As we considered the future of our movement we welcomed the seven priorities articulated by the General Secretary and endorsed by the Gafcon Primates.
1. We will engage in a decade of discipleship, evangelism and mission (2023-2033) - from The Kigali Commitment
“After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” Acts 16:10
A call to unite in evangelistic mission
Benjamin Kwashi became bishop of Jos in 1992, aged 37. He was passionate about preaching the gospel and making disciples of Jesus, even in the face of opposition. He had already personally experienced life threatening attacks by Muslim extremists; he and his wife had housed dozens of orphans and assisted the desperately poor in many other ways. In his first seven years as bishop, the number of churches under his care increased from 72 to 215. That’s a rate of over 20 new church plants per year.
In comparison, although some of us in Europe are in evangelical churches which believe in the same gospel as Ben Kwashi, we would be delighted if there were ten new members per year even in a big church, and maybe one or two new churches every five years in our area. The statistics about what is actually happening in western Europe are not encouraging. We have well-trained clergy, abundant resources and engaging courses, the latest sound mixing desks and coffee machines, but we seem to be battling to stand still, while in Nigeria and other parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America, the church grows in a rapid but simple way in the context of adversity.
At Kigali in April, Archbishop Ben, in his capacity of General Secretary of Gafcon, gave an address in which he outlined the future of the movement that he would like to see in terms of ministry priorities. What key commitments should define this global fellowship, making clear its vision and direction? Much of the first part of the Kigali Commitment expresses that Gafcon Anglicans will not be part of a compromised Anglicanism which aligns with secular thinking, obscuring the gospel of Christ and even giving a different message. So that’s what Gafcon is against – what is it for? The section “Our Future Together” gives some headings outlining where the energy of bible-based, Spirit-filled Anglicans must be focussed as the day draws nearer to the return of Christ.
The first commitment is for Anglicans everywhere to engage in a decade of discipleship, evangelism and mission, beginning now. There was a similar call at the Lambeth Conference of 1988, to make the 1990’s a decade of evangelism, which brought the attention of the Anglican world to what was happening in the global south: the remarkable growth of the church through intentional church planting and discipleship in which Ben Kwashi and other bishops took an active lead.
Encouragement needed for renewed zeal in Europe
But will such a call have an effect today? It would be easy for some to be cynical. Aren’t we supposed to be doing evangelism every day and every decade? If we’re honest, speaking from the perspective of the church in Britain, we’re tired of trying to do evangelism in a post-Christian culture where most people are not interested or actively hostile to the gospel. We justify taking ourselves off the front line, convincing ourselves that we need to look after our own wellbeing, and although we’re not actually seeking to persuade people of the truth about Jesus, we’re doing important support work for the church. A decade of evangelism is a good idea for others who are called, otherwise it sounds like a long period of torture and failure!
This kind of attitude, of giving up on the God-given task and retreating in the face of adversity, is characteristic of the materially spoiled and spiritually weak followers of Christ that many of us have become, and it shows again why we need to be part of a wider global movement in which sisters and brothers from other cultures can encourage us, with prayer and assistance, to stand up and re-commit again to doing the work of making the gospel known.
Doors closing, others opening?
The first ever mission to the European mainland, led by Paul, began with adversity, and discouraging setbacks in attempts to preach the gospel in central areas of Asia Minor (today’s Turkey). On later reflection, they realised that this was God’s plan – they were actually being “kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word”. They continued on to the coast and were at a crossroads. Ships would have been available to take them home if they decided that they had done their best and it was time to quit. This was a crucial moment in church history. The account in Acts 16 doesn’t mention it, but the small band of missionaries, now including Luke the doctor, must have spent many hours in prayer. It was Paul who was given a vision of the man from Macedonia, pleading for help. The group went west into the unknown instead of back east to the familiar. The gospel was preached to the Greeks in their homeland, and churches were planted establishing a bridgehead for the rule of Christ in a new continent.
The Lord is once again calling his faithful people to preach the word to the unreached people of Europe, including the islands on the western edge where many of us live. I need help from the same Holy Spirit who blocked Paul’s journey and guided him to a new mission field, to help me to repent of wanting to return to where I feel comfortable, and to supernaturally guide me, and the church I’m part of, to those people around me or far from me, whom God is preparing to receive help for their souls and eternal salvation.