What is Advent all about?

As we begin to count down towards Christmas and majority are feeling jolly including myself, it is important to reflect on the season when Jesus was born. This is traditionally known as advent coming from the latin word adventus which was translated from the Greek word Parousia. Parousia describes the coming of Jesus but it also means presence and signifies the presence of God with us. The New Testament writers, while they did not use the word advent because they were primarily writing in Greek and not Latin, talks about the parousia of Jesus in two stages.

The first stage was his birth and the ushering in of God’s kingdom on earth. The second is when he will come again and begin the end. I want to focus in this article on the first coming of Jesus. The various New Testament writers describes this coming in different language. Matthew tells us he was born of a virgin interpreting and applying Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 7:14. Matthew went further to tell us how significant Jesus birth was by the visit of the Magi who in some tradition are regarded as Kings. They brought gifts to Jesus all of which are very symbolic in terms of his ministry and mission as the Messiah. While Matthew was weaving the birth narratives explaining it in relation to the Old Testament, Luke on the other hand, appears to be describing the coming of Jesus in terms of political history. Luke was the one that mentioned that there was a census that led to Jesus family going back to their home town of Bethlehem. In addition, he mentioned the political powers that be in those days grounding the birth of Jesus in historical context. Luke however had more than a historical Jesus in mind as he mentioned that this Messiah was actually born in a horse’s stable, the lowest of low places and an unlikely place for a King to be born. This contrast Jesus with the Ceasars of the day or the Herods who were Kings ruling from a vast palace.

Luke also tells us that some classless group of people came to visit Jesus. These were the shepherds, the commoners in those days. The choir of angels appear to have organised and did the first Carol Service for them in order that they might go and see Jesus!

While Matthew and Luke explains Jesus first coming in terms of his birth. Mark and John appears to skip this birth narratives. Mark started his Gospel with an introduction of Jesus as the Son of God and the ministry of John the Baptist bearing witness to Jesus’ identity as the Messiah. John following similar path, however departed by examining the origins of Jesus before he was born as a child. This beginning of Jesus, John asserts is the beginning of God (see John 1:2). While John would have been aware of Jesus birth stories, he did not preoccupy himself with that as he wanted to demonstrate that Jesus was eternal before his birth. He also appears to clarify perhaps some confusion around who was the Messiah, Jesus or John the Baptist by explaining that John came to bear witness to Jesus.

The climax of John’s understanding of  Jesus coming was his description of Jesus becoming human and living with us and like one of us (John 1:14). This is usually regarded as the incarnation, that is, God becoming human. I want to suggest that the church  continues the first advent or coming of Jesus as we have been charged to continue the mission of Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20). Infact, it is continuing this mission that will lead to the second stage of Jesus coming. The big question is how do the church continue to make Jesus human to our neighbours, work colleagues, friends and families so that they can at least touch his humanity and feel that he is real? For this to happen, we as Christians must first of all be human and real to people. We can not afford to adopt some form of heavenly language that does not touch on real life situations that faces people or live a life style that says something different from what we preach.

People out there are looking for real people so lets keep it real this Christmas so that Jesus can once again become human!

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Churches interrogate black over-representation in British prisons (Press Release)

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Pentecostals pay tribute to international leader Dr Myles Munroe (Press Release)

The death of Dr Myles Munroe in a tragic plane crash in Bahamas last Sunday 9 November 2014 has led to an outpouring of grief among the Pentecostal and Charismatic Christian community in Britain and round the world.  All nine people on board the Lear 36 Executive Jet died in the crash, including Dr Munroe, his wife Ruth, their daughter Charisa and members of his Bahamas Faith Ministries International leadership team.  Munroe was an internationally renowned bestselling author, lecturer, teacher, life coach, government consultant, and leadership mentor. He was a frequent visitor to the UK.

Paying tribute, Dr Eric Brown, Churches Together in England Pentecostal President says, ‘It was my distinct privilege to invite Dr Munroe as keynote speaker to several of our Pastors and Key Leaders’ Conferences and on every occasion he spoke professionally and prophetically into the lives of our leaders.  Indeed he was a frequent keynote speaker to many of the Evangelical, Pentecostal and Charismatic churches in this country.  He was a gifted communicator, effective motivator, a man of faith and great courage and full of the Holy Spirit.  He was a giant of our time and his unique place in the history of the Christian Church is secured.’

President of CiC International and Free Churches Moderator Dr Hugh Osgood recalls hosting Dr Munroe in London: ‘I know that many British church leaders have been deeply impacted by the warmth and encouragement he brought with him every time he visited the UK. Myles and his ministry will be greatly missed.’

 

And Dr Joel Edwards, International Director of Micah Challenge says: ‘Dr Myles touched so many lives on so many issues across so many communities.  As comfortable with Prime Ministers as he was the people, he walked with Kings without losing the common touch.  The world mourns the loss of a man who revealed the mind and heart of God.’

Dr Munroe’s ministry transcended race, culture, denominational and national boundaries with a message aimed at empowering others to discover their God-given purpose. In his own words, ‘The greatest Tragedy in life is not death, but a life without purpose.’

May he and all who died rest in peace.

Ends.

Contact

Dr Eric Brown: 07956 157003

Dr Joe Aldred: 07775 632288

Faith Ministries International: https://www.bfmmm.com

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Intercultural Tensions: A Review of Gone to Far

Today my wife and I and two other people went to see a Nigerian film at the Odeon cinema in Greenwich. The film directed by a Nigerian writer Bola Agbaje and directed by another Nigerian Destiny Ekaragba is one of the streams of Nigerian films being shown at Greenwich cinema. The film is about the story of two estranged Nigerian brothers meeting together after a very long time. The whole story of the film took place in one day with different interpretations and nuances of culture and ethnicity. If there is anyone message the film is trying to pass across it is about self-identity and how we are perceived by others. This was demonstrated time and time again with the two Nigerian brothers, one brought in the UK and identifying himself as Black British, while the other who only just travelled in on this particular day saw himself as an African. The ensuing tension and interrogation that developed between the two brothers gives us an insight into the intercultural tension that we see between Africans born in Britain and Continental Africans (Those that born and grew up in Africa).

Other intercultural tensions that the film highlighted cleverly are the ones that exist between African Caribbeans and Africans, Africans and Asians and Caribbean and Asians. The film showed how the different cultures and ethnicities perceive each other such as stereotypes of Nigerians as Fraudulent people and Chinese people as illegal immigrants. The genius of the film was developing the relationship between the two Nigerian brothers from misunderstanding and disliking each other to being mutually inconvenience (A term coined by Rev Dr Michael Jagessar) and embracing each other. The film in essence highlights intercultural dynamics that takes places when different cultures and ethnicities decides to engage, interrogate and interact with each other, inconveniencing each other along the way so as to arrive at something new. These are lessons and insights that are very useful for anyone involved in a multicultural, multi-ethnic churches or context!

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Partnership in Mission Conference Report

Almost 50 Christians from across the UK and various cultural backgrounds met together on Saturday 6 September at Spurgeon’s College in London to explore how missionaries and pastors from the majority world can work in partnership with indigenous British Christians in the UK. With increasing numbers of Christians from the global south moving to the UK as missionaries, the Centre for Missionaries from the Majority World organised this Partnership in Mission conference to provide a space for honest discussion about how Christians of all backgrounds can work together more effectively and in equal partnership.

Pastor CeliaCelia Apeagyei-Collins, vice president of Tearfund and founder of the Rehoboth Foundation, spoke of how the Holy Spirit is working in the lives of many ethnic minority Christians in the UK, prompting them to have a heart for this land and helping them understand the terrain here. “God is savvy, he sees the future and has moved people from the global South in His wisdom to the UK to position us for what he is going to do” Celia explained.

Yemi Adedeji, director of the Evangelical Alliance One People Commission, agreed that while ethnic minority churche   s often did not initially focus on reaching out to British people, many now want to embrace their new community and are actively looking for ways to reach out to those around them.

Harvey Kwiyani, a director of CMMW, shared how many African pastors have told him they want to reach British people and be missional, and they are asking for training to engage effectively. CMMW in partnership with others is therefore working on a project in Birmingham called Missio Africanus, creating spaces for conversations and training pastors in cross cultural mission within the UK. Missio Africanus will also become a flagship journal for African missions and theology in Britain.

P1040763With six in ten of the missionaries to Ghana in the nineteenth century having died within two years, Celia shared her sincere thanks for the sacrifice of the missionaries who went from the UK across the world to share the good news, and for the prayer and worship of Christians across the decades in the UK, saying: “We need to celebrate and honour those that have gone ahead of us”.

Stories were shared at various points of the conference which revealed the divisions still evident among Christians – with one person asking why they were introduced as “my little African friend” when speaking at churches. Others shared how ‘white flight’ is a reality in many churches, with white people leaving once the church becomes largely black or a black leader begins, and pastors saying that many in their congregations do not want to coexist with people of other races.

“It’s about time we stopped focusing on what is different and zeroed in on the mission” Celia said, encouraging Christians to unite behind a shared vision to see God’s kingdom come. Partnership requires exchanging ideas and experiences with others, and letting truth bind us rather than being divided on doctrinal issues such as the prosperity gospel.

Celia spoke passionately about the need for us all to become more culturally intelligent – understanding where each other are coming from rather than viewing each other as “strange”. For example, we can understand why African Christians often pray through the night in prayer vigils when we appreciate that they have often come from cultures where you have suffered and need to rely on God for your basic needs, and where you are trained from a young age to pray for hours on your feet. African Christians can also find it hard to understand why some British Christians are relaxed and informal in the way they pray to God, but Celia has realised that this is because in the British culture people often relate to their fathers in a friendly way rather than having a respectful and fearful relationship.

P1040795“We can only have partnership when we accept that the other person has something to offer” Celia said, acknowledging the reality that often we look down on others and don’t consider them as equal partners. Drawing on the concept of covenant at Hebron in 1 Chronicles 12, she spoke of how God is looking for a covenant in Christian partnerships rather than just a bit of collaboration or participation. And covenant is not possible without relationships, which she suggested are formed through spending time and eating together, forging a tight unit and coming to the place where you ask others what their needs are and offer to supply them, getting alongside people and weeping with those who weep.

Yemi agreed with Celia that partnership is not possible without relationship. Using 1 Corinthians 14:22 he expounded on how we all have something to offer, with God placing in each of us the things he wished, and the body not being able to function without each doing its part. When partnering with others he emphasised the importance of knowing who you are and how you can serve the other person or organisation. For example your church may not have a building, but you may be passionate in prayer and can partner with another church’s project and pray for that. Or you may not have many people to run projects, but have a building you can offer other churches to use.

Roger StandingRoger Standing, principal of Spurgeon’s College, gave the final talk. He spoke passionately about the vision of a New Jerusalem where worshippers of all ethnicities worship before the throne, rich in diversity but uniting as one functioning community. He considers multi-ethnic churches as the best reflection of this vision, though acknowledges there are multifaceted reasons why mono-ethinc churches have and do exist.

Working for multicultural expressions of faith takes intentionality and hard work, and requires us all to go outside our comfort zones, avoiding the desire to simply associate with ‘PLUs’ – People Like Us. Roger feels local congregations are where the real and important action is, rather than national initiatives. Effective partnerships are seen through dialogical activism, with local ecumenical movements across the country seeing churches partner together and do things for their community such as food banks, debt counselling and Street Pastors.

P1040787The conference concluded by reaffirming the importance of relationships and focusing on a common kingdom vision which overcomes our differences. The need to train future church leaders to understand issues related to partnership and multicultural churches was also emphasised.

 


Action points

  • To reflect and challenge ourselves in regards to working together with other people
  • To find out in our local contexts who we can work in partnership with
  • Develop relationships first by eating together and listening to each other
  • Ask the question “what can I contribute to this relationship or how can our church help
    another church?”
  • What is it that the other person or church has that we do not have?
  • In a case where we already have these partnership or relationships in existence, how can we strengthen them?
  • How can we move from collaboration to covenant relationships?
  • To facilitate and create more spaces for these sort of conversations, CMMW aims to host more conversations, not just in London, but in other places such as Nottingham, Birmingham, Bristol, Lincolnshire and so on.

Written by Lucy Olofinjana

Listen to the talks here

Read an article on the Partnership in Mission conference on the Evangelical Alliance website.

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Legacy of Daniels Ekarte (c. 1890s-1964) and its implications for Public Leadership

Daniels Ekarté was from Calabar, Nigeria and around 1915 he worked his way into Liverpool as a seaman. The ethnic minorities in Liverpool suffered from the effects of institutional racism such as poverty, unemployment, rejection of mixed-race children and social deprivation. Ekarté founded The African Churches Mission (ACM) in 1931 in Toxteth, Liverpool to combat some of these social ills. As a preacher, Ekarté used every public opportunity he had to speak out against the injustices of his time. During World War II, he started an orphanage home to accommodate mixed-race children who were discriminated against by the society. The African Churches Mission was one of the first Black churches in Britain.
The history of African Churches Mission begins with the history of its founder, Daniels Ekarte, who was born in Calabar, Nigeria c. 1890s. As a boy Daniels was influenced by the Scottish missionary Mary Slessor (1848-1915) who worked amongst the Calabar people in Nigeria. Mary influenced Daniels as a result of her warming to the African culture. This sympathy towards African culture also helped Mary to stop the killing of twins in Calabar (as having twins was a taboo in that part of Nigeria in those days). Ekarte became a seaman and came to Liverpool, probably around 1915. He became a Christian in 1922 and began the African Churches Mission (ACM hereafter) in Toxteth, Liverpool in 1931. Liverpool’s prosperity in the mid-nineteenth century depended largely on the slave economy. The Black population increased during and after the First World War in places such as Liverpool, Bristol and London. One of the impacts of the war on Liverpool was the increase in unemployment and poor living conditions. This was coupled with racial discrimination. For example, inter-marriages between black men and white women were a major tension in Liverpool and the children of such marriages were termed ‘half-caste’ children (today known as mixed-race or dual heritage) and were rejected by many people in the society. These children were actually labelled as ‘mongrels’. This was the socio-economic milieu into which ACM was born.

Ekarte began to organise services in the slums, private rooms and open-air fields for the ethnic minority of Liverpool and through generous giving he later acquired a permanent place to meet. Ekarte’s church became a community centre for both black and white people in the community. He also visited people in prisons, hospitals and gave free meals to the poor. He became a voice for the poor and marginalised in society by defending them in his sermons and public speaking. Ekarte believed and fought for racial equality. For example, he campaigned for equal payment for black seamen because their white colleagues were receiving higher wages than them. This brought him in direct opposition with the local government and had negative effects on the ACM.
Post-Second World War brought about the birth of half-caste children resulting from the union between African American soldiers and English women. Ekarte decided to transform the ACM into an orphanage for these children and a rehabilitation centre for their mothers. He achieved this, but later this community project was ordered to close and the children transferred to the city’s children home. Ekarte was barred from any further contact with the children. The local authorities did this because they could not tolerate an African campaigning for racial equality and openly rebuking the British government for plundering the resources of Africa through colonialism. In addition, financial constraints worsened the case. After this event the life of the Mission continued but it struggled to survive. Finally in 1964 the local authorities demolished the building housing the Mission. The blow of the Mission closing was too much for Ekarte and not long after he died in 1964. Ekarte was and remained a hero in the sight of Africans and other marginalised people for the great things he achieved in Liverpool, but was a controversial figure in the eyes of others.

The achievements of ACM have implications for churches today in engaging with the social ills in our community: The first challenge of ACM is the fact that Ekarte condemned publicly the inequalities that he witnessed. Ekarte used every public opportunity he had to speak against the ill-treatment of the ethnic minority of his time. It is interesting to observe that Ekarte advocated for equal payments of black and white seamen and that he campaigned against institutional racism. In this he predates the efforts of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s in the United States which campaigned against racial discrimination. This point makes Ekarte a prophetic witness in his generation. We need church leaders today who will be bold to challenge some government policies and media stereotypes. One example will be the current stigmatization of immigrants, especially immigrants from Eastern Europe.

Secondly, Ekarte did not just advocate for the oppressed; he actually did something to remedy the situation. He used the resources at his disposal to feed the poor, and open an orphanage home and rehabilitation centre. A concern at the moment is that the Church in Britain has become either too middle class or professional to reach an average working class. It appears we are distant from people’s reality as we worship in our comfortable mega churches or big Christian festival and events. The church in the UK must surely find ways to connect with the working class.
In conclusion, the legacy of Daniels Ekarte is found in his recognition that God is in the business of liberating the oppressed. This propelled him, like the Old Testament prophets before him, to speak out against inequalities such as institutional racism. In addition to his public denunciation of injustice, he also became an agent of social change through acting on his convictions by starting ACM which became a centre for the community. Our churches must be challenged in the light of ACM’s legacy and the role of Daniels Ekarte as a public leader.

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SHIFT IN WORLD MISSION

That Christianity has shifted from the North to the Global South is a reality that we are living through. 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 1906! These churches are commonly known as Black Majority Churches (BMCs). Majority of these churches, particularly the African churches are church plants from their head quarters 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 send 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 having 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. 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, Namibia and Malawi.

A second example of an African church that started in Britain and is involved in global missions is Trinity Baptist Church founded by Rev 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.

A third 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% 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 sent missionaries to different parts of the world so that today the 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 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!

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