana is an ordained and accredited Baptist minister, and pastored Crofton Park Baptist Church before becoming the Team Leader at Catford Community Church in September 2011. He is Nigerian and comes from a Pentecostal background.