Oscar Muriu on 5 Changes to the Global Church

Kent Shaffer —  October 17, 2012

At the Global:Church Forum, Oscar Muriu of Nairobi Chapel (Kenya) discussed 5 changes to the global Church.

We have a lot of university students come to Nairobi Chapel, so we began to ask who else ministers to college students that we can learn from. So we began talking to a ministry in North Carolina, USA. Then we started looking for ministries from all over the world that we could learn from.

I challenge you to go back to the round table of missions and rethink mission and partnerships.

At Nairobi Chapel, we want to reach 10 million people for Christ. We want to disciple 100,000 people. We want to begin a social justice movement that lifts people out of poverty.

5 Major Changes to the Global Church

#1 :: What is happening in the global South. 

The number of people coming to Christ is mind-boggling. The center of Christianity has moved from the northern hemisphere to the South. A century ago 75% of Christians lived in the northern hemisphere, but today around 75% of Christians live in the southern hemisphere. So when we ask, “What does it mean to be a Christian today?”, it is a question that must be answered by the South.

#2 :: The way we do missions today need to be rethought and reevaluated.

While the last century was very fruitful, there were major problems with the model of missions. We from the southern hemisphere are grateful though. There are 2 major models. The North thinks like a business model. The South thinks like a marriage. So when the southern hemisphere partners with the North, we name our children after the partner because they become family. So there are probably a few kids in Africa called “Compassion”.

But when we work in these 2 different models, we wonder why there are problems. Why it lacks trust. Why when the work is done, the northern hemisphere leaves the relationship. The model that Paul uses is in 1 Corinthians 12 – a body. It is not a marriage or a business. There are many parts but one body. This is the analogy we need to define the body of Christ today.

5 Reasons We Must Be a Body

  1. We belong together. We must be linked together as the body of Christ. If your faith is as small as a mustard seed, you will say unto this mountain move, and it will be moved into the sea. And in Genesis 11, God loks at the Tower of Babel and says, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.” These 2 verses are the most powerful in Scripture. One concerns the power of faith and the other unity.
  2. As the gospel moves south, there is temptation for the South to be done with how the West treats us. But the only cells that rebel against the body are cancer. True maturity is about interdependence. The church of the South knows it needs the North, but does the North know it needs the South? If I am a member of the body of Christ then I have a place.
  3. We must build into our models of ministry reciprocity. Dependence is created when one part of the body accepts what the other part of the body has to give. In this era, the North must also empower the South to realize that they have something to give. The West must open themselves up to reverse missions.
  4. We must build into the body a sense of neutrality. What about the Japanese Church? We act like it isn’t important. Who ever read a church growth book from Japan? But God says these little churches get the honor, and the large churches do not get special treatment. After China was closed for 50 years and we went in and saw they had possibly 80 million converts to Christianity, we did not go in and ask them to teach us.
  5. We must learn how to operate from a posture of powerless, a posture of learning. When someone from the West comes to me and says, “What can we do for you?”, it is arrogant because it suggests the West has power over me. Instead ask, “What can you teach me?” That posture opens the door to learn from each other and then know each other’s needs. Learn to function from the perspective of powerlessness. We assume that the 2 vehicles of money and power will get the job done. But Matthew 9 says leaves these things behind and submit yourself to the cultures of the people you want to reach.

#3 :: Forget the term partnership.

The word partnership is loaded.

Maybe we need to say corporation. We are in this together. You do your job. I’ll do my part, and the job will get done. Look at Wikipedia.

We can also say co-neighboring. We sit around the table and we work together to get the job done. It is a short-term effort towards a goal.

Partnership is confusing. One side might want a long-term relationship, while the other says I just want to give you money and technology and move on.

#4 :: Mission models are changing.

With a shift to the southern hemisphere, the way we do missions need to change. Let’s look at the early Church. People like Paul didn’t have much of a strategic plan. They’d head off to one place, get a dream, and then obey God’s direction. They didn’t have a strategic plan; they had obedience.

Early Church Missions Depended on:

  1. The early Church had hospitality of Christian community.
  2. Pax Romana gave relative freedom for traveling around.

But the next era of mission largely took place in monasteries. Then mission moved to places like Middle England where Genesis 12 and going to an unknown land was the focus. They’d sail the high seas until God told them to land or until they bumped into land.

Then mission moved into the British Empire where the trade routes helped spread the gospel. William Carey used the trading companies to reach India and Kenya. The old colonial system was part of the missionary system.

Then North America became the center of missions for the last 200 years. Wherever the American dollar went, missions could be done. You raise money because anywhere in the world accepts it. It grants access.

But the South doesn’t have the power of American currency, so what will we do? David was brave enough to say he couldn’t wear Saul’s armor to fight Goliath. The Southern Church will need to have the courage to say, “We cannot fight the fight of the Kingdom wearing the armor of the American Church.”

The Scripture does not say Africans should go where they can get visas for. Scripture says we should go into all the world. Africans, too, have received the full Great Commission. But they lack the income to live like American missions.

3 Advantages Africans Have in Missions

  1. In Africa, 50% of the population is under age 18. Somehow we must empower the youth of Africa, India, and China to reach the world.
  2. It is far to expensive to send American missionaries. They need 3 years to raise support. And they have to keep going back to raise support $100 at a time from churches. But if you can survive the poverty of Africa, you can survive anywhere. This is a gift for the Kingdom because we travel light.
  3. A third gift we have is anonimity. Americans stick out when they travel. But who notices an African? Who notices a Filipino? We can travel to hostile places and patiently convert a whole generation while serving as maids, drivers, and servants.

#5 :: Our faith is in the Lord.

Our faith is not in the instruments of mission but in God Himself. Our faith is not in a proven record. Our faith demands a lot of risk.
If you want to see amazing things happen, you must be willing to give your life. The Church of the West needs to bring back pain and sacrifice and risk into missions. It is not about ROI.
Why was it morally right for Brother Andrew to illegally smuggle Bibles into closed countries, but it is wrong for African and Latino missionaries to illegally immigrate into the US as undocumented workers?

Things to Consider

  1. The US recession is waning Africa off their dependence on the West.
  2. The West is transitioning. The Baby Boomers were generous, but when they pass their wealth onto their kids, their kids will not give because they are not in the Church.
  3. The Church needs to wake up to the fact that Africa is growing. Economists are reporting that African economies are growing faster than all other economies except maybe India and China. Africa is predicted to have 3 decades of lion economies in the near future. Africa is poised to possibly take off like India’s economy did.

Kent Shaffer

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I live in an RV with my wife and 2 kids and work with OpenChurch.com to help Christians collaborate and build a global Church library of free, open content.